Flashback Friday: Star Trek Into Darkness

It’s Friday and that means this Flashback Friday is… on time! Whoa. Give yourself a second for the head rush to subside. Anyway, with STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS as this week’s big release, I’m taking a look at a pair of pictures from director J.J. Abrams to put us in the mood.

Set your phasers to stun(ning) because damn you good looking and…

Wait. Let me try that again.

Set your phasers to kill(er excitement)!

Better?

I’m not good at this at all.

STAR TREK

I approach a new Star Trek release the same every time. I see if on the upcoming movie schedule, I shrug and think, “Yeah, I’ll probably see that,” and more or less forget about it until it opens, go see it, forget about it fairly quickly after. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Star Trek movie I’ve hated, but I also think I’ve only see one or two that really stuck with me. For me, they are also more or less gradients of “not a bad way to spend two hours when nothing else is doing.” Which I honestly don’t mean as an insult, but I recognize isn’t much of a compliment either.

Sup? (photo from letswatchstartrek.com)

Sup? (photo from letswatchstartrek.com)

Anyway, when STAR TREK opened, the Abrams reboot, I was slightly more interested as it was “a bold new vision” and I have tended to like most of Abrams output in TV for at least a few seasons. But it was still a “sure I’ll see that” kind of mild excitement.  So, a lot of the discussion around the movie left me…confused. Why did the movie have to explain why it was different than the previous series? Why did it have to be anything but its own thing? Burton’s BATMAN didn’t have to create an alternate timeline to explain why Keaton didn’t do the Batsui and Nolan’s BATMAN BEGINS didn’t need one to prevent fans from becoming confused about why Bruce Wayne was becoming Batman when he just fought Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze in the last movie. And so on and such of. As the casualest of fans of the Trek, I was nervous about continuity not because I thought it would be violated but because of the pretzels the film seemed to be twisting from jump street to justify its existence.

Thankfully, now, as then, the film doesn’t seem to be straining. Perhaps If I was more familiar with the Trek’s history and had retained any details at all from all of the films about them I had watched, I might have seen the stitching. However, for the guy who just shows up, enjoys it, and forgets it, it went down easy.

For the more serious fan, however, I understand it didn’t feel like a Star Trek movie. It lacked the “philosophy” of the series and too much boom. I have nothing to offer on this. Perhaps it is because I am dumb (no need to answer that) but Star Trek, be it TV or film, never felt like a particularly deep exercise in philosophy so if this reboot installment errer too far on the action side, well, I sure missed that lean.

I certainly recommend seeing it before going to see this weekend’s sequel, but if you are a true, longtime fan—well, you’ve probably already seen it anyway so you have your opinion. I’ll just stick with a recommended for this one.

REGARDING HENRY

Just joshing you. Abrams did write it though. And he must have been like 24. So, you know, great job accomplishing nothing people who are not Abrams. And yes, that includes me.

(I used “And” to start so many notices in that short paragraph, all of my English teacher, all at once, doubled over in pure agony. Sorry, educators!)

SUPER 8

Everything that I like about Spielberg’s early adventure movie phase of filmmaking is nicely captured in SUPER 8. I know that sounds like a bit of a bold statement and…well, it is. But it’s also true.

The movie has a great sense of community, friendship, and family, as well as the subtle ways those institutions disappoint, trap, and unravel before us, as early Spielberg hits like ET, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, JAWS and even LAST CRUSADE did. The characters are well-sketched; adults are usually well-meaning but have trouble with their emotions, kids smart but not precocious.

The only problem with the reproduction of experience is that the sense of “been there, done that” can sometimes permeate this movie. It is not just a film that feels like an early Spielberg (and I am so sorry to use his name so much here but it is inescapable, honest) but it also a functional love letter to those pictures. These aren’t just kids like those from E.T., they are kids like those from E.T. who have also seen E.T. and kind of imagine themselves as being like those kids.

I wish the movie had at least been moved up into modern times—and yes, I know it would cost us the whole SUPER 8 title and DV doesn’t have the same ring but sacrifices must be made. Such a move could allow SUPER 8 to still embrace the tone and drive of those era films but to do so in a different context. It would be the difference between an homage and a copy.

That’s a criticism that is really too harsh by half. The movie is a great time and Abrams visual sense is as strong as it is anywhere. The creature design on the “monster” bedeviling the town is great and uniquely Bad Robot-esque—far more CLOVERFIELD than anything from any Spielberg picture. The way the friends at the center of the movie talk to one another and their unique goals and fears feel “real” in a way that is worthy of praise no matter who’s footstep SUPER 8 might be walking in.

Sup. (photo from maximesmoviereviews.com)

Sup. (photo from maximesmoviereviews.com)

Yes, the film does have its own sort of nostalgia, and problems therein, but it is also a wholly immersive cinematic world with great pacing. Highly recommended, whether you think you want to see INTO DARKNESS this weekend or not.

Oh and watch the kids’ zombie movie as it plays over the credits. It is utterly charming.