Friday, 24 May 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.