Monthly Archives: May 2014

Star Trek Into Darkness: Revisited

I re-watched this movie a couple of times recently. I still enjoy the movie very much, yet despite my enjoyment there was something gnawing at my stomach with this movie and I had a difficult time putting my finger on it. Then as I watched it again twice I finally figured out what is bothering me.

There are two important moments in the film and in my opinion this franchise had not yet earned the importance of them. Let me explain: I still have mixed feeling about them using Khan as the villain. It was done so well in the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Ricardo Montalbán I really wanted them to leave it alone. It didn’t need to be redone in my opinion. This takes nothing away from Benedict Cumberbatch and his acting. He did a superb job in the role. It just didn’t feel like Khan to me.

Here is why. The movie was basically a remake of both the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In a sense Star Trek into Darkness emotionally piggy backed on the known threat that Khan was in those two shows. It even took a cameo by Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime to drive that point home. The problem, as I see it, Star Trek Into Darkness did not earn the tension, the threat, that Khan was in this movie. To the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek Into Darkness they had no clue who Khan was and in many ways, since Kirk or Spock really did not have much of a relationship with this Khan, he really wasn’t the big threat that the movie likes to pretend he was. We, the audience, felt the threat that Khan was in the movie because we had a multi-year relationship with the character!

Sure, Khan/Harrison did some bad things at the start of the movie but he could have been any villain. Heck, they could have made Cumberbatch the rouge Captain Garth of Izar from the original series episode Whom God’s Destroy. It would have worked just as well. Or he could have been a totally new villain with the same story and it would not have made much of a difference. So for me, this version of Khan lacked the history with the crew of the Enterprise to be such a big deal.

The same type of issue shows itself with the death of Kirk. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the death of Spock was so powerful because both the crew and the audience had a long standing history with the character. In the rebooted Star Trek these relationships are not as well established. Just because we throw the name Kirk and Spock on these actors doesn’t mean we have the same emotional connection with these characters as we did/do with the original characters and actors and their portrayal of the characters.

In this universe/time-line Kirk and Spock are barely friends. At the start of Star Trek Into Darkness Spock betrays Kirk for violating the Prime Directive and it creates a problem for this growing friendship. Toward the end of this movie Kirk dies instead of Spock and Spock, in anguish over the loss of his friend, screams KHAAAAAN!! like Shatner did in the Wrath of Khan. However, the whole things feels hollow. This Kirk and Spock do not have the multi-year history as friends which made the death of one of them so moving. These two characters have not earned that intimacy yet! Sure, you could see this new Spocks reaction over Kirks death as a way to say that he regrets betraying Kirk at the start of the movie, it still lacks the emotional jolt the scene was going for because these two characters are not yet solid in their friendship.

Having said all of that I still do like the movie. It has a good story and good acting along with great special effects. Benedict Cumberbatch was spectacular. I just wished he wasn’t playing Khan.

In the next movie I do hope they do not rehash other characters from the original series. Well, at least not as the main villain. In truth I hope I hope they do give us someone and something new. I desire to see the new crew in exploration and wish that the enemy they face is some new anomaly or force of nature.

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My Favorite Superman: Part II

Christopher Reeve made four Superman movies. The first two are considered classics of the genre and are among my favorite Superman movies. Superman III co-starred comedian Richard Pryor and the movie delved more into comedy. Although I do find it too comedic for my tastes there are some good aspects to the movie. Superman himself has some great action scenes and the time in Smallville with Lana Lang is done very well. Although with the third trip to the theater for this franchise the budget was cut and it showed in the sometimes lack luster special effects. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, had a great premise but a poor execution and the film was a dud. Although it did not do well, I do find some parts of the movie are still very enjoyable.

Superman once again went on nearly a 20 year hiatus until director Bryan Singer and actor Brandon Routh once again placed Superman in the theaters in 2006. The movie, Superman Returns, was a loose sequel to the first two Superman movies and ignored numbers III and IV. I really enjoyed this movie and with the rescue of the airplane by Superman it is one of the best Superman action shots ever filmed. The film did fairly well at the box office but it didn’t do as well as the studio heads would have liked. Plus, with Batman Begins and then the Dark Knight so successful, WB studios decided to reboot Superman, giving the movie a more serious tone.

This brings us full circle. In 2013 Henry Cavill played a Superman more inline with George Reeves than Christopher Reeve. This also was a very personal story of the struggles that Clark had growing up and being different. Although other incarnations of Superman have hinted at this none have shown it to the degree that Man of Steel did.

It is difficult for me to judge a portrayal of Superman based on one performance. Although, as of this writing, Man of Steel is my favorite Superman movie, I cannot say, just yet, if his performance is my favorite. The same with Brandon Routh. Brandon had some pretty big shoes to fill. The same with Henry Cavill. Although I am sure many actors that portray Superman will be compared to Christopher Reeve, Routh had more of that pressure on his shoulders due to the fact that his was the first portrayal of the character since Reeve wore the cape and tights, and his movie, Superman Returns, was set in the same cinematic universe as Reeve’s movies were. I think Routh did an excellent job although the film itself could have used more action. I was disappointed that he would not be playing Superman again because I do think he did very well.

For myself then it comes down to George Reeves and Christopher Reeve. I do love them both but I have to give George Reeves the slight edge. I like his portrayal of Clark better. Christopher Reeves made Clark into too much of a bumbling fool. However, in his defense, he also was great in showing how different Clark and Superman were and if anyone could sell how different they were then it was Christopher Reeve. I just happen to enjoy George Reeves more aggressive approach to the character of Clark Kent. He really seemed to be the hard nosed investigative journalist they needed at that time in Metropolis.

If he was tough as Clark Kent George Reeves was even tougher as Superman. Sure, Christopher Reeve could demonstrate that toughness but he was more of the boyscout type of Superman. George Reeve really personified that strength and it never seemed like he was acting. I think that even though Christopher Reeve may have looked more like Superman, George Reeves personified the extraordinary strength that the character needed. We just knew he was Superman and he wasn’t going to take crap from anyone!

Also must admit some nostalgia plays a part in my selection of George Reeves. Sure I was only 15 when Superman: The Movie came out in 1978, but I had seen the Adventures of Superman at a much earlier age. When I was in grade school, around the 5th grade, our teacher marched our class down into the Church basement one afternoon. A projector screen was set up and a movie projector was in the center isle surrounded by metal folding chairs. We sat quietly not knowing what we were about to watch. The lights dimmed and the projector started to roll. Then up came the title page and the announcer said “the Adventures of Superman!” I was hooked and almost flew around the room myself!!

Shortly after that, cable TV came to my hometown and on WPIX channel 11 out of New York City were showing the Adventures of Superman on a regular basis. So George Reeves portrayal of Superman will always be my favorite. And as they say, you never forget your first love!