Tuesday’s Reviews – Wonder Woman (2017)

Chris Pine, comic book, comic books, DC, films, fuck yeah, Gal Gadot, reviews, Robin Wright, superhero, women

If you’d asked me how I felt when the Wonder Woman film was first announced I would probably have told you I didn’t give a shit. I was never really into the character, despite my love of badass women, and my limited view just made her seem a bit campy and annoying. Then there’s the issue of an endless stream of disappointing DC films. Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice were both just too dark and completely thoughtless. Then Suicide Squad ruined the chance to be something different and fun by being completely obvious and uninspiring. So, yeah, maybe thanks to their insane love of Zack fucking Snyder I was kind of convinced that DC would somehow fuck this up. Wonder Woman had a lot to live up: it’s the first comic book movie about a female superhero. They beat Marvel at showing a woman being awesome front and centre. It needed to be good. With their track record I couldn’t help but feel that was unlikely… but then again I’m old and cynical by now.
Question: how many times did I actually cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: 1. Question: how many times did I nearly cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: a bazillion. From the moment I started tearing up during the opening scene depicting strong Amazonian women training for battle I knew this film was for me. Finally, a female-led superhero film that shows how strong women can be whilst still remaining feminine. I was instantly hooked. It looked like this was going to be the film I’d wanted: somewhere where women can kickass and show they can do whatever their male counterparts can do. Which is probably why this film takes so many pointers from previous superhero films. Just like Captain America: The First Avenger we travel back in time to World War 1 to see where the breakout character of Dawn of Justice came from. Like Thor we become immersed in a world of Gods and great warriors before being planted firmly in a realm away from mankind. Finally, there are plenty of nods to Richard Donner’s classic Superman films.

However, Wonder Woman is a key film in its own right as it is the first female-led superhero film by either big comic book distributor. Yes, there have been attempts to cater for women in the world of comic book movies but the less said about either Catwoman or Elektra the better. Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, has the weight of Hollywood on her shoulders as she attempts to prove that women have a place in superhero films. Not just front and centre but in the audience too. There is still an obscene generalisation that it is only men who enjoy action films, which in this day and age if frankly an absurd thing to claim. Thankfully, with Patty Jenkins and the insanely amazing Gal Gadot at the helm, Wonder Woman has smashed all kinds of records to, hopefully, show that 2017 was the moment women made their presence felt in the world of comic book movies.

To briefly sum up the narrative before my endless appreciation of this film: Diana is one of an island of Amazons who were created by Zeus to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War. After Zeus dies attempting to overthrow Ares, the Amazons are sent to a secluded island, Themyscira to hide. They spend their time training for the inevitable battle when Zeus final gift, the God Killer, will vanquish their foe forever. Diana, daughter of the island’s Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to fight but is forbidden by her mother. She is trained, in secret, by Antiope (Robin Wright) until she becomes the greatest fighter the island has ever seen. Just in time, as it happens, because war comes to Themyscira in the form of an American pilot and the fleet of German soldiers chasing him. Diana suspects Ares is the reason humanity if at war and, with the pilots help, goes to the frontline to confront and kill him. There’s also the obligatory romance because, really, what kind of woman can go to war and not fall in love?

Wonder Woman may owe a lot to the films of Richard Donner but it has so much fun subverting them that it becomes a whole new thing. Instead of the dashing heroic man saving the damsel in distress, we see the strong, beautiful woman leaping into danger with the puppy-dog eyed pilot lolloping after her. Not that Chris Pine could be accused to lolloping, of course. We clearly have a flipped arrangement of the classic Clark Kent and Lois Lane relationship going on here and its great. More than that, actually, because Pine’s American Spy, Steve Trevor, has some depth to him. He’s not just the Jane Foster of Wonder Woman; he has his own story arc and everything. Steve has to overcome his own demons about the war whilst also casting his sometimes sarcastic eye over Diana’s way of life. What Chris Pine is essentially doing here is WW1 Captain Kirk but, hey, if it works it works.

