Anne talks film: Star Trek Into Darkness

startrek2013coverWhen I was a small child in the 70’s there were the Star Wars fans who were cool and then there were the Trekkies who watched Star Trek (1966 – 1970). They were weird, the show was old and in reruns and the FX in the series was old, camp, and frankly looked fake to us. The supposedly advanced technology that they used in the far future looked tired and outdated for the 70’s.
 
The original series used what I always like to call ‘ship on a stick’ technology where by the shots of the ship floating in space were accomplished by someone puppeteering a toy ship whilst the camera remained stationary. What changed with Star Wars was the development of motion controlled camera systems by Industrial Light and Magic which left the models stationary whilst the cameras moved creating a more realistic feel. The fact is that when you saw a film like Star Wars at the impressionable age of 5, like I did, you were spoiled forever and unable to accept the older filming techniques of the original Star Trek television series.
 
Of course there was Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) which apparently was green lit because of a Scifi friendly frenzy created in studios after the success of Star Wars, but for us kids it was boring. My mom took us to see it and as an adult she loved it with its reference to the real life Voyager probe that had been launched by the space programme two years earlier. But for us kids, it paled in comparison to the fairy tale in space that was Star Wars and all we could do was wait with anticipation for the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back which was already being talked about.
 
And then one day in 1984, on the last day of school before Christmas break it was snowing which is unusual for Texas and we just could not wait to get out of school and get to go play in the snow, something kids in Texas are lucky to see every ten to fifteen years. Sensing the restlessness of the students, I was twelve by this point so we were always restless but more so on this day, one of the teachers decided to pull out the new fangled video tape machine and just show us a film. That teacher invited my teacher’s class into his classroom to join them and we all watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
 
At first the teacher who chose the film actually apologised to us when we, two classrooms full of Star Wars generation tweens previously just excited that we got to see a video tape as this technology was still very new, groaned at the announcement of the title. He assured us that we would like the film. Dubious and with one eye on the snow falling outside we settled in, just happy to not be doing maths. And that is when the magic happened.
 
The Wrath of Khan was a low budget sequel to the 1979 film which disappointed its distributor Paramount at the box office though it did make money. There was, to a certain degree, a return of the camp quality of the special effects but what had improved remarkably was the script. The familiar cast known for the original series and the 1979 film were joined by Hollywood institution, Ricardo Montalban, in an amazing supporting performance as the film’s villain and James T. Kirk nemesis, Khan that can only be described as epic.
 
By the end of the class, I was hooked. The Wrath of Khan is still one of my favourite films and I count it, just behind Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) as my second favourite Star Trek film of all time. After viewing Khan at an impressionable age, I went on to become a Star Trek fan, enjoying the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994). I would never presume to call myself a Trekkie however because I believe that this title remains the sole territory of those few visionaries, the faithful fans that loved Star Trek when Star Trek was not cool. But I am a fan.
 
I positively loved the reboot Star Trek (2009), brought to us by JJ Abrams, and I hurried off to a cinema in Times Square, with large screens, on the very day that Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) opened, barely resisting the urge to go to a midnight showing, eager to see our very own Bennedict Cumberbatch who joined Simon Pegg and the rest of the reboot cast. Even with all of that anticipation, I was not disappointed.
 

 
As with the 1982 original sequel that first warmed me to the series, the story is amazing, drawing many references from the original set of films. Whereas Star Trek (2009) was quite obviously intended to broaden the appeal of the franchise, Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) was nothing less than an attempt to satisfy true Trekkies, and faithful fans such as myself who are more familiar with the universe brought to us throughout the 80’s in the first set of motion pictures. If you have not already watched many of these films, I recommend that you do as it will enhance your experience in viewing the 2013 film.
 
As a general rule the even numbered films with the original cast are better than the odd numbered films. If you are preparing to see Star Trek: Into Darkness or indeed if you have already seen it and want to fill yourself in those films will be must sees but it won’t hurt to watch them all.
 
As for the technical bits, the photography disappointed me a little in that it appears to have been framed with a DVD/streaming audience in mind as excessive amounts of camera shake often become confusing to the eye in the cinematic forum. Additionally, a distracting number of the Star Trek signature anamorphic flares pop up, at least some of them likely applied in post production.
 
Though the production did employ the use of Panavision C Series Primo lenses which are anamorphic, Hasselblad lenses were used on the IMAX camera according to IMDB and I am not aware of any anamorphic lenses produced by that company. Even the Panavision C Series is not likely to produce quite that many light artifacts. Whether they were added in post, or the more organic form, created with light and lens in production, there were just too many flares for my taste adding to the visual confusion caused by excessive camera shake. Less is more would be my advice for future sequels.
 
The performances were magical and I can say whether or not you are familiar with the Star Trek universe Cumberbatch’s performance alone is reason enough to see this film early and often. I highly recommend this film.

About Anne La Barbera

Our resident film critic Anne LaBarbera was born in Austin, Texas. A joint US / Italian national her varied film career spans writing, directing, producing, wardrobe and (even) running for the BBC – she’s nearly done it all! When not at home in Hollywood, Anne likes to travel and feature her classic VW Scirocco in the movies, mostly her own. Catch more of Anne’s adventures on www.annefilm.com.

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