BYZANTIUM

Irresistible. Immoral. Immortal.

Director
Neil Jordan

Starring
Saorise Ronan
Gemma Arterton
Caleb Landry Jones
Daniel Mays



I think we can all agree that vampire lore and mythology is in a complete state of flux. The classic garlic, crosses, sunlight, stake through the heart stuff is considered dated, replaced by analyses of isolation and loneliness. What was originally a sexually charged representation of control is now a sombre retrospective groan of loss and grief.

The story follows a mother/daughter vampiric duo as they evade pursuers and try to live some sort of life. Clara [Arterton] earns cash on her knees and her back in the hope to keep her daughter, Eleanor [Ronan], sheltered from such depraved resorts. Having to start over in a seaside town, Clara befriends the grieving Noel [Mays], who has recently lost his mother and inherited her guesthouse. Clara manipulates Noel to let the women stay and slowly begins to turn the building into a brothel. At the same time, the quiet, introverted Eleanor longs to tell the truth about her life. Upon arrival, Eleanor immediately recognises the town as that of her birth and notices the orphanage she grew up in, is now a college. Sitting in on a few creative writing lessons, Eleanor is encouraged to write about her life and proceeds to do so, sharing it solely with the unusual Frank [Landry Jones]. In her story, she explains her existence as a vampire, how she came to be and her wretched opinion of her mother’s control and paranoia (which the audience is then shown). Meanwhile, two vampires follow a trail of bodies, in the relentless pursuit of Clara and her ‘abomination’ daughter.

By telling a supernatural love story with harsh realities of life thrown in, Byzantium tries to beat Twilight at its own game. Unlike the Twilight Saga, this film feels more mature, like it actually has something to say, briefly touching on the concept that the very nature of immortality robs people of what it is to be human, emotionally and mentally. Yet this message is never really driven home – not to mention completely dismissed by the end of the film – leaving me neither bored, nor thrilled. And this is probably the biggest problem with Byzantium, it’s a very frustrating film that offers glimpses of something dark, profound and disturbing but languishes sluggishly trying to figure out what to do with itself. Nowhere near as good as Let The Right One In but still better than most attempts. This largely comes down to the decent pairing of Neil Jordan’s direction and Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography work. The narrative also goes hand-in-hand with the eerie grime of the setting. Being a city boy, I find coastal/seaside towns odd, a strangely obsolete Victorian relic in disrepair riddled with crime and despair. To top it all off, Javier Navarrete’s score is a sullen, forlorn and perfectly fitting treat for the tonality of the story. Touching on similar lullaby melodies and waning strings used in Pan’s Labyrinth, there’s something delightfully sorrowful in each progressing note.

Based on a play, it’s evident that the lead roles are crucial above all else. Arterton, who usually annoys the hell out of me, was actually pretty commendable here. I’m not saying that simply because she’s presented as all cleavage and leg in this film, more because her compassion and desperation comes across so completely in her performance. Equally, Ronan’s meek silence and floods of tears constantly held behind her eyes were captivating and indicative of any individual trapped in a life forced upon them. Then we hit a bit of a stumbling block. I appreciate the two leads are well written and decently acted but all the male supports are two dimensional and unengaging. Some would argue that this is merely a role reversal of.. however many centuries of female portrayal in gothic literature but that’s not exactly an excuse. I couldn’t really figure out what Landry Jones was going for – both his character and portrayal felt very out of place and then there was the simplistic juxtaposition between Sam Riley, the kind man, and Jonny Lee Miller, the mean one. The closest we get to an actual human embodiment is Noel but his simpering never actually ends and descends from plausible to pathetic.

Despite the singular elements, the acting, the touching score, the keen directing and a few compelling sequences, the entire film feels somewhat dull. One could easily chalk this up to inferior writing but I think it may go beyond that. I believe audiences are simply growing apathetic to the whole vampire concept, in all its forms and guises. As such, all on-screen stories and incarnations try to either revamp (is that a pun? Sure, why not) the mythology or ignore it altogether in an attempt to do something different, forgetting that the story should be the primary focus. Neglecting that, all we’re left with is a handful of decent scenes and performances and little else.


Release Date:
31st May 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m not entirely sure how to describe it but the sequences set in the hermit’s stone shack, were definitely the highlight. Each vampire is led down into a small sinister structure on a remote island and confronted by.. well, it’s never explained but their transformation happens there. It’s different and unsettling but despite the use of bleeding waterfalls and doppelgangers, makes about as much sense as sucking each other’s blood to live forever.