Steve is more than a match for the Amazonian Princess, Diana, who absolutely sizzles on screen thanks to Gal Gadot’s portrayal. Diana is both terrifyingly strong and noble whilst being incredibly naive and tender. We knew from Dawn of Justice that the ex-Israeli military woman could handle the action sequences with ease but here she proves that she has the talent to bring the character to life. She is brave, sweet, moral and, though we’ve seen it countless times, an adorable fish out of water. She is also, more importantly, funny. A trait that has been sadly lacking in the DCEU for its last 3 films. The visual and narrative links to Clark Kent are numerous, even down to the clothes that Diana uses to remain incognito in WW1 era London, but it all just works.

Wonder Woman is a film that relishes in tackling the excitement of a comic book movie by ensuring the action scenes are over-the-top and visually stunning. However, it does fall into the comic book movie trap of having a final battle scene that just becomes a heavily CGI’d, garish affair. The final 30 minutes of this film drag and lose the glorious momentum of the previous film. My one criticism is that Wonder Woman is so bogged down in Greek mythology. The rest of the film is kind of silly, very important and glorious celebration of the character and women in general. The hunt for Ares just drags it down into the murky, dark waters currently housing every Zack Snyder film ever made. It’s too much. I would have been happy if Diana and co. just kept rescuing innocent people from German soldiers.

Wonder Woman is the perfect DC film. It overshadows its predecessors and shows them just how easy it could be. It offers important messages about female empowerment and feminism whilst also addressing that pesky subject of humanity doing terrible things to each other. I didn’t expect to enjoy this film but I’m happy to eat my own words. This is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Gal Gadot is my ultimate hero and Robin Wright is the biggest badass of all time. I sat through this film with a massive grin on my face… until the finale. But, still, it’s a wonder to behold.

Tuesday’s Reviews – STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

Chris Pine, films, Idris Elba, meh, review, sci-fi, Simon Pegg, Star Trek

I’ve had mixed feelings about this film since I first saw the trailer. I hadn’t exactly been blown away by 2013’s Into Darkness despite my love of Benedict Cumberbatch. I just didn’t like the silliness that the trailer seemed to be portraying. It was trying to go down the Guardians of the Galaxy route with the references to The Beastie Boys. It felt fucking desperate if I’m honest. Like it’s just trying to fit in with the other spacey blockbusters instead of trying to be something new. Of course, there was still hope. I know I’ve said a lot of shit about Simon Pegg over the years but the fact that he came on board as co-writer surely had to be a good thing. I mean the man helped write Spaced and a trilogy of films that succeeded 2 out of 3 times. At the very least we’d have enough in-jokes and references to keep is preoccupied long enough to not notice how shit everything else was. So, with only a month to go before the film comes out I finally got round to watching it.

I have to admit that I enjoyed Beyond way more than I thought that I would. It’s a pretty standard kind of Star Trek film but it was enjoyable enough. Naturally, it is one of the funniest films in the franchise and certainly the most self-aware and humours since the reboot. However, I still couldn’t get away from my feeling that it was trying too hard to be the opposite of Into Darkness. It takes the dark and grittiness of its predecessor and goes to great lengths to be sillier. It means that, instead of being a complex film with a narrative that flows nicely and deals with real human feelings, Beyond is basically just a selection of hit-and-miss jokes between massive action sequences. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The Original Series hardly went into great depths about the human relationships at the heart of the show.

I guess Simon Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung attempt to bring some emotional range into the mix as both Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) contemplate leaving the Enterprise for more fulfilling work. Kirk is finding out that a five year journey in space isn’t quite the fun-filed adventure he had hoped and Spock must decide between the Enterprise and political work on New Vulcan. However, this is never really developed to the point that either of them learn anything about themselves. Every time they get close something will inevitably blow up or something funny will happen to distract them. Ultimately. both of them make their decision without really discussing anything important, which makes the whole enterprise really fucking superficial.

