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Star Trek: Into Darkness

Fast and Furious 6

May 23, 2013

Star Trek: Into Darkness (***) PG-13

Director J.J. Abrams’ initial 2009 voyage-no pun intended- into the world of Star Trek yielded many fans and, although critical consensus in regards to the film was near perfect, I found that film to be lacking and a bit problematic. Not that it was a tepid affair by any stretch of the imagination but my general feeling was that Abrams and his team of writers, Alex Kurtsman and Roberto Orci, a pair who also played a hand in those godawful Transformer sequels, opted for action over much of anything else in the picture. The philosophical overtones that played such a large part in Gene Rodenberry’s landmark television series were sorely missing in Abrams’ Trek reboot and I felt it did the film no favors. Thankfully, that mistake has been rectified to a certain degree in the second film as there is much talk, mostly from the character of Spock, of the prime directive and the importance of not violating said directive. I breathed a sigh of relief that the filmmakers seem to be ‘getting’ the world of Trek even if the film still could have benefitted from a bit more of the show’s deeper elements. Still, I’ll stop complaining and go on record as saying that I’m glad to report that Star Trek: Into Darkness is a superior film in many ways and even if it stumbles from time to time I do think that Abrams and company are on the right path.

Things get under way quickly in the film’s early scenes as Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and company are attempting to escape a planet where a volcano has suddenly come alive. It’s a pretty exciting set piece and jerks the plot into motion as Kirk is faced with the moral decision of whether to rescue Spock (Zachary Quinto) or let him die for the sake of the bigger picture. I think you can probably figure out what Kirk decides to do.

Zachary Quinto & Chris Pine in the new Star Trek movie

Meanwhile, Kirk’s decision has larger implications when a madman by the name of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up, detonating the home fleet, and revealing that there are inside forces responsible. To go into any more detail would do the film a disservice as there is a big reveal at the mid-point that changes everything and will probably have implications for future films in the franchise. Trust me on this.

The entire cast gives it their all and they seem to be having lots of fun here putting their own twists on these iconic characters. I especially enjoyed Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Zoe Saldana (Uhura) who are both given a bit more to do than in the previous film. Cumberbatch (the TV series Holmes) is also ferociously effective as the villain, Harrison. He manages to inject a bit of humanity into the part, fleshing out the character and helping us to understand his motivations. There’s much to like here and if the film isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a bold step in the right direction even if we know that man has been there before.

Fast and Furious 6 (** ½) PG-13

I can recall a summer some twelve years ago—the last before the events of 9/11—when the world was a lot more carefree and in some ways more innocent. It was a time when we went to the movies for such fare as Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, the third Jurassic Park film, Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor, the first installment of Shrek and The Mummy Returns. Seemingly out of nowhere that summer, a low-budget film from Universal about drag racers and going by the name of The Fast and the Furious, leapt to the top of the box office charts and made stars of its largely unknown cast. I doubt anyone involved in that original film would have guessed that over a decade later, when all of those other films had long since come and gone, that the Fast and the Furious franchise would still be going strong. Nowadays, the characters aren’t racing cars as a means to an end anymore, or at least in the latest installment of the franchise. No, here the characters have moved on up to the world of tracking international terror suspects. One can only venture a guess as to what they’ll be up to next but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Fast 6 is directly connected to its immediate predecessor from two summers ago. In that film the Fast team, headed by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) pulled off a heist, with federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) desperately attempting to apprehend the team until the end of the picture when he had a change of heart as was required for a film franchise like this to continue.

A scene from Fast & Furious 6

Now as Fast 6 opens, it’s payback time with Hobbs enlisting Dom’s help in capturing a terror suspect who is attempting to put together some sort of nuclear device. Dom, now living off the grid somewhere south of the border, is intrigued by Hobbs’ photographic evidence that his former love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), long thought dead, is now part of the terror organization and reluctantly agrees to get involved. The team (Ludacris, Paul Walker, etc.) consisting of the same core group that fans of the series have come to know and love, is reassembled and it’s only a matter of time before some sort of a gargantuan action set piece gets things rolling. In fact, there are several of them, with the best coming at the end when the team must stop the villain’s getaway by tying their cars to the plane in an effort to prevent it from getting airborne. If that’s your cup of tea, you’ve found your film.

For me the problem with the Fast 6 is that there’s just an air of sameness about it. I suppose no one goes into these films for answers to life’s persistent questions but after seeing so many films with mad terrorists and nuclear devices I felt as if I had made this trip to the well one too many times. The film does have a good sense of humor about things and that helps considerably, but it can’t overcome the feeling of déjà vu. I guess there are only so many plots that would work with these characters. Maybe they’ll surprise us when Fast 7 rolls around in another year or so.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is playing everywhere. Fast and Furious 6 opens Friday, May 24.

Questions or comments?



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