Notable Characters:
Both Arterton and Ronan stand out as fine actresses and were this project of the scope and scale of Interview With The Vampire, I could imagine they would have really run with these creations. Conveying centuries of frustration, pain and hatred is an arguably impossible task but these two somehow make it believable. Which, let’s face it, is the biggest compliment one can pay a thespian.

Highlighted Quote:
“The pearl stays perfect forever, while the flesh around it rots”

In A Few Words:
“A uniquely tender yet expectedly visceral take on a ragged gothic subgenre”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #97

[26 May 2013]

Winning Team:
Super 8 1/2

Genre – Frederico Fellini terrorises small town America

Runners Up:
Us
Genre – Remake of Them
Untitled JJ Abrams Quiz Team
Genre – Sci-fi romcom (with sexy results)
The French Prince of Bell End
Genre – Tragic comedy
Them Giant Ants
Genre – Horror/Nature documentary
Drag Me To Hell-esdon
Genre – Gypsy monster flick
Sleazy Rider
Genre – Local documentary

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Where The Wild Things Are is an adaptation of which children’s book?
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
2. The aliens in 1953’s War Of The Worlds are from which planet?
MARS
3. What animal is the central focus of Watership Down?
RABBIT
4. Which film did Pixar release in between Ratatouille and Up?
WALL-E
5. Who played the title role in What About Bob?
BILL MURRAY
6. What was the title of the 2005 biopic about Johnny Cash?
WALK THE LINE
7. The lines “Extreme close-up, Shyeah right and It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine” are from which film?
WAYNE’S WORLD
8. In Wanted, Sloan demonstrates Wesley’s abilities by making him shoot the wings off of what type of animal?
FLY
9. Bernie Lomax is a deceased character played by Terry Kiser in which film?
WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S or WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S II
10. Tottington Hall’s Annual Giant Vegetable Competition and the Golden Carrot trophy are the central focus of which British clay-mation film?
WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT

ROUND II: Filming [Giant Monsters Special]
1. What name do the islanders give the giant beast in King Kong? Rex? Kali-ma? Kong?
KONG
2. Which actor plays the lead role of Val in Tremors? Bill Paxton? Kevin Bacon? Kiefer Sutherland?
KEVIN BACON
3. Which city is attacked in Cloverfield? New York City? Chicago? Los Angeles?
NEW YORK CITY
4. What is the name of the child that the Iron Giant befriends in the film of the same name? Holden? Hugo? Hogarth?
HOGARTH
5. What was the poster tagline for the Roland Emmerich film, Godzilla? Size Does Matter? Incredible Titan Of Terror? A Monster Of Mass Destruction?
SIZE DOES MATTER
6. Jason And The Argonauts was released in which year? 1961? 1963? 1965?
1963
7. What was the original title of Eight-Legged Freaks before it was changed for fear of controversy? Goddamned Spiders? Arac-Attack? Big Hairy Whoppers?
ARAC-ATTACK (due to the fact that it sounded like Iraq Attack)
8. In Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, which title character wins? Mega Shark? Giant Octopus? Neither?
NEITHER (they kill each other – technically the Octopus won as it died second)
9. Which simple action is a pre-cursor nod to all female dinosaurs breeding in Jurassic Park? The encased mosquito dug up at the dig site? Dr. Grant tying his seatbelt? Dennis Nedry placing the shaving foam on a piece of pie?
DR. GRANT TYING HIS SEATBELT (implying that despite having two different parts, he could make them join together)
10. The Norwegian film Troll Hunter is a remake of a Japanese film, the title of which translates to Big Beasts Of Legend. True or False?
FALSE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Free And Clear, Hope and Seize The Day are support groups in which film?
FIGHT CLUB
2. Which two actors play the lead roles in Barry Levinson’s Wag The Dog? (one point per correct answer)
ROBERT DE NIRO / DUSTIN HOFFMAN
3. The characters Bobby Boucher, Sonny Koufax and Michael Newman were all played by which actor? [bonus points for naming the respective films]
ADAM SANDLER [The Waterboy / Big Daddy / Click]
4. What is the first thing painted by Annie that appears in Chris’ heaven, in What Dreams May Come?
A TREE
5. What was the title of the supernatural horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis in 2000?
WHAT LIES BENEATH
6. The following quote is from which film, “Look at my tongue, it’s wearing a yellow sock”?
WITHNAIL AND I
7. Having established the rules for crashing weddings, what family event has Chazz moved on to, in Wedding Crashers?
FUNERALS
8. How many years has Walter spent in prison for paedophilia in The Woodsman? [bonus point for naming the actor who plays Walter]
TWELVE [Kevin Bacon]
9. Who was originally cast as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet but then fired because she looked too young alongside Leonardo DiCaprio?
NATALIE PORTMAN
10. Which director wrote the screenplay for 1974’s The Great Gatsby?
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the subtitle of the sequel to Wall Street? Money Makes The World Go Round? Money Never Sleeps? Money Is Truth?
MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
2. Waltz With Bashir depicts the director’s experiences as a soldier in which conflict? 1982 Lebanon War? 1980 Iran-Iraq War? 1973 Yom-Kippur War?
1982 LEBANON WAR
3. Which of the following countries did not produce 1970’s Waterloo (starring Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer and Orson Welles)? Italy? Soviet Union? Spain?
SPAIN
4. What was the title of the only film to star both Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? Now, Voyager? What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Grand Hotel?
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
5. Who directed Way Of The Dragon? Lo Wei? Robert Clouse? Bruce Lee?
BRUCE LEE
6. What was the title of the film that starred Peter Selles, Peter O’Toole and was Woody Allen’s writing/acting debut? What’s New Pussycat? Dr. Strangelove? The Return Of The Pink Panther?
WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?
7. In The Wind That Shakes The Barley, how does Damien O’Donovan describe the Union Jack? The crossed brand? The hangman’s noose? The butcher’s apron?
THE BUTCHER’S APRON
8. Which of the following is the only film to be nominated for every eligible category at the Oscars? Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The Silence Of The Lambs? The Godfather: Part II?
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
9. What is the name of Nicolas Cage’s character in Wild At Heart? Sailor Ripley? Pace Fortune? Dell Durango?
SAILOR RIPLEY
10. Natalie Wood’s singing in West Side Story was dubbed by US singer, Marni Nixon. True or False?
TRUE