However, there are many who will love that about Beyond. It took a lot from the negative audience reactions from Into Darkness and made a film for the fans. Something that is both clever and really fucking risky. After JJ Abrams’ second film came out the audience wanted more Kirk and co, less darkness, and a plot that wasn’t just a rehash of a classic. All of these things are catered for but the team seem to have forgotten a few key points. Namely, a coherent and engaging story, a well-written baddie, and decent roles for anyone who isn’t Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty. But, as Some Like it Hot famously told us, “nobody’s perfect”.

I’d try and sum up the narrative here but, really, I don’t really understand much of what happened or why. The crew of the Enterprise were lured into a trap set by the supposedly villainous Krall (played by a completely wasted Idris Elba) and have to stop him unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on a Federation outpost. Hang on, what was that I was saying about “original story”? Change this guys name to John Harrison and we’ve got Into Darkness all over again. Although, Beyond does have the unmistakable feel of classic Star Wars about it. The gang get stranded on an alien planet and there are plenty of unnamed red shirts who get offed. This is also the closest the reboot has got to getting the characters to be familiar interpretations. Well the main trio anyway. The relationship between Spock and Kirk is a wonderful as ever and, thankfully, Beyond shows us more of Bones (Keith Urban) and Spock. Bones was the underused but brilliant aspect of the last two films and Urban is finally able to get some real screen time. The banter but ultimate care and respect the two show are some of the film’s highlights.

However, the rest of the crew really get fuck all to do. Although, there is a wonderful new addition to the team thanks to Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. The newcomer is a stronger, more intelligent and developed female character than anyone in the previous films in the reboot. Although, even she basically just turns up to fight people and give vital bits of exposition when needed. There’s nothing wrong with films that are all about action but that action needs to be spectacular to make it worth it. There can be no denying that Justin Lin has a better handle on the action sequences than Abrams didn in the previous instalments but they’re still all over the place. The first major action sequences is kind of spectacular though. The Enterprise is set upon by Krall and his fleet of tiny, bee-like ships. The later two setpieces are edge-of-your seat stuff but they’re nothing near the first. The rest of the film does little to prove that Star Trek is a decent enough action film to rival the ones currently being produced. The editing is choppy, the camera bounces around all over the place, and there is an over-reliance on deafening sound effects. No amount of cheesy references to the Beastie Boys is going to convince me that the action scenes save this film.

Somebody really needs to remind the people who make these films that the whole reason the Enterprise set out was to “boldly go where nobody had gone before”. Modern filmmakers have clearly forgotten this fact and decided it’s better to just copy every other big action blockbuster that’s ever created. When Abrams first took up the reboot I was excited. I loved the idea of new Star Trek. However, it’s always tried to be something else. Abrams wanted to make it his version of Star Wars and now it’s just the poor man’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This film should have been the franchise’s Skyfall but instead it’s more like fucking Quantum of Solace. Something that had a load of promise but just lost its way. I mean in the grand scheme of things Beyond isn’t a shitty film. It is, however, shitty Star Trek.

Into the Woods (2015)

Anna Kendrick, boring, Chris Pine, fairy tale, meh, Meryl Streep, musical, review
When it comes to this blog I think I’m starting to come across as a bit of a grump when it comes to musicals. I don’t really understand why as I’m a not so secret lover of the genre. Whilst writing my postgraduate dissertation I listened to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat soundtrack on repeat. I have been known to portray my feelings through the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber (especially when I’d finished the aforementioned dissertation). However, most modern musicals just don’t get me as excited. I see trailers and just get angry. Especially if they star Meryl Streep. Thankfully I have the good sense not to associate with anybody who responded to the release of Into The Woodswith any other attitude than “who the fuck cast Meryl Streep in another musical?” Don’t get me wrong I love the Streep but, you have to admit, it’s a bloody good question. After the travesty that was Mamma Miait’s difficult to see who would have decided casting big names was better than talented singers.

