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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness

Note: This is a spoiler-lite review. If you want a spoiler-heavy in-depth look at the film, click here.

Towards the climax of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk and the Enterprise flee an aggressor by entering warp. At that speed, several factors the speed of light itself, they surmise that they must be safe from their pursuer. Of course, they prove to be wrong – brutally so. Everything in Into Darkness moves fast, so fast that the Enterprise’s top speed seems more like a casual jog than a breakneck acceleration. The plot rockets along with incredible speed, from plot point to plot point, counting on the momentum to sustain the film and carry it across the line.

There is enough material here to produce a trilogy of films. Indeed, cynics might suggest that a lot of the movie’s iconography and plot points are indeed recycled from the central “trilogy” of the original Star Trek films, running from the homages to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan right down a climactic visual reference to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Abrams and his team of writer continue their work from 2009’s breakout blockbuster Star Trek by putting the franchise’s most compelling images and cues into a high-speed blender.

Into Darkness just substantially increases the concentration.

Seeing red...

Seeing red…

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Star Trek – The Man Trap (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It really is amazing how busy the Star Trek universe is. Or, well, how busy it was at one point. Although there are plenty of alien civilisations scattered across the vast gulf space, numerous empires vying for power and glory, the first season of Star Trek seems fixated on the notion that the universe is packed with the relics and ruins of long-dead civilisations. The Man Trap is just one example, as Kirk and his crew investigate an archaeological dig on the planet M-113, decorated with “the ruins of an ancient and long-dead civilisation.” Of course, the civilisation isn’t quite dead, but there’s a definite funereal atmosphere about The Man Trap.

That somewhat grim atmosphere makes the show’s fixation on long-dead worlds somewhat fascinating, given how the series is primarily about mankind’s optimistic future. However, it creates a sense – palpable throughout the first year of Star Trek – that the human race is a relatively new arrival on the scene, but emerging following the collapse and decay of countless ancient civilisations. It’s an old universe, but it’s a new dawn.

Suckers!

Suckers!

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Star Trek – The Enemy Within (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

One thing that I don’t think the original Star Trek gets nearly enough credit for is the quality of the writers that Gene Roddenberry recruited to contribute scripts. Television obviously operated under a different model at the time, but there’s an impressive selection of science-fiction literary giants who contributed scripts to the show. More than that, it’s impressive how many of those stories became truly iconic Star Trek stories.

The Enemy Within is the work of author Richard Matheson, best known for stories like I Am Legend or What Dreams May Come. It’s very much a high-concept science-fiction story, but it’s also notable because it establishes two of what would become the show’s favourite tropes: transporter accidents and evil duplicates. Indeed, the two devices would be reunited in the following season’s Mirror, Mirror. These narrative elements even featured in the last season of Star Trek: Enterprise to air, in episodes like Daedalus and In a Mirror, Darkly.

Perhaps it’s a demonstration of how important these outside writers were to the development of Star Trek as a franchise that Matheson would effectively codify two stock narrative devices that would still be in use four decades later.

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror…

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Star Trek – Crew by John Byrne (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry was the first lady of the Star Trek franchise, in more ways than one. She was married to Gene Roddenberry and remained a part of the franchise after his death. She guest starred on the shows occasionally, continued to lend her voice to the computers and offered the occasional interview to the press. Although her actual influence on the television shows was relatively minimal (and she was occasionally prone to protesting various plot developments including the Dominion War on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), she did remain involved in Star Trek until she passed away in 2008.

However, she was also involved from the start. She had the recurring role of Christine Chapel throughout the original television show, and appeared in the unaired pilot, The Cage, as Christopher Pike’s first officer. Identified only as “Number One”, this almost made her the literal “first lady” of Star Trek. I’m surprised that Number One hasn’t been used more often as a character, with her appearances in tie-ins generally restricted to her time on board Pike’s Enterprise.

John Byrne’s miniseries might have the title Crew, and feature supporting roles for Christopher Pike and Mister Spock, but it is very much the story of Number One. Published a year after her death, and dedicated to her memory, Crew feels like a fitting farewell to the actress responsible for one of the franchise’s earliest and most intriguing supporting characters.