BOUND IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Revolutionary Road / One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest / Con Air
Poster: Celebrity
Actor: Helen Hunt

Cinema City Film Quiz #96

[12 May 2013]


Winning Team:
Romancing Sharon Stone

Genre – Cross-(leg)over

Runners Up:
Treasure W. Island
Genre – Unsuspecting middle-aged women send farmer captive into a state of terror and then eat coffee and cake. Clay-mation with Hugh Grant
Sweet Toothed Losers
Genre – A predictable Hollywood repeat
It Was My Job To Come Up With A Team Name And I Just Completely Dropped The Ball. Tried To Come Up With A Pun Around O Brother Where Art Thou But It Didn’t Happen
Genre – Drama about writer’s block
Indiana Jones And The Hunt For The Right Answer
Genre – Mystery
Loose Change
Genre – Comedy


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Joseph L. Mankiewicz film Cleopatra details the story of which Egyptian ruler?
CLEOPATRA VII PHILOPATOR
2. Which film studio produced A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille and Up, all under the Disney Pictures banner?
PIXAR
3. The character Freddy Krueger debuted in which film?
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
4. The film Octopussy is part of which franchise?
JAMES BOND
5. Pongo and Perdita (and ninety nine puppies) are characters in which Disney animated film?
ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIONS
6. Name the lead actor who appeared in The Naked Gun series.
LESLEY NIELSEN
7. Who directed Once Upon A Time In America, Once Upon A Time In The West and A Fistful Of Dynamite?
SERGIO LEONE
8. What was the name of the 2006 animated film that starred Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carrell, Nick Nolte, William Shatner and Avril Lavigne?
OVER THE HEDGE
9. The songs I’d Do Anything, As Long As He Needs Me, Oom-Pah-Pah are from which musical?
OLIVER!
10. Complete the title of this Clint Eastwood western: The Outlaw..
JOSEY WALES