Into the Woodsis a weird fairytale mash-up of the stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel. These many strands are tied together through the tale of a baker and hid wife who embark on a quest to lift a curse that has left them childless. In order to get their angry neighbourhood witch to reverse her spell, the pair must enter the titular woods and track down four very specific items from each of the four tales.
The problem with cutting and pasting bits of these existing stories together is that each one ultimately loses a lot of the excitement and become a lot more complicated. Taken singly you can accept the crazy decisions that the characters make but torn into bite size pieces it becomes harder to go along with everything. The mixing of the narratives only succeeds in watering them down without adding any fresh perspectives or humour. It’s all a bit dull and unnecessary.
And fucking repetitive. The problem with musicals as a whole is the needless desire to tell the audience what is happening over and over again. Almost as soon as the baker has rescued Red Riding Hood from the belly of the wolf, she feels the need to sing about it and provide us with a flashback. Clearly targeted at the stupid or those with non-existent short-terms memories, Into the Woodsis a 2+ hour film that probably only has about an hours worth of material in it.
Which considering there has still been something of a narrative cull seems even more ridiculous. The whole plot feels as though it’s full of holes and never feels complete. Take for example the relationship between Cinderella and her Prince Charming: in the stage show Prince Charming tires of Cinders and falls for the sleeping Snow White. In the film, their relationship goes from being happily ever after to soul destroying in the blink of an eye. Despite still being pretty fucking dark compared to Disney’s big hitting musicals, Into the Woods has traded narrative integrity for being family friendly.
There is just not subtlety at work here, which, if we’re honest, is the fucking great thing about stage musicals. They are limited in how they can present their material and so can’t distract from the music and the performances. Into the Woodsis the opposite of this who steamrollers over everything else with its massive production values. The epic sets, costumes and orchestration make it almost impossible to enjoy the witty and clever work of both Sondheim and writer James Lapine, who also wrote the book for the original production.
Into the Woodsis a musical that takes itself too fucking seriously and, considering the general air of the show, is just the most ridiculous decision. I was so bored during the whole film and I say that as someone who’s natural reaction to people singing instead of talking is to jump for joy. That’s not to say that the cast don’t try their hardest and obviously many of them try too hard. Into the Woodsis full to bursting with huge names to the extent that great actors like Simon Russell Beale are mere afterthoughts. With a mix of Hollywood A-listers, musical theatre brats and classical actors, it’s exhausting.
Meryl Streep, despite the fact that I’ll never warm to her as a singer, is fabulous as the desperate witch and Anna Kendrick adds some real legitimacy to proceedings as Cinderella. Emily Blunt and James Corden make a good duo as the Baker and his wife but get sort of lost in the confusion and musical numbers. Most memorable is Chris Pine as the sleazy but charming Prince who wins Cinders’ heart. Pine, who will now forever be Captain Kirk 2.0, channels his best William Shatner for his performance. It’s a role that is a fantastic parody but never really finds its feet on the big screen.
I’m not entirely sure who Into the Woodswas made for. It doesn’t quite work for the lovers of Frozenor the faithful Sondheim audience. It’s simultaneously dumbed-down and over-complicated. The watered down script is still too edgy for children but not dark enough for an older audience. Into the Woods is all pomp and no circumstance. Getting too carried away in the spectacle that it didn’t really think about the content that they were trying to introduce people to. The whole thing just left me cold.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pine, JJ Abrams, review, sci-fi, sequel, Simon Pegg, space, Star Trek

I set out a promise to you, dear readers, before I continue: I promise I will try as hard as I can to make sure this doesn’t just descend into my ramblings concerning the attractiveness of Benedict Cumberbatch. It’ll be hard. He is one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen and his voice should come with some sort of parental guidance. Seriously this film should have been rated a 15 just because of how erotic all of his lines sound. Not since the days of Jack Bauer has someone sounded quite so sexy whilst threatening to kill a bunch of people. But here I am falling into the same old trap.

