POSTED ON MAY 22, 2013:
Star Trek Into Pointless
Plus, The Admiral Twin brings home nostalgia
First and foremost, there is a major spoiler in this review.
You have been warned.
Back in 2009, geek-icon J.J. Abrams, already a god amongst genre hounds for the hit television series Alias and Lost, made his first foray into the Star Trek universe. The franchise had grown long of tooth after The Next Generation series and the films it spawned (along with a slew of tangential television efforts from DS9 to Enterprise), and the creative teams behind the brand had, over the years, collectively lost sight of the goofy charms of the original series -- charms which Abrams largely revitalized with his improbably great reboot. James T. Kirk was a pimp again.
Its success was improbable not because of the talented new cast but, instead, due to the script which begins as an origin story that evolves into a big middle finger to the canon and is riddled with more plot holes than a mausoleum. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman destroy Vulcan (for real), make Jim Kirk (Chris Pine, Unstoppable) a Beastie Boys fan and introduce one of the series' least effective villains with Nero (Eric Bana, Hulk), a time-hopping Romulan looking for revenge against Spock (Zachary Quinto, Heroes). For good measure, Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana, Takers) are getting it on. He is half human, after all.
Like, Totally Naked? Chris Pine listens intently as Bruce Greenwood tells him that Uhura posed nude for Allure magazine. In this shot from Star Trek Into Darkness, the pair wonders whether QT will sell the issue.
The result is a convoluted mess that's only as fun as it is due to Abrams directing the shit out of it, pulling the confused composition and the charming cast together into something that somehow gracefully hits all the right, grandiose cinematic notes. Indeed, it was Star Trek that revealed Abram's ability to fully break away from the visual aesthetics of television to achieve a true sense of scope.
With Star Trek Into Darkness, Abram's once again crafts a visually stunning film -- lens flare jokes aside -- whose look, in all of its IMAX 3-D glory, again seems to have had more thought put into it than the actual script.
After an Indiana Jones-like opening sequence set on an alien planet whose tribal culture is about to be eradicated by an erupting volcano, Kirk is relieved from command of the Enterprise by his father-figure, mentor, Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood, Flight). Violating the Prime Directive to save Spock from a fiery crater of molten lava -- thus revealing their presence to the alien culture they saved -- Kirk is demoted and Pike re-assigned to command the Enterprise, though he has just enough silver left in his tongue to have the Kirk assigned as his First Officer.
But the changing of the guard doesn't last after John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch, August: Osage County) coldly convinces a Federation officer to go all suicide bomber inside a secret Federation lab in London, triggering a meeting of Starfleet Command which Harrison consequently attacks, killing Pike and putting Kirk back in command of the Enterprise. Under the tutelage of Pike's mentor, Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller, motherfucking Robocop) Kirk is bent on vengeance against Harrison.
The only problem -- well, not really the only one -- is that Harrison has transported himself to Kronos, the home-world of the Klingons with whom the Federation is in a state of undeclared war. A distraught Kirk -- who ignores his usual judgment to the point of firing Scotty (Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz) when he won't allow weird, new photon torpedoes onto the Enterprise -- wants to mind the lessons of his dead friend Pike while extracting justice for him. Meanwhile, Robocop clearly just wants to stir some shit with the Klingon Empire. When Kirk goes along with the plan of going undercover and infiltrating Kronos he finds out there's more to Harrison than meets the eye.
Well, he's Khan.
While it's hard to really talk about what is wrong with Star Trek Into Darkness without revealing major spoilers, John Harrison being Khan was the worst kept secret. It's also half of the reason that Orci and Kurtzman's quasi-reimagining of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is, conceptually, Star Trek Into Darkness's biggest problem. For one thing, the story is merely an episodic series of events that never really comes to fruition. One event pushes another with a weird lack of momentum and nothing resembling the propulsive story-telling prowess of Wrath of Khan, whose shadow only grows longer once you realize where Darkness is going.