ROUND II: Filming [Treasure Hunting Special]
1. Which actor starred alongside Kathleen Turner in Romancing The Stone? Kurt Russell? Michael Douglas? Tom Hanks?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS
2. How many kids make up The Goonies? 6? 7? 8? [bonus points for naming them all]
SEVEN [Mikey / Mouth / Data / Brand / Chunk / Andy / Stef]
3. Which actor played Long John Silver in the 1972 adaptation of Treasure Island? Orson Welles? Charlton Heston? Marlon Brando?
ORSON WELLES
4. The 2005 film Sahara is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by which author? Tom Clancy? Robert Ludlum? Clive Cussler?
CLIVE CUSSLER
5. Which actor played the title role in City Slickers II: The Legend Of Curly’s Gold? Charles Dance? Jack Palance? Robert Mitchum?
JACK PALANCE
6. In the Pirates Of The Caribbean films what is Captain Barbossa’s first name? Hector? Theodore? Weatherby?
HECTOR
7. The following quote is from which Indiana Jones film: “Doctor Jones, surely you don’t think you can escape from this island”? Raiders Of The Lost Ark? Temple Of Doom? The Last Crusade?
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
8. The role of Howard in The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre is played by Walter Huston. How is he related to the film’s director, John Huston? Brother? Father? Uncle?
FATHER
9. Sergio Leone hired Eli Wallach to star in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly based on his comic timing, as seen in which film? The Magnificent Seven? How The West Was Won? Crazy Joe?
HOW THE WEST WAS WON
10. The National Treasure character Benjamin Franklin Gates’ middle name is the same as Nicolas Cage, the actor who plays him. True or False?
FALSE (Nicolas Kim Coppola)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The orgazmorator is a mechanical device used by a superhero in which 1997 comedy?
ORGAZMO
2. How many individuals make up the Cooper family (hiding in the cellar) in Night Of The Living Dead?
THREE (Harry, Helen, Karen)
3. What did Terrence Malick direct in between The Thin Red Line and The Tree Of Life?
THE NEW WORLD
4. Who played the role of Lenny Small in the 1992 adaptation of Of Mice And Men?
JOHN MALKOVICH
5. What is Josie’s nickname throughout high school in Never Been Kissed?
JOSIE GROSSIE
6. The Nutty Professor was released and remade in which respective years? (one point per correct answer)
1963 / 1996
7. Who played the lead role in Oliver Stone’s three and a half hour biopic, Nixon?
ANTHONY HOPKINS
8. Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr have only appeared in two films together. Name them. (one point per correct answer)
NATURAL BORN KILLERS / A SCANNER DARKLY
9. Napoleon Dynamite made $46 million at the box office. What was its budget?
FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND
10. No Country For Old Men is set in which year?
1980

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What causes Felix to attempt suicide at the start of The Odd Couple? He loses his job? His wife leaves him? His cat dies?
HIS WIFE LEAVES HIM
2. Who composed the score for Notes On A Scandal? Clint Mansell? Michael Nyman? Philip Glass?
PHILIP GLASS
3. The Name Of The Rose is set in which country? France? Italy? Austria?
ITALY
4. In Point Break, which of the following President’s faces was not used as a mask by the ex-presidents gang? Ronald Reagan? Richard Nixon? John F Kennedy?
JOHN F KENNEDY
5. What colour is Falkor in The Neverending Story? Blue? Black? White?
WHITE
6. What is the name of Nino Brown’s gang in New Jack City? The Keepers? Cash Money Brothers? NYZ’s?
CASH MONEY BROTHERS
7. How many languages are spoken in Roman Polasnki’s, The Ninth Gate? Four? Five? Six?
FIVE (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin)
8. Who directed Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli in New York, New York? Robert Wise? Richard Attenborough? Martin Scorsese?
MARTIN SCORSESE
9. North By Northwest was released in which year? 1955? 1957? 1959?
1959
10. Due to the harsh panning of The Night Of The Hunter by critics and audiences, actor Charles Laughton never directed again. True or False?
TRUE (he died seven years after the film’s release, before it became a cult hit)

BOUND IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock / Tarzan / Double Indemnity
Poster: The Maltese Falcon
Actor: Andy Garcia

THE GREAT GATSBY

Greatness Is But A Word

Director
Baz Luhrmann

Starring
Leonardo DiCaprio
Tobey Maguire
Carey Mulligan
Joel Edgerton
Elizabeth Debicki



Imagine the most finely tuned, sublimely crafted instrument known to man. Like a piano that emits a sound so serene and delicate yet powerful and enchanting. Now imagine the same individual that crafted this marvel sprayed it neon pink and pushed it down a hill toward a ramp, leading to a flaming skip. That’s The Great Gatsby.

