Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I want to begin by saying that I am not a Trekkie. I've seen a handful of episodes from the original series, the 2009 movie, and this one. That's the background I come from as I write this review.

In Star Trek Into Darkness, the crew of the Enterprise searches for a terrorist named John Harrison, who is responsible for blowing up an archive building and assassinating several important Starfleet officers. I don't think I can say more about the plot without giving away too much.

The relationship between Kirk and Spock is interesting and often insightful. They are polarized by their respective beliefs in chaos and order, but they are best friends. This relationship provides many of the philosophical dilemmas of the film as well as most of the witty humor. The struggle between chaos and order was also a major theme in director J. J. Abrams' show Lost.

Evil villains are often stock characters. Common motivations include revenge, insanity, and power. This doesn't happen in Star Trek Into Darkness. The villain is morally ambiguous. I found myself hoping he would win certain fights. Benedict Cumberbatch is so good at being evil that it makes me question his motives as Sherlock in the BBC show of the same name.

It's easy to abuse CGI technology, but I don't think that happens in this movie. The ships, buildings, and planets have a balance of whimsy and realism that makes them beautiful and believable at the same time.

I think this is an excellent science fiction movie for anybody. It requires hardly any prior knowledge of the franchise to enjoy. I hope Star Trek Into Darkness appeals to dedicated Trekkies as well.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Iron Man 3

2008 gave us Iron Man and The Dark Knight, the first in a line of really great superhero movies. They were game changers. So was last year's The Avengers, directed by the magnificent Joss Whedon. It was the first team superhero movie and, amazingly, it didn't feel like it was spread too thin. Iron Man 3 is another solid superhero movie, but it's not going to change the industry.

In Tony Stark's latest adventure, he fights a global terrorist from his past who possesses the technology to rewrite genetic code, giving people the ability to regenerate (and sometimes shoot fire from their mouths!).

The greatest part about this movie is that it contains the secret to all Marvel characters: a human flaw. Iron Man's weakness isn't a space rock or fire; it's anxiety attacks. How awesomely human is that? He's so worried about protecting his girlfriend that it causes him physical pain and often puts him in danger.

Robert Downey Jr. really was born to play this role. I can't imagine anyone else as Tony Stark.

I can promise you that Iron Man 3 has everything you want in an Iron Man movie. Freaking cool suits? Yes. Snappy one-liners? Yes. Epic villains? Way yes. If you like superhero movies at all, you'll probably like Iron Man 3, but don't expect it to change your life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Much has been written about The Great Gatsby, which many consider to be "the great American novel." It's a fantastic book and that is why I'm not going to speak much about the film's story: it's already been covered by everyone else.

The most recent adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby, contains all of the novel's major themes. It is a faithful adaptation except for the context in which Nick Carraway narrates it. In the novel, he is merely telling the story to tell the story. In this movie, he is in a sanitarium telling the story to his doctor. Apparently he becomes an alcoholic after the events of the novel. This major detail shifted unnecessary focus onto Nick and could easily have been left out.

Leonardo DiCaprio is superb as Gatsby, especially during the high-tension scene in the rented parlor room. Tobey Maguire's performance could have been better, but it's not distracting.

The greatest thing about this film is that it brings the novel into a new generation. Gatsby's parties are not only extravagant and fancy, but youthfully wild and chaotic. The car chases are amped up with a bit of CGI that adds some excitement to a rather dialogue heavy story. These details make the film more appealing to a younger audience and will hopefully introduce them to one of the greatest pieces of American literature.

The soundtrack, which is modern and not period, is surprisingly appropriate and makes the parties feel cool and dangerous. It will undoubtedly become known as one of the best soundtracks of 2013.

Besides the added details about Nick, I don't have any problems with this movie. If I'm not excited, it's because it's just not the novel.