Four years ago the world was witness to something it had never imagined possible; Star Trek was popular. J.J. Abrams took the job as director of what would be the revitalized world of a heavy geek-loved property that had very little out of market attraction and made it palatable to all. I would ask if this is a changing of the times? If audiences warmed to the idea of space? Or did J.J. Abrams put so many lens flares that it warped the minds of all into figuring out that it was plain and simple a great movie.
Today, with higher expectations and the addition of (more geek-beloved) Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of John Harrison, Abrams must scale another mountain and a half to blow fans out of the water — and us search for where R2D2 is in this one. Let’s take a moment before we answer if he made the mark; can we?
So what makes these batch of films (that I’m calling reboots, even though technically they aren’t) so good is that they hold spectacle over the niche elements without caring. Now, let me be clear before I go any further: I am not a Star Trek fan, I grew up with The Next Generation playing on my TV and actively disliking/ignoring it, so I may be speaking out of turn, but this is how the world of the internet makes it seem, so that’s how I decide to view it. Whenever I hear Star Trek fans describe the brand they always seem to reach a point of description that makes it seem more interested in creating paradoxical science claiming to be true (within that universe) using logic to reach it’s ends rather than making it – you know – FUN. Abrams with the swoop of a pen (and a few lens flares – seriously guys I’m going to keep making lens flare gags here) wrote that right out of the film. He asked us to jump onto a roller coaster and takes us point to point without asking any questions and I’m happy for every minute of it.
Now, before I make this movie seem completely mindless let me stop you from asking. It isn’t. The film does apply a lot of logic to it, and it’s not because Spock (Zachary Quinto) arguing with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) or Kirk (Chris Pine) telling us that it’s logical reminds us of it, but rather it’s own inherent nature does that. Even though early on in the film we’re queued into one of the biggest elements of the character of Kirk and his method not to be logic but dumb luck — via a wonderful monologue from Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) — and it taints that idea of logic, it feels like a misdirect. Yes, there’s a lot of ‘gut’ reaction that comes from Kirk but it always begins in a point of logic and just dovetailing into improvisation from that point on when things go wrong. You can even see it when logic fails Spock towards the end of the film how he end up abandoning it for an improvised ending.
Just like with many second chapters these days the highlight is the villain and Cumberbatch doesn’t disappoint. Every moment he lingers on a screen is a moment we all wish was at least 50% longer when it’s over and for a myriad of reasons. Part of me even wishes he was just playing his version of Sherlock and I’d be happy enough, but this is probably better. His terrorizing nature added to his physical dominance (as shown in a brilliant action scene where he has two big ass guns) just keeps the film on its toes in ways that the lacking menace from Eric Bana in part one just couldn’t manage.