Told in flashback by Nick Carraway [Maguire], the story reflects on a young man’s move to New York in the economic boom of the 1920’s. Nick has obtained a small caretaker’s shack in between the giant mansions of ‘new money’ and lives across the bay from his cousin, Daisy Buchanan [Mulligan] and her husband (also his university acquaintance), Tom Buchanan [Edgerton]. Their servants, possessions and lifestyle overwhelm the humble Nick but he acts graciously nonetheless, oblivious to the fact that Tom is having an affair. Whilst visiting his cousin, Nick is introduced to the attractive yet cynical (not to mention sheer embodiment of the 20’s flapper) Jordan Baker [Debicki] and the two begin an odd relationship. Nick’s neighbour lives in utter secrecy and although he throws lavish uproarious parties each weekend, he is never actually seen. Myths and legends begin to permeate around their host, the reclusive Gatsby [DiCaprio]. Over time Nick and Gatsby form a curious friendship and it becomes apparent that the mansion, the parties, the money has all been used to get the attention of Daisy. And a lot of other stuff happens and I’m not going to ruin the story.

One of the most vital and crucial factors to the success of a story like The Great Gatsby, is the cast. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters are so wonderfully designed and so open for interpretation that the potential embodiments can make or break the entire production. Amazingly, each and every role is cast beautifully. More so than that, the portrayals of the characters are pitch perfect and every now-and-then you get a brief glimpse into what could be a spectacular stage production before Luhrmann makes some crackpot decision and you’re taken out of the moment. The chemistry between Maguire and DiCaprio feels more than real (probably something to do with the fact that they are childhood friends) and both male leads are the very cinematic personification of Fitzgerald’s character’s qualities. If you think of a timid tourist, stepping through a lavish world that he clearly doesn’t belong in, chances are Tobey Maguire’s name is going to come up at some point. At the same time, if you ask who has overwhelming onscreen charm, bravado and presence while being able to channel crippling insecurities, DiCaprio is a given – seriously, someone needs to give that man an Oscar or five. But even if you had two brilliantly cast male leads, Gatsby would be nothing without Daisy. Cue Carey Mulligan, who for the last six years has done no wrong and gone from strength-to-strength. Confident, foolish, spoiled, terrified, trapped, lost, passionate, delicate, Mulligan is everything one could ask for in this role. But it doesn’t stop there, the entire supporting cast are exceptional, from the extras to pivotal characters, no matter how long on-screen, everyone performs admirably.

At times, the lavish visuals are spectacular. The colours, scope and scale of 1920’s New York are intoxicating. Everything feels overtly alive, as if injected with a fantastical hyper-reality that we mere mortals could only dream of experiencing. And therein lies the problem; in trying to replicate the comparative excess of the Roaring 20’s and the Jazz Age, the production heightens proceedings beyond even contemporary expectations. A good example of bootlegging parties and the debauchery of the wealthy would be something like Boardwalk Empire. The key difference, however, is that Boardwalk Empire keeps everything grounded in reality. Without it, The Great Gatsby comes off as an impossible dream. While I understand the reason for this, to give jaded audiences something to relate to, it overshadows the real soul of the story. On top of that, there are the odd and frankly disorientating directorial and editorial choices. There’s nothing specifically jarring but certain snap-cuts, poorly rendered green screen work, unusual cross dissolves and other gimmicks take you away from the acting and the core drama. As if Luhrmann read the book’s narrative as an exact visual cue. “I was within and without? Well we should show him in a house looking out of a window and at the same time, on the street, looking up at himself! Brilliant! Oh, for the cleverness of me.” No, Luhrmann. No. If that wasn’t enough, the score and soundtrack are inspired and distracting. Long-time Luhrmann collaborator, Craig Armstrong delivers atmospheric instrumentals, while Jay-Z has produced a wonderful harmony of musicians and singers. Having said that, it’s still really fucking weird when you hear a jazzy trumpet (typically iconic to twenties society) bleeding into Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug!

I have no doubt that this will be one of the most divisive films of the year. For every single positive attribute, I’m slapped with a negative. If I start to think back fondly, or show any sort of enjoyment toward the release, my subconscious will conjure a particular scene or image and I’ll instantly grit my teeth. Going back to my opening piano analogy, it’s as if watching a fantastic drama (let’s say The Third Man), with all the key elements working harmoniously except it’s been directed by Sam Raimi. Nothing wrong with Mr. Raimi’s work but he’s so very wrong for that project. Equally, Baz Luhrmann, while you’d presume would be a perfect fit, is so very wrong for this film. And what we’re left with is a lie; a bright, colourful, flaming disappointment. It’s almost tragically fitting.