Back in 2009 JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise by rewriting history to allow a wider range of people to embrace a dwindling franchise. Abrams famously admitted to not being a fan of Star Trek and set out to make a film that would appeal to people like him whilst hopefully not alienating the loyal fans. It was a Star Trek film made as a Star Wars film and the whole thing was considered to be a major success. The decision to start a clean slate by rewriting such familiar character histories allowed Abrams to do what he wanted with the franchise whilst still leaving the classic television show in tact. It was a brilliant decision and for the past four years cinema goers have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up.

Into Darkness picks up shortly after Star Trek left off with Kirk (Chris Pine) and friends exploring the depths of space in his very own ship. We catch up with them mid-adventure with Kirk and Dr Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) sprinting through an alien wilderness to escape an angry extraterrestrial mob. We quickly learn that this is all just a huge distraction whilst Spock (Zachary Quinto) works to calm down an active volcano. To be honest, I could have done without this opening piece as, really, it adds little to the overall story and seems to drag everything out a bit. (Also, the idea that the Enterprise could survive hidden underwater for a few days seems a bit far-fetched to me but there we are.) Although, it allows Quinto the opportunity to shine once again as Spock. The actor continues to get better in the role and his inner-wrangling between his two halves is a great thing to watch as he finds himself getting deeper into two personal relationships. The most important and loving of the two is between Spock and his Captain and as we pick up the story we find ourselves in full bromance mode. The pair continue to play off each other very well and it’s a double act I’m looking forward to seeing more of in the future.

It is the conflict between the two men that creates the supposed need for the opening gambit as it’s major purpose is to remind the audience that Spock is all about the prime directive and favours the needs of the many over the few. Of course, Kirk being Kirk the crew manage to go against the all important Prime Directive and makes their presence known to the simplistic lifeforms inhabiting the planet. Inevitably this doesn’t sit well with the important people back at Star Fleet and Kirk has his ship taken away from him before being made First Officer to a returning Admiral Pike. That is until a disgruntled ex-employee John Harrison vows vengeance against The Federation by blowing up one of their secret bunkers in London, with the help of Dr Who’s lovable Mickey Smith (also known as talented actor and film-maker Noel Clarke). Kirk is called back into play after promising Admiral Marcus that he will hunt down and capture the deadly Harrison.

Benedict Cumberbatch gives another stand-out performance as Harrison. He plays the character with a chilling intensity but doesn’t make the mistake of taking him into ridiculous super villain territory. He humanises Kirk’s deadly foe to the extent that it often becomes difficult to separate him from the the supposed good guys who are out to stop him. I won’t go into massive spoiler territory (as my personal cinema experience was slightly marred after IMDB revealed the true name of his character before I’d seen the film) but he brings about a great new insight into one of the most infamous Star Trek foes (OK maybe that was a bit too obvious but the film has been out a while and I doubt any of my two (at best) readers are coming to me for advice on whether or not they should see a film). Cumberbatch really is one of the greatest actors around and will no doubt go down in history as one of the most devilish villains in the history of the franchise. The decision to cast him in the role may now be creating some controversy with some critics but based solely on performance, Harrison is a complete success and I can’t imagine any other actor playing him with the same balance of drama, humanity and light-heartedness. And he’s pretty easy on the eye… don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet.

The scenes between Harrison and Chris Pine’s Kirk are wonderful as the pair face-off in an increasingly dramatic fashion. Pine has nowhere near the level of acting talent that Cumberbatch possesses but it is this fact that makes these scene all the more effective. Harrison is a deadly enemy, a super-soldier, and Pine manages to make his own shortcomings highlight his foe’s clear head-start. Kirk is left floundering in front of his superior enemy just as Pine is left to try and catch-up to Cumberbatches superior performance. It leaves Kirk seeming vulnerable but determined to come out on top.

