If it's crap ... We'll tell you
New home releases remain a little bit light on the battle ground at the moment, but luckily the main two on offer were two I had a lot of interest in checking out. The summer season of blockbusters has all but officially ended right now, but it means they are now slowly releasing on DVD and Blu Ray. Which leads us neatly on to the first film to review, one that a lot of fans expected to sweep the floors with the opposition. And, ended up getting a bit of a bloody nose instead.
Yes, "Star Trek: Into Darkness" had just as much, if not more excitement behind its release than the first instalment back in 2009. The story has the return of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) whose reckless behaviour has him at the point of being demoted from the Enterprise. A terrorist attack upon a secret Starfleet base in London, and subsequent attack upon a Starfleet meeting with Kirk attending, leads to him being re-instated by Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) Kirk joins Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura, Bones, and the rest of his former crew in the search for the man behind the attacks John Harrison. However, their journey not only has danger immediately in front of them, but unknown dangers among the crew that may begin an all-out war if they are not careful where they step.
Where the first movie from a few years ago centred very much on introducing the characters and developing their relations, here the focus is upon the action and high-speed adventures. The pace to the story is fast and exciting, just what you want from a big-budget summer blockbuster. I kept the synopsis minimal for those who haven't seen this yet and want to avoid spoilers, but it does relate to something I need to mention later. The first hour or so keeps you intrigued as it builds the elements of mystery as well as the fact that very serious shit is going down. Mass death happens quite often here and the stakes are set high from the beginning of the Enterprise's mission.
But some of the good points from the previous film are retained too, such as the performance of Simon Pegg as Scotty. His flamboyance and injection of comedy that works exactly where it is needed elevates several scenes to a higher level of entertainment than they would be without him. I also enjoyed his small story that goes on, even if it wasn't focussed upon very much. The effects too are top-class and have a great sense of weight behind them. Any time a ship fires or gets hit, the scale of the impact feels real, and the detail to the ships is impressive as well. The movie gives us a better view of life on Earth at the time, and although there aren't many Sci Fi-city pieces used here that haven't been done before, I liked the mix of modern technology in settings that sometimes still retain the aesthetics of the London we know.
Performance-wise, along with Simon Pegg the role that stood out for me was Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain of the tale. He has a dark, foreboding presence that bristles with power that in a second, could kill anyone standing near him. The tone of his performance is quiet in volume, but still you don't miss a single word he says, and that is a trait any actor or actress would pay a million dollars to gain. The crew retains the general feel from the previous film, and they all perform perfectly fine. The musical score still has the pieces you love to hear, the action never feels boring or dull, and both fans and general audience members alike will be able to enjoy the story.
But... something is amiss with the movie's Warp Drive, there are problems here I must tackle now. First is that I didn't quite get the feeling that the crew was building as a team from the last movie, it was like they were going through essentially, very similar problems and repeating what happened before. There are moments where an element of seriousness in the drama would work well, but it wasn't coherent enough, especially between Kirk and Spock. And then there is the third act, which after what was up to that point a fun and enjoyable flick, descends into anarchy and idiocy with a disregard to the franchise that baffles the mind. You will know the sequences when you see them for yourself, but even a non fan would instantly recognise the giant boot that this film is stomping upon the face of previous works, and just be left sickened by it. It doesn't work on any level whatsoever, fuck it, even the moment of apparent tragedy was telegraphed with a fix, so clearly, that you would have to have been asleep to have missed it.
Other aspects that the media has complained about such as Alice Eve's scene in her undies were yes, wildly misplaced in the film, but not inappropriate. The bigger problem here is how the referencing to previous material goes totally overboard and becomes more fan-bitch-slapping rather than fan service. But what is really missed most of all is a sense of originality, that this movie would make its own mark upon the franchise and breathe more refreshing new air just as the 2009 one did. And for about an hour or so, it does this, only to lose attention and worry more about action than developing the characters we know and love. There was no need to promote to the general audiences again, they were already on board!
I'll give this a Very Low Matinee (6.5/10) for now, but I don't know if I would be happy to see this again someday. It had the threat of offering something new in a package we knew well, but just ended up letting it lose all sense of direction. Worth seeing, but..... disappointing at the end of the day sadly.
The second movie to look at is "Mud", which I can happily say much better words about. Two young teenage kids who live by a river in Arkansas, take a boat trip out to an island where they discover a boat stuck on top of a tree. They want to take it for themselves but discover that someone is living in it already, who turns out to be a man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) He tells them that he is waiting for someone but could use their help in finding food, and as the film goes along, in helping him re-unite with his girlfriend despite a fragmented and dark past between them.
Outside of this primary story there is the tale of the main kid Ellis (Tye Sheridan) as he goes through what could be called a "coming of age" arc. The story of Mud and that which he goes through in his everyday life begin to have a slight resemblance, as he learns of the complicated and murky side to love and relationships.
It is a simple tale at heart that has some very good details to it in that way, of having elements that you can read into but without wearing these on its sleeve. The setting has a feeling of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" to it, though not as deprived as it mixes between the river life and that of the town nearby. The settings are visualised very well indeed, with some great shots put together as well as an impressive implementation of lighting.
But the big selling point is the performances; McConaughey is just fantastic as Mud as he reveals pieces of his character bit by bit. Upon meeting the kids you expect him to be intimidating and frightening, but he has a warm heart and a profound sense of understanding. But at the same time, you always feel that he is hiding something underneath his personality, and that is the mystery that the movie works upon. The two kids are excellent as well, giving a genuinely believable performance all the way through and one that the audience can instantly connect to. They may be rather rough around the edges, but this reflects the surroundings they live in. And once again, at their hearts they are good people who help out Mud even though there's not all that much in it for them.
It is a very entertaining drama, including several aspects of society as well as a final act that is pretty dark. I really did feel the suspense of the sequences as Ellis's world and that of Mud crash together in an ugly heap. But there is ultimately hope and kindness all throughout that keeps you invested and wondering where things will go next. It is almost better not to say too much about this, and let you discover it for yourself. There aren't any giant surprises hidden, but the quality of the script and on-screen delivery is what you will see this for.
I enjoyed this a lot, and it is definitely one of the best dramas I have seen so far in 2013. It was worth the long wait for it to appear on DVD, and I think that it will be worth your time as well to go seek it out. I give this a Full Price (9/10), a great story that I will enjoy seeing again one day.
Thanks for reading! ^__^