Release Date:
17th May 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Introduced with all the majesty, pomp and circumstance afforded to such a mysterious individual as Gatsby, the rainy scene in which Gatsby invites himself over to Nick’s shack is hilarious. The comedic timing is spot on, the insecurities shine through amazingly and the desperate hopelessness (or hopefulness) of the whole thing is marvellous. Hard to explain without giving away major plot points but this is the real turning point, the moment when the audience starts to realise that there is a great deal more to these two dimensional, superficial people.

Notable Characters:
As stated above, everyone is on fine form. But at the end of the day, this really is DiCaprio’s film. But to keep showering him with praise and stating the obvious feels somewhat repetitive, so I’ll focus on Elizabeth Debicki instead. An Australian actress with few credits to her name, Debicki really stood out and went toe-to-toe with some genuinely powerful performers. That’s not a task taken lightly and her portrayal of the quintessential 20’s upper society broad is truly engrossing and impressive.

Highlighted Quote:
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”

In A Few Words:
“Both the perfect representation of the societal excess at height of the roaring 20’s and a horrendously edited, colossal monstrosity, despite the superb casting”

Total Score:

3/5

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

Beyond The Darkness, Lies Greatness

Director
J.J. Abrams

Starring
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
Karl Urban
Benedict Cumberbatch



Star Trek the show was always about exploration and the unknown, Star Trek the films, on the other hand, were about conflict and instability. For this reason, the films have never really been on a Star Wars scale, never found that kind of box office audience and provided sporadic results. And as much as Trek purists argue that Trek films should be like the show, doing this usually produces things like bloody Star Trek: Insurrection, which is by far the worst Star Trek film. Into Darkness picks up where Star Trek left off and really elevates the entire franchise to the heights of exceptional science fiction action. Could there have been more drama, character development, substantial original material and a little less predictability? Of course but that would compromise this new formula that works incredibly well for contemporary audiences.

Trying to keep this spoiler free is going to be taxing but I’ll give it a go. The story opens with a simple mission gone awry which highlights Kirk’s [Pine] disregard for crew safety and Spock’s [Quinto] inability to express his concerns and (for lack of a better word) feelings to and about the crew. The fallout of this leads to Kirk’s demotion and Spock reassigned to another starship. At the same, an underground Starfleet base in London suffers a terrorist attack at the hands of rogue operative John Harrison [Cumberbatch] and an emergency meeting of high ranking officials is convened to discuss how best to proceed. This too suffers a monstrous attack and Kirk is reinstated by Admiral Marcus [Peter Weller] to pursue Harrison deep into Klingon space. The actions Kirk undertakes in order to seek vengeance distance him from his shipmates and put everyone’s lives in jeopardy. Things become even more unclear for Kirk when he decides to follow Spock’s advice and take Harrison prisoner, rather than simply killing him as per Starfleet’s controversial orders.

When Serenity was released, I had severe problems writing my review. For hours I agonised and scrutinised over my lavish praise before I realised that it wasn’t a mere fanboy outpouring but a genuinely avid commendation. And I find myself in the same mindset, not wanting to appear biased or overly praiseworthy in case my critical integrity comes off as compromised. Well fuck that! Star Trek Into Darkness is perfect in almost every regard. The calibre of acting still strikes that perfect chord of homage and unique reimagining and the chemistry between the cast is just as solid and engrossing. The inclusion of Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller are welcome additions and serve a genuine purpose, rather than mere disposable cameos. The visuals (in terms of CGI effects and production design) are beyond spectacular, really nailing the scope and scale of space travel. One of the elements that irritated many fans but I found a nice touch was the visual design of the Enterprise’s engineering sections. Giving the ship a look and feel of actual human construction, rather than sleek, plasticy, glowing cylinders really adds to the weight of realism. The epic (and now familiar) score returns to remind us that reinventing a popular theme is so risky but when done well, goes a long way to establishing new territory. Jerry Goldsmith performed the same mastery 34 years ago and Michael Giacchino has really made a mark on how Star Trek sounds [insert Uhura joke here] – can you imagine if and how he would reinvent the Star Wars theme? Just wondrous potential. Yes, there is still an obscene amount of forced lens flares bouncing off every single fucking surface but I’ve now surrendered myself to this and it’s actually becoming a synonymous Trek thing; to the degree that if the next Star Trek film doesn’t have lens flare, I’ll be a little uncomfortable. One could argue that the plot is merely circling itself, revisiting tried and tested plots as fan-service and lazy writing. If I’m honest, I largely disagree. As a reboot, alternate universe, reimagining, whatever, they have established a new path to forge but that still means that the big threats, villains, encounters and events of the Trek universe are still out there and may or may not happen. Rediscovering them in a new way doesn’t sully the old films, it merely walks hand-in-hand alongside them, much like an elaborate What If story.

