Peter Weller

May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness (DJ’s Take)

FUN

Look.  I’m going to make this fast.  One, because I’m on the way to go watch this movie for a second time.  Two, because I want to try and stay as spoiler free as I can.  With a little introspection brought on by something well put from MovieBob Chipman in his own negative review of this same film, I’ll admit my duty and privilege as a reviewer is to tell you if I thought a movie was good or not and to tell you why in either case.  It is not to preserve secrets, not to geek out, and not to just relegate myself as a proverbial cog in the already powerful marketing machine of said movie.  However, my objectivity sometimes waivers when a movie manages to personally effect me either emotionally, nostalgically, or both in this case.  So, I’m hesitant to just come out and say that Star Trek Into Darkness is the most FUN I’ve had in the theater since Skyfall.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it is the best Star Trek film I’ve seen since…you know what.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it gave me everything I wanted and so much more.  I’m hesitant to just come out and say that it will probably be the best summer blockbuster you’ll see this year…PERIOD.  Hesitant not because it isn’t all of those things.  Hesitant because if I do you’ll chock it up to just tiresome Trekkie hyperbole.  But I’ll risk it because…Star Trek Into Darkness is worth the risk.

To get into plot points of Into Darkness would ruin some of the films best moments.  So, I’ll put it like this.  Into Darkness takes the best parts…THE BEST PARTS…of the original franchise’s BEST films and literally puts them all into one balls to the wall action sci fi space adventure.  AWESOME!  It takes those nostalgic moments that fans loved from the originals… cleverly and surprisingly turns them on their ear…which somehow makes it suddenly into a new and equally rewarding experience.  BRILLIANT!  It managed to give me the FUN and the humor that Iron Man 3 gave me, but also give me the stakes and gravitas that Iron Man 3 didn’t.  THANK YOU!   It surpasses all the best moments of the 2009 remake, which I loved by the way, in under twenty minutes.  STUNNING!  It, despite my  preconceived notions to the contrary, has some of the best 3D conversion shots I’ve seen…um…ever.  BEAUTIFUL!  And flatly, the film just works.  No matter what nit-picky flaw you could conjure, no matter what prejudices against Star Trek you carry, the film just works.  I attribute this to two overall things.  The cast and the director.

Whenever I see a tv show or film where the cast just doesn’t fit or when I’m trying to explain actor chemistry to someone, I seem to always bring up Star Trek 2009.  When you have perfect casting in not just a film, but an iconic franchise, your stories can be literally about anything.  Hell, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had the original crew go back in time and save whales for crying out loud.  And it was the highest grossing Trek film until 2009.  Why?  Mainly its because you just want to see these guys hang out and share their adventures.  That is why casting for the new franchise was, ironically, paramount.  With Into Darkness, the cast has bonded even more.  Even the tiniest interaction between two characters, whether it be Kirk and Spock, Bones and Sulu, or Uhura and Scotty, just seems to hit the mark every time.  The uninitiated can’t help but feel the chemistry and the die hard Trekkie can’t help but smile at the homages.  That is a testament to Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe, Karl, Simon, John, Anton and Bruce.  They understand their characters and have totally made them their own now.  It’s house money the writers are playing with, and thankfully they don’t just rest on their laurels with it.  The story and the dialogue is strong enough for each of the characters to shine brightly.  What about the newbies?  Well, Mr. Cumberbatch was an addition that I knew would be amazing, due to his previous efforts as Mr. Holmes.  Any amount of screen time for him is always going to be too little for me.  However, it is the performance by Peter Weller that is really going to stick out after you watch this.  Robocop himself, is so very strong here that  I found myself wondering why he doesn’t work more.  Its a small role, but he totally knocks it out of the park.

