Science fiction and fantasy
Star Trek: Into Darkness
directed by J.J. Abrams
Inevitably there's plenty of action, and it's all very edge-of-the-seat. One of the things I really enjoyed about this film was the sheer scale of the visuals. There are enormous starships, vast hangars that could contain a small planetoid, forests of alien trees, and futuristic megacities. That whole sense of wonder is laid on in spades. The result is that this is one of the best looking space movies I've seen to date.
When it comes to the main crew there's some interesting character development, particularly between Spock and Uhura (Zoe Saldana). I was less sure about what Harrison was fighting for some of the times. Sometimes it's obvious that he has something to be angry about, but at other times he seems to act out of sheer malice. And the major twist (not about Harrison's identity, the other one) certainly surprised me, but there was something off about it. I think it might have been because the character (who I won't name) who is responsible for it isn't adequately introduced, so I didn't find his or her actions believable enough. These things combined to give the movie a testosterone-washed mania for violence that even the Klingons couldn't wholly explain.
WhitewashingThe original Star Trek series was a beacon of multicultural representation in the 1960s. So it's a real shock that Benedict Cumberbatch's character has been whitewashed, which is the practice of replacing a non-white character with a white actor. Having seen the movie and the mystery around the character's identity, I understand the logic behind this. I just can't condone it. It seems to have been done in order to keep people guessing, for the benefit of anyone who has seen the earlier movies. But those movies are under a different timeline, and therefore non-canon, and that leaves any storyline open for new interpretation, which should be uncertainty enough. And then, when we find out who John Harrison is, the name seems completely wrong coming from a white man's lips. It's a shame, when the character could just as easily have been cast as someone in the original race.
However, Star Trek: Into Darkness is full of actors of all races, including a moving appearance by Noel Clarke. Perhaps the main whitewashing objection is that Cumberbatch's role is so substantial and prestigious. He acts it very well, but even so. There's a measure of compensation because Uhura's role has been nicely beefed up, and she does far more than press buttons and relay messages. Kirk is a terrible womaniser who is always out to objectify women, but Uhura is one of a couple of strong, rounded female characters who refuse to be marginalised in any way.
I enjoyed this movie a great deal, even though I did find the bit with the tribble somewhat obvious. I found Spock and Uhura very likeable, the villains complex, the vistas shiny and weird, and the action engaging.
30th May 2013
If you like this, try:Star Trek: Nemesis by Stuart Baird
Jean-Luc Picard faces an ambitious captain with a troubled past. Can he overcome this to bring peace to the Romulan Empire, or will it all end in flames?
Review © Ros Jackson