It is a welcome consequence that also adds greater depth to the moments shared between Pine and Bruce Greenwood’s Captain Pike. The difference between the pair as actors only makes the father-son style relationship all the greater on screen. What Pine does bring to the role is an unending energy and ability to make all of the outlandish situations and slapdash narrative stick together. He appears to have absolute faith in what he is doing which makes it easier to accept some of the looser aspects of the plot.

That would have to be my major criticism of the new Star Trek. It just isn’t as slick as Abrams’ first outing and it doesn’t fit together as easily. There is a tension between Abrams slick production and the film’s thin and, at times, haphazard script. Into Darkness offers amazing visual episodes, moments of documentary style camera work and references to modern day terrorism. It is a triumph of modern film-making but this story just seems quite childish and sloppy. Rules don’t seem to matter in this world and there are no real consequences. Like a childhood game where you’re all just making it up as you go along, Into Darkness changes the importance of certain ideas as and when it feels like it. For all of Spock’s banging on about the Prime Directive there appear to be no consequences when the crew of the Enterprise consistently fail to abide by it. Kirk loses captaincy of his ship for all of 2 hours before he’s back in the hot-seat.

The main writing technique seems to be if it doesn’t make sense just add another fanboy reference in there to keep the audience happy. ‘Wait why the hell has that been allowed to happen… ooh look a Tribble!’ On the one hand I appreciated these little references to the Original Series and delighted in hearing talk of the neutral zone and Harry Mudd. On the other, it’s the Steven Moffat thing all over again. If you don’t have the substance to keep an audience happy why not just treat them like dribbling morons and wave shiny/familiar objects in front of their face? If Star Trek was about introducing a new generation of Roddenberry’s franchise then Into Darkness is about celebrating it. We have more great performances from the lead characters: something like a mix between an impression and a re imagining of old friends. All of the key players are there doing what they need to do to make this a successful Star Trek film. We delight at seeing Chekov (Anton Yelchin) panicking in his ‘can’t believe it’s real’ Russian accent and shiver when Sulu (John Cho) shows off his dark side whilst taking temporary command of the ship. Karl Urban continues to provide great laughs (and a great impression) as Bones and is not only one of my favourite characters but provides some of the most memorably one-liners. Who would be happy to call it a Star Trek film if Dr McCoy never said “Damn it man, I’m a Doctor, not a *insert occupation here*.” I can’t say I’m a massive fan of Simon Pegg’s Scotty and I do find his pretty dire Scottish accent grating but there can be no denying that he provides humour and, in this film at least, drama and emotion. All of the necessary ingredients are there but I still can’t help but feel the final meal is lacking some seasoning. It’s just not quite as good as it could be.

That’s not to say that there isn’t enough to keep you entertained and Abrams’ set action pieces continue to be amazing. There is nothing quite as intense as the arrival of Nero’s ship in the the previous outing but there are some great space-based sequences that will surely keep fans of the show and the new films entertained. The film’s world of the future is, as far as this can be true in 2013, a realistic one. Gone are the clichéd visions of the future from pre-1980s sci-fi. Instead we have a world that you could genuinely see existing; a world where the Federation live and try to keep Earth safe. It’s a joy to watch and it makes the connection between Harrison’s acts of violence and the modern world all the more obvious. This is a genuine look at terrorism and the hidden dangers that could be facing us every day. Our greatest fear nowadays isn’t the big, well-known foe but those hidden amongst us. The potential violence and hatred that lives within humanity. In any other setting this idea would have been lost in a haze of space kitsch. It speaks to a modern audience is a way that the Original Series spoke to the audience of the 60s. Abrams may not be a fan of the show but he is certainly keeping alive its ideals.