I figured that this was going to be JJ Abrams mic drop as he exits the franchise for a galaxy much farther away.  And boy you can tell.  For those of you who were worried he’d sleepwalk through this after being given the reigns to Star Wars, fear not.  Abrams throws so much into this film it is amazing.  The action is flabbergasting.  Especially because I didn’t figure there’d be so much of it.  However, Abrams does manage to let you catch your breath for the comedy and some really solid emotional moments.  He brings…I don’t believe I’m saying this…balance…proper balance to this film.  My colleague Matt Stewart did say that this was going to be our best first look at what JJ will have in store for us in Episode VII.  And if that is true, The Force has nothing to worry about.

Star Trek Into Darkness is not only a great Star Trek film, but an action blockbuster that can hold it’s own against any blockbuster film that has come before it (Sorry Iron Man 3) and will come after it (Your move Man Of Steel).  My favorite film of the year so far.   It has a lot of moving parts but never forgets to stay true to the thing that James T. Kirk covets above all things.  FUN.  Set course for it…maximum warp…chase it ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round Perdition’s flames…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 12, 2012

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (DJ’s Take)

UNFLINCHING

Lets face it.  Despite Nolan’s Batman run, when it comes to bringing their creations to the silver screen, WB/DC Comics sucks.  This is a company that owns the rights to ALL of their creations, unlike Marvel….can cross over WHOEVER they want with WHOEVER they want without legal obstacles….unlike Marvel…has a roster of A-list heroes nearly double the size of Marvel’s.  But the only movie they can manage to make that isn’t a failure lately is Batman.  Singer’s Superman…sucked and underperformed.  Watchmen…though great….underperformed.  Flash movie…in development hell for years.  Wonder Woman movie….in development hell for years.  Wonder Woman TV series….cancelled in the pilot stage.  Jonah Hex…blew chunks.  Catwoman…a joke.  Green Lantern…set up to be WB/DC’s new tent pole but subsequently shoved a tent pole right back up their ass.  Its gotten so bad that their third attempt at Superman seems to be copying the tone of Nolan’s Batman Begins, in the obtuse thinking that it is the ONLY way to do a superhero movie right.  However, the real puzzle of the matter is that the WB/DC direct to dvd animation films seem to always be amazing.  Sometimes even better than their motion picture counter parts.  I’m talking to you Green Lantern.  That brings us to The Dark Knight Returns Part 1.

Before comic book writer Frank Miller went crazy and did The Spirit (Boy, I got to stop bringing this film up), he had a pretty good track record of awesome.  Sin City, 300, Big Guy and Rusty.  But before those was perhaps his crowning achievement, The Dark Knight Returns.  It was the story of an older retired Batman putting on the cape and cowl once more to take back the streets of Gotham.  It was gritty.  It was gruff.  It was great.  Now over a quarter of a century later, DC animation brings it to life.  And the results are amazing.  Director Jay Oliva, who has done previous work on other great DC animated films like Under The Red Hood and Batman: Year One, really gets the feel of Miller’s graphic novel.  The dark tone and the brutal violence in it is so UNFLINCHING and raw, I found myself several times checking the rating on it.  In live action, this film would be rated R without question.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the performances in this as well.  There has always been one quintessential Batman for me.  Its not Bale, or Clooney, or Kilmer, or even Keaton.  It is Kevin Conroy.  His portrail is the first one that pops into my mind when I hear someone mention Batman.  Bruce Greenwood has done a great job recently with a very similar voice.   However, Peter Weller’s grizzled old Batman in The Dark Knight Returns fits the material like a glove.  His use of “Son” will put a smile on your face for sure.  David Selby also turns in a strong performance as Commissioner Gordon.  They both hit all the familiar beats and add some new ones as well.  The credit should go to long time casting and voice director Andrea Romano.  If you ever want to be wowed, take a look at her filmography.

The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 delivers in every way a Batman fan would want and gives WB/DC’s animation department another homerun project.  WB/DC might want to consider using the braintrust over there (Executive Producer Bruce Timm Especially) to help get their meandering motion pictures off the ground.  Turn out the lights…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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