Saturday, May 18, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek- Into Darkness

For the record, I was never raised a Trekkie. My parents were both familiar with the original "Star Trek," but my siblings and I were far more familiar with "Star Wars." So I admit my opinion about "Star Trek" is somewhat narrow and prejudiced because I was not raised on it compared to other people's. I greatly enjoyed J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot as a good, entertaining movie and still consider it my favorite out of what I have seen in the "Star Trek" universe (which, again, is limited). Last night, I went and saw J.J. Abrams' latest "Star Trek" movie.


"Into Darkness" opens up with the Enterprise on a planet that has a budding civilization on it. Defying orders to save lives, Kirk is removed from his post and becomes a first officer. After a tragedy in the form of mysterious Starfleet officer John Harrison strikes, Kirk goes off to capture/ kill him. However, he discovers that things are not what they seem, and he and his crew must fight for the lives of many.

The story itself was not overly complex. You have a conspiracy in the movie, but it makes sense and fits in with what you were given. The movie is filled with action, and it keeps you engaged the entire time. The only thing about the ending is that towards the end I kept expecting the end to come, but it seemed a bit dragged out. Another issue I had was roughly the last 1/4 of the film. I understand that Abrams has basically rebooted the series through the use of the black hole/alternate reality, but the last part of the movie was a bit too similar to "Wrath of Khan"; one could argue that the events of this story will replace the original, but I would have preferred them to be more different. Oh, and be prepared to laugh at this movie. There is plenty of humor throughout the film, and most of it comes from character interactions.

The characters were pretty good. The returning crew of the Enterprise seemed to have settled into their roles very nicely, and their interactions were great and felt real. Benedict Cumberbatch did excellent in his role as John Harrison/Khan, and it is making me excited for his role as Smaug in the upcoming "Hobbit" film. Alice Eve as Carol Marcus was only an ok character, and I personally thought she felt more like a tribute back to the original "Wrath of Khan" and not like she really added anything to the story.

The movie's effects were cool and memorable. I liked the little tributes to "Star Wars," "Inception," and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I also liked the fact that we saw more of the extended Star Trek universe in a visit to the Klingon home world (with some of their language thrown in) and of a budding alien culture.

In the end, even though the plot may have not been totally original, I found "Into Darkness" to be a fun and enjoyable film. It's making me look forward to what Abrams will do with the next Star Wars movie.

I give it four and a half out of five stars.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Ever since I saw "The Avengers" for my birthday last year, I have been excited about the upcoming "Phase 2" films, which include "Iron Man 3," "Thor: The Dark World," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," and "The Avengers 2." I saw the first film of Phase 2 last weekend.


"Iron Man 3" takes place some time after the events of "The Avengers" have happened, and Tony is mentally recovering from the stress of battling Loki's Chitauri army in New York City. Pepper is asked by Aldrich Killian, a competitor in the science and technology research field, to aid him in something called Extremis, which would enable anything to repair itself; but Extremis is not perfect and has glitches that need to be dealt with. After Happy gets caught in the blast radius of a mysterious bomb in Los Angeles, Tony begins trying to track down a terrorist known as the Mandarin, who is behind several bombings across the world, and he discovers that there might be a connection between Killian and the Mandarin.

The story's plot is a bit puzzling, and I think I need a second viewing to understand it better; the biggest part that confused me was Killian's motivation for creating the Mandarin. A few parts of the film seemed like a cop-out and not particularly strong writing, such as Tony's Iron Man army and the ending. The movie's ending reminded me a bit of "The Dark Knight Rises," though this one seemed less well-thought out and felt like it had more or less been thrown into the film. Also, in comparison to Phase 1 of the Marvel movies, "Iron Man 3" felt like an extreme standalone, which had very little to do with the extended universe, save for mentions of what happened in "The Avengers" and of S.H.I.E.L.D. This is quite a contrast to previous films, which helped in the big build-up to the end of Phase 1; even the first "Iron Man" introduced S.H.I.E.L.D., which is a big part of the story, and "Iron Man 2" introduced even more. So, to me, it felt like a let-down not to have anything to broaden the Marvel universe for future movies. Another thing that bothered me was that the writers dropped Tony's PTSD about halfway through the movie and never brought it up again. The trailers that I watched made it look like his mental state would be a fairly big part of the film, but it wasn't and was mostly used for humor in certain scenes. The writers also, in my opinion, did not do as good a job with the humor like it was in previous "Iron Man" films. The humor was poorly placed and, at times, seemed almost inappropriate, especially when it was used in a tense action scene; it made the humor feel unbalanced throughout the film (which I couldn't help but compare it to how well-done it was used in "Iron Man" and "The Avengers").

A final note about the film's plot. There is, as with all previous Marvel films, a little thing after the credits. In previous Marvel films, the blurb is usually used to get the moviegoers all excited for the next film in the Marvel series; like in "Thor," you had the revelation that Loki is alive, which sets up the events of "The Avengers." However, this blurb was pointless and added nothing to the film or to upcoming Phase 2.

The movie had several old characters and a couple of new ones. Robert Downey Jr. did good as Iron Man though his sarcastic humor, which was strong in previous films, seemed not as good in this one. Pepper Potts had what seemed like a smaller role, and I didn't think the chemistry between her and Tony was as strong as it had been in previous films. Guy Pearce is a good actor and played a good Killian, but again the confusion of Killian's motives threw me off a bit. Ben Kingsley is also a good actor, but it seemed like a letdown to build him up as the big baddie of the film, only to discover that he's a drug-addicted actor working for Killian.

The effects were cool, but for some reason the whole Extremis effects reminded me of a cross between a Terminator and Wolverine, which in the end felt a little silly. To me, the effects and stunts didn't feel like anything new or anything mind-blowing.

I have heard other reviewers describe this film as being better than "Iron Man 2." I thought "Iron Man 2" was only an ok film compared to the first "Iron Man" (which I still enjoy watching and which is still one of my favorite Marvel films), but I personally liked this one less than "Iron Man 2" though not too much because of the off-humor and the only-ok writing. Watching the movie has made me a little more nervous about the rest of Phase 2, and I hope that the new Thor, Captain America, and Avengers turn out better than this one. Needless to say, I was disappointed in this film and hope this isn't a sign of things to come in Marvel movies.

I give it three out of five stars.