Finally, there has been a lot said already about the female representation in the latest Star Trek film but that’s not going to stop me throwing my own thoughts into the ring. In the first film we were introduced to Uhura (Zoe Saldana) as the romantic interest that comes between Kirk and Spock. Yes she can speak a few alien languages but she didn’t exactly make much of an impact. To be fair to Abram and writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, the Enterprise’s major female presence does have a bit more to do in the latest instalment but there is still an apparent lack of kick-ass women in Star Fleet. The main argument I can see in favour of Uhura is that she has two moments of bravery and action (yes that’s right two whole short pieces in a film that lasts over 2 hours.) I can’t deny that she does has her moments of kick-assery as we see her face up to the Klingons with steely determination and she plays an important role in bringing down a deadly enemy during the final showdown. However, that still doesn’t seem enough to me. For the most part, she is present in the film as Spock’s girlfriend (and even then she is secondary to the all important bromance) and primarily to remind us of the separation between his Vulcan and human heritage. It’s just not good enough.

Especially when her only other female member of staff is Alice Eve’s Dr Carol Marcus who spends half of the time getting herself into sticky situations so a big brave man can save her and the other half being the sexy (and preferably half-naked) romantic interest for Kirk. There was a great deal of potential for Dr Marcus to be an intelligent and influential character in the plot but it just falls down to another example of an objectified damsel in distress. Alice Eve does a great job with the material she’s been given but there is only so much anyone can do with a character who spends her screen time being helpless and alluring. I’m not trying to preach about the sexualisation of women (and indeed men) in cinema and Star Trek in particular (especially when you consider that I started this review by salivating over the gorgeous Benedict Cumberbatch) but it would be a lot easier to take the unnecessary underwear scene if Marcus was shown to be something more than a hot bod. The argument that Kirk was shown in his underwear and that Harrison was supposed to be shown in a state of undress does nothing to diminish the argument either. It’s not so much about the nakedness but about the lack of depth. Both Kirk and Harrison prove themselves to be more than just a piece of eye-candy by the subsequent actions within the plot so these more sexual scenes are less prominent. Ask anyone what Alice Eve did in the new Star Trek film and I guarantee most people would tell you she got undressed.

This character would be easier to handle if there were a few more important female characters. Look at all of the scenes that take place at Star Fleet headquarters. Were there any senior female officers present during any of the key meetings? I certainly didn’t see any. Are we really meant to believe that a society that has started exploring space is so backwards in their ideas of gender equality that there are only about three females employed in the entire Federation? Although, we have gone from having one key female in the first film to two in the second. Maybe by the time Abrams’ 6th film comes out we’ll either have a plethora of women parading around in their underwear or, hopefully, just one strong and useful one?

(While I’m at it, I’d like to point out that arguing in defense of the undressing scene because the ladies from the 1960s show were sexy is the biggest load of bullshit imaginable. Times have changed so to say that something that was allowed in the 60s should be OK now is unbelievable. Star Trek can and perhaps should be sexy but we have to make sure that the female characters represent the sense of equality that society is now supposed to be supporting. Women can and are as useful and important as men and our biggest cinema franchises should share that view. What kind of message are the film-makers giving its primarily young audience with one-dimensional characters like Dr Marcus? Just think of the children. Won’t somebody please think of the children?!)

So, in closing, it’s not quite the Star Trek film we were all expecting but it’s good enough. Cumberbatch’s Harrison is a more than great follow-up to Eric Bana’s Nero and manages to take us into new territory by often forgoing the brute force tactics favoured by the angry Romulan and instead playing mind-games with his victims. He’s a deadly mix of strength and cunning like a terrifying amalgamation of Batman’s two greatest enemies Bane and The Joker… but with a much nicer face. There is enough to keep us all happy but it does seem slower and less slick than the original. Abrams’ first film was a game-changer and it is no wonder people left the cinema in wonder. This just feels a little flat next to its older brother. Nothing terrible of course. It’ll still beat most of the original films for sheer enjoyment and quality but we’ve come to expect something now. It’s better to not think of this as a sequel but merely a CV for Abrams next big science-fiction challenge. If Into Darkness tells us anything, it’s that Star Wars Episode 7 is going to be epic.