Fate protects fools, little children... and ships named Enterprise.

Fate protects fools, little children… and ships named Enterprise.

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Watch! New Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer!

This is a bit of a surprise. Given how secretive JJ Abrams can be about his projects, I really hadn’t expected to see too much more of Star Trek: Into Darkness before the release date, so the new trailer is a bit of a pleasant shock.

That said, it isn’t as if the new trailer gives anything new away. John Harrison is a very bad man with a very sexy evil voice. Kirk is pursuing him. There are explosions, chase sequences and soul-searching. I honestly love that we know relatively little about Into Darkness before it has been released. It seems like we know absolutely everything about other blockbusters, while we can’t even confirm the identity of John Harrison. Which is great. I love speculating. It’s so much more fun than actually knowing.

Anyway, the latest trailer is below. Also, we’ll be doing a bit of a Star Trek geek-athon starting 1st May. I suspect it might be the most intense month of Star Trek fun anywhere on the interwebs. Which is quite a boast, but I wouldn’t make it if I didn’t think I could back it up. Anyway, enjoy!

 

Watch! New Star Trek: Into Darkness International Trailer!

The release of Star Trek: Into Darkness is getting closer and closer. So Paramount have released a new international trailer for the highly anticipated sequel. It has everything. Hints about the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch… who might actually be an original character, or at least not a notable pre-existing one! Peter Weller being all stern and awesome! (Although it does make me worry about the absence of Bruce Greenwood.) Anger! Explosions! Uniforms that look like affectionate nods to the decidedly seventies design seen only in Star Trek: The Motion Picture! Cumberbatch being ominously evil! Gratuitous shots of Alice Eve in her underwear, for some reason! Truly something for everyone.

We’ll be doing a whole month of Star Trek related fun to celebrate the release in May, so check back then for more!

Watch! New Star Trek: Into Darkness Trailer!

I’m pretty excited for the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness, especially since it’s now releasing a week earlier in the UK and Ireland. Anyway, there’s a new trailer released, which continues the trend of telling us absolutely nothing about the film while teasing the sense of fun and character dynamics that we all know and love. Check out the trailer below.

Reckless Guardians: The Rise and Fall of Cinematic Responsibility…

I actually quite enjoyed The Rise of the Guardians. It is probably the most visually assured animation from Dreamworks to date, the cast are all having a great time and the plot is simple but effective. However, I just didn’t wind up feeling an emotional connection to the central character, Jack Frost. Jack is an embodiment of an abstract concept – a “guardian” appointed by “the Man in the Moon” (or “Manny” to his friends). The bulk of Rise of the Guardians is about Jack learning to embrace his new position and everything that comes with it – to swallow his insecurity and to accept that he has been chosen to do a kick-ass job.

Still, it remains quite difficult to connect with Jack Frost, and I wonder if it’s the same problem that made Pixar’s much-maligned Cars 2 so difficult to swallow. Rather than learning to temper his unreliable inconsistency, the movie asks an irresponsible character to effectively embrace the flaw completely.

Note: This article contains a few spoilers for Rise of the Guardians.

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Non-Review Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians might be the best-looking addition to the Dreamworks canon. It’s a visual feast, a testament to the imaginations of those working behind the scenes, with a vivid visual aesthetic that is often breathtaking. Even with the colours toned down by the 3D glasses, it still looks good, and the particles of snow and dust lends themselves to an immersive 3D presentations. The cast is also charming bringing the titular fairy tale team to life, with a wonderful group dynamic  and an enthusiasm that’s hard to dismiss.

Just in the Nick of time!

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Non-Review Review: People Like Us

People Like Us has an endearingly earnest premise and a solid enough cast, but it’s let down by clumsy writing and somewhat awkward direction. People Like Us is never sure whether it’s only getting started or nearing an emotional resolution, to the point where it seems like there’s a string of false endings in this under-two-hour feature. Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks make for two endearing leads, but they find themselves struggling against an overly melodramatic script and direction that never seems to entirely trust the cast.

A close shave…

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