2009's Star Trek was a choppier product but it still came together into a satisfying whole. With Darkness, the narrative feels disconcertingly on-the-rails, which lends a clumsy feel to the plotting and even the placement of the copious and gorgeously staged action setpieces. A sense of disingenuousness in the way Darkness reappropriates elements of Khan -- all that silly misdirection and fan service -- waters down the first act, while the full reveal of Khan's plan only makes sense if you wonder how a 300-year old, genetic superman could be so goddamn listless. Or wonder why writers Orci, Kurtzman and new addition Damon Lindelof (Prometheus) felt the need to make him that way. How do you not wake up all of Khan's superhuman family and make them the sole threat to Starfleet instead of splicing his story into that of an attempt to start an intergalactic war, neither of which (outside of some great looking action) wind up going anywhere? If you're going to reinvent canon, fine, but at least tell a complete story. By the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, nothing feels resolved. Rarely has a film looked so busy while being this lazy.
That isn't the fault of the cast, though (or the FX teams, either).
As Kirk, Chris Pine is fine, mining a darker El Capitan. He's unsure of himself and his decisions. Pine is into the character, though I'm not sure how much the Kirk of Darkness really resembles the Kirk we all know (he does add a whole new meaning to getting tail this time, at least).
Regardless, Pine brings his considerable charisma to the role while Quinto as Spock makes a similarly enjoyable return. Their chemistry makes the friendship palpable and provides the emotional hook that Darkness redundantly hangs its heart on. The performances from the returning cast are really all fine and comfortingly welcome.
Benedict Cumberbatch has the gravitas to make his Khan actually almost work in the film (there's nothing remotely Asian about the guy). Despite the fact the character is nearly as misused here as Nero was in Star Trek, Cumberbatch winds up executing a sonorously memorable performance that wrests his character from the narrative background. What a voice. If I had the money, I'd pay Cumberbatch to record himself reading every book ever written, including almanacs. Just hypnotic.
Unfortunately, Star Trek Into Darkness (not really being horrible, but just kind of pointless) is not so hypnotic. It really should have avoided Khan entirely and tried to create something new. Even the film itself seems to suggest it when Kirk wonders why they just don't start their Five-Year Mission -- instead of making us like a 30-year old movie even more than we already did.
Watch The Outsiders, Outside.
In the early '80s, the legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, still somewhat fresh off the arduous creation of Apocalypse Now, came to Tulsa, inspired by the entreaties of middle-school students who had read S.E. Hinton's seminal novel The Outsiders and wanted him to make a movie of it.
Perhaps what Coppola didn't foresee when he made The Outsiders his next project was the city's charm; deciding not only to make The Outsiders, but also sticking around with much of his cast and crew to shoot his more experimental adaptation of Hinton's darker, follow-up novel, Rumble Fish.
Being the two best films shot in Tulsa has earned both The Outsiders and Rumble Fish a following here, particularly The Outsiders and its scenes of Ponyboy and the gang taking in a movie at the Admiral Twin Drive-In.
Now, thanks to the Twin's new conversion to digital projectors, the venerable Tulsa landmark can fulfill the meta-wish of Hinton and Coppola fans alike -- many of whom have been requesting the films for some time -- with the screenings of both The Outsiders and Rumble Fish on Thursday, May 23.
Damn Greasers. Swayze and company are still keepiní in golden with lots of denim and freaking awesome hair in The Outsiders, playing along with Rumble Fish at the resurrected Admiral Twin.
"It became very difficult to locate a 35mm print of these movies as well as someone willing to let the movie be shown at a drive-in, now that studios are phasing out the movie prints," Twin owner Blake Smith told the Tulsa World, speaking of previous attempts to book the films.
Of course, digital projection isn't the only new thing at the restored theater. New concessions and amenities have also been updated at the Tulsa tradition since it burned down in 2010. Not to mention that new screen on which we'll see the Admiral's very own past projected once again, for one night only.
The Outsiders will screen at 8:30 p.m. (the gates open at 7pm) with Rumble Fish beginning not long after 10pm Tickets for adults are $7 while anyone too short to get on a roller coaster pays $3. All tickets are first-come, first-served, so get there early.
Stay gold, people.
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