**There’s a bit of a spoiler in the first half of this paragraph.. the last sentence is fine though**
While I appreciate any flaws I can find may feel minuscule, there are still a handful of issues that stop this film from being overwhelming perfection. Well, I say handful, there are in fact just two. Firstly, while Into Darkness doesn’t rely on knowledge or experiencing of the previous films, calling up Spock Prime [Leonard Nimoy] was a mistake. Without completely divulging the nature of what transpires, at one point in the story, Spock sends a message to the old Spock and effectively asks him for knowledge pertaining to an individual. While Spock starts out with “Well that would be a violation of the space time blah blah I’ve vowed never to tell you blah blah find your own path blah blah” he eventually changes his mind and adds “But seriously, that guy’s fucking trouble. Sort him out.” Skating on the thinnest of thin ice, the script manages to peak into the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ territory, at the same time as blatantly running to the all-knowing oracle and retrieving a copout answer. It’s like checking the cards before starting a game of Cluedo and kidding yourself that you’re figuring things out on your own. Secondly, hats? HATS!? Joss Whedon and several others have established that hats are for bad guys. No hats. Never had hats before. I mean, the transition from the beige disco suits in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the submarine/naval duds of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is brilliant and a welcome change. But hats? Yeah, not sure about that.

When reviewing Abrams’ first Star Trek film, I decided to divide the review into two separate entities, one as a simple assessment of the film and one as a complete breakdown and comparison between the old and the new. Not the case here, all comparisons with the original Star Trek universe officially need to stop. We’re in new territory now, if Kirk comes across Worf’s grandfather and kills him, so be it. It doesn’t matter. If a probe turns up and threatens to destroy the Earth unless they travel back in time and find a pair of humpback whales (please don’t do that), then that’s what will happen. Have you ever read Marvel’s Ultimates or played Command & Conquer: Red Alert? That’s how you view these sequels. What if Hitler was killed before WWII? Well, the Russians would take over. And what about if the atomic bomb was never created? Then maybe the Empire of Japan would rise up! Really? Of course not you fucking idiot but it’s fun/interesting to think about. Same thing here. These are new films and if they happen to use characters, scenarios or elements from the ‘alternate universe’ then get on board or get out of the way.


Release Date:
9th May 2013

The Scene To Look Out For:
Do I choose something nerdy like the inclusion of Klingons or Tribbles, or do I pick something vast like one of the countless impressive sequences, or perhaps the humour, people seem to forget that one of the vital components in these films is the relatable humour. Tricky. And how can I really touch on any of these without wading hip deep into spoiler territory? Ok, I’ll highlight something obvious if you’ve seen the film but stupidly vague if you haven’t. To quote my fiancĂ©e, Spock stands in front of a door and becomes so overwhelmed that his face contorts as if to say “I HAVE ALL THE FEELINGS!” Followed by angry running Spock. All of that. That was my favourite scene. Go watch the film and figure out what I’m talking about.

Notable Characters:
While the respective crew members return in fine form, all are surpassed by Cumberbatch. The man has proved himself to be a sheer acting force over the last few years and will no doubt be thrown countless pitches and scripts. Rather than giving a subtle performance, everything about his character is big, theatrical and shocking. From the facial expressions, to the hissed deliveries, to the physical prowess, Cumberbatch portrays the peak of human performance. That’s me being clever and funny but I’m also quite serious, of every role I’ve seen him in, he doesn’t exactly doing things by half – and this is no exception.

Highlighted Quote:
“If you test me, you will fail”

In A Few Words:
“Big, bold, beautiful, brutal science fiction, rivalling Wrath Of Khan as the greatest Star Trek film”

Total Score:

4/5