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Going, Not Quite Boldly

A British Gentleman Reviews Star Trek

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Paramount Pictures did not allow Portland critics to see Star Trek into Darkness until after the Mercury's deadline. However! Since the film has already opened overseas, we turned to our esteemed London correspondent, Mr. Matt Davis, for a review.]

IN AN EFFORT to satisfy the Mercury's desire for "a British review" of the new Star Trek film (Americans prefer to say "movie," I believe), I dressed up as a chimney sweep and saw it at a cinema ("movie theater") in Piccadilly Circus, near Buckingham Palace, opposite a theatre—an actual one, you understand, with the 'e' and the 'r' in the correct order, and featuring actors who went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. (Dame Helen Mirren is currently starring as the queen in a play about Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II). Everything you just read is true apart from the chimney-sweep outfit. I was, of course, wearing mostly Vivienne Westwood, and the Mercury paid £13.60 for my ticket, or $20.82 at today's rate. Oof.

It's appropriate that I went and saw the new Star Trek film in London dressed fantastically and that the ticket was expensive because (A) Star Trek into Darkness came out in Europe before the United States, and (B) a bit of the film is set in London, and (C) every scene drips with money, including the costumes. Hot single-pleated pants on Captain Kirk (played by the beefy and rambunctious Chris Pine), for example. The film cost $185 million to make, employing hundreds of people to do digital effects alone, and dozens of people to do the costumes. Lovely looking scenes follow on from each other and Michael Giacchino's score for the enormous 21st Century Symphony Orchestra sounds as crisp as the batter on my favourite fish and chips.

The film also stars my fellow countryman Benedict Cumberbatch as a genetically superior being, Khan. Which he clearly is—genetically superior, I mean, all straight backed and fresh faced and 6'2" from the rugby pitch at his private school.

Trouble with a Star Trek film—even one from the franchise as charmingly rebooted as this one—is that they're a bit like a groom's speech at a wedding. The audience is already warmed up, they want to like it, and all the groom has to do is walk it in, not say anything too offensive, and trot out a few formulaic lines. Everybody laughs, nobody remembers the details, and if pressed they'll trot out a platitude about the fellow, saying, "Well, he seemed awfully nice."

Case in point: In this film, a central question is whether Spock (Zachary Quinto, the actor playing him, is gay, you know... now that is interesting) might show emotion. God, at this point, half a century since the storyline was original, who cares? Ooh, there's some nice trumpet over this bit, though. And that lens flare on Uhura's (Zoe Saldana, phwor) lip gloss probably cost thousands in the post-production.

Likewise, the handsome Cumberbatch performs his part adequately. He'd make a good James Bond. Simon Pegg is nice and funny as Scotty. But it's blah. The whole thing is blah. No surprises. Why set a scene in London? I've no idea, apart from the fact that it prepared the audience for Cumberbatch's British villainy—and again, a British villain? Boldly going where everyone has been before.

I wish director J.J. Abrams had pushed things somewhere a bit more unpredictable. Maybe a Uhura Crying Game-style transsexual reveal? That would have been nice. I don't know. Go see it and be unsurprised. Of course, I never gave a speech at my own wedding, and I ended up with a divorce. And I hate life most of the time, ergo I hate Star Trek. But you'll probably like it fine.

[ANOTHER EDITOR'S NOTE: Update! Now we have an American review too, from Denis C. Theriault. He liked it fine!]

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Official Site: www.startrekmovie.com

Director: J.J. Abrams

Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeffrey Chernov, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Paul Schwake

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller

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