Films: Star Trek Into Darkness, and Iron Man 3 (2013)

Films: Star Trek Into Darkness, and Iron Man 3 (2013)

I’m not usually current with my film reviews but I’ve spent the last few days in the USA and my hotel was five minutes walk from a cinema, so I took the opportunity to see two new movies in 3D.

Star Trek Into Darkness has a surprisingly complex plot – there’s a lot going on there, and I didn’t completely sort it out in my mind until after it was over. In contrast, most of the characters are sketched in, with the stock cast of Scotty, Doc et al being more like one-dimensional caricatures. The acting is generally unimpressive with the marked exception of Benedict Cumberbatch, who acted the others off the screen while portraying the only interesting character in the film: the villain Harrison.

The basic plot has some credibility problems which bothered me. Now this might seem strange in a film in which it is necessary to accept faster-than light star ships, alien beings, 300-year old super warriors etc, but it can be the simple human things which prompt scepticism. In this case, I thought the principal character James T Kirk to be far too arrogant, over-confident, stubborn and inexperienced for any rational organisation to allow him anywhere near the controls of a starship. I also found nothing much about him to like, leaving me not caring what happened to him.

On the upside, the action sequences look great - just as well as there are lots and lots of them, with only an occasional breather in between. In particular, the final mid-air fight between Spock and Harrison is memorable and had me on the edge of my seat. 3D is a positive benefit here, emphasising the drama without generally being obtrusive.

Overall, the visual spectacle makes this an exciting film to watch, but the collection of Star Trek characters now seems rather tired and hackneyed. Their simplistic portrayal belongs to a past era of film-making which looks rather juvenile today, and falls far short of the impressive Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and associated films. So in a nutshell, it’s a 3D spectacular with mostly 1D characters.


I was very impressed by the original Iron Man film which was an effective blend of an interesting plot, quirky humour, some good action scenes and a stand-out performance from Robert Downey Jnr. The sequel did not match that standard, as it put more emphasis on the violent action, scaling back the other elements. Sadly, Iron Man 3 is no improvement. The plot is so sketchy that it’s incomprehensible, consisting of a villain who has given himself and others some superpowers which are never explained, waging war on the USA for some reason which is never explained. The film seems to consist mostly of violent action scenes, following on in a rapid and wearying sequence. Even Downey seems to be mostly going through the motions. The one example of quirky humour concerned Trevor – I will say no more for fear of spoiling the one moment of fun in the film, and the only thing which made me smile. I came out of the cinema with a headache and a strong feeling that I’d just wasted two hours. Suffice to say that it made the new Star Trek film look really rather good, which takes some doing.

(This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
I can't comment on Star Trek, because I haven't seen it, and I'm not a Star Trek fan (though, from the things I've heard about the new movies, I seem to be the target audience) but I've got to disagree with you on the Iron Man 3 front.

The super powers were explained. It wasn't a great explanation, but it was definitely explained. Really, there were only two really problematic plot holes in the film. Those being, why Tony's magic chest reactor can't power his suit, and why the house party couldn't take place at the start of the film. Otherwise, I think it's a great film. Definitely a significant improvement over Iron Man 2.

I was very pleased by what they did with the Mandarin, though I must confess I'm finding the whole terrorist thing to be a little old now.

Overall, I think the movie was exactly what it needed to be to round out the trilogy.
I really enjoyed both movies, but can agree there are problems. What I actually didn't like most in Iron Man 3 was that the end did indeed seem to be a wrap, and I want more of them.

For Star Trek, I don't think I was as hard on it. I just posted a blog which has some points that agree with yours, Anthony, but I disagree that " the collection of Star Trek characters now seems rather tired and hackneyed. Their simplistic portrayal belongs to a past era of film-making which looks rather juvenile today, and falls far short of the impressive Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and associated films."

I don't think I can easily copy my Blogger post with the pictures in it, so I'll post the link to the one with the images placed in it, and copy the text only here.

Star Trek Into Darkness Dizzying

non-spoiler review by Wendy Gamble

From the opening dash through a dazzling crimson forest to the downfall of the destructive but complex foe, Star Trek: Into darkness keeps you suspended in space, oblivious to reality around you. My two teens next to me didn’t notice I left for five agonising minutes, my spouse thought I was back in two, things were moving so fast. There’s no doubt it was an action packed extravaganza of special effects and stunning imagery. The familiar yet freshly mysterious characters were given some room to grow, bringing touching and funny moments. However, the pacing was off, the plot not ideal, the characterisation good but incomplete.

Just as (reportedly), a person who is tortured continually grows immune to the pain, stopping the effectiveness, the action lost the suspense and power it could have held if interspersed with more calm. One sudden explosion is startling, sending a burst of emotion. However, when there is one after another non-stop for a long period of time, they cease to cause much reaction. This is a trend I’ve noticed in many modern blockbusters. I wish the directors would hold back and cause anticipation and suspense in classic Alfred Hitchcock style. Give us a hint that something important is to come, then make us wonder if it actually will before bringing it with a bang. A pause should ensue for the emotional reactions of the characters, their thoughts on how to solve the problem, and their efforts work out character conflicts to carry out the plan. What I saw in Star Trek was sudden bangs followed by bang, bang, bang.

The plot was sufficient, though not, I believe, what Gene Roddenberry had in mind for the franchise. There was intrigue and enough complexity to be interesting, but the basis was war and revenge instead of exploration interrupted by unexpected problems. The drive to seek scientific advances and further knowledge is (supposed to be) the core of Star Trek.

While the character moments we had were wonderful, they were too short and too few. If I hadn’t read the comics I would have been clueless as to Uhura’s emotional strife, and very little time was given to it, no reasons or proper resolution. The addition of Carol Markus was a good one, though we didn’t get to see a lot of her (except in one gratuitous scene). The conflict between Kirk and Scotty was good, but needed a wrap up via proper Kirk lecture on protocol. It wasn’t clear they had a proper understanding as a result of the actions and reactions. Kirk’s officers shouldn’t be yelling back at him while he’s talking! I don’t believe Kirk would tolerate that in this timeline any more than the original one. Perhaps we’ll see him learn to drum that out of them. The captain has many faults, but lack of discipline is not one of them.

I found the finale awkward. The segue into the five year mission monologue was totally inappropriate. That was my daughter’s first comment as well.

Despite its frustrating faults, a fabulously fun tale I’m willing to add to the universe of Trek canon. I only hope for something even better next time around.