Star Trek: Into Lens Flare

Yes, it’s the second Star Trek film by J.J. Abrams and yes he still loves the judicious use of lens flare. The flare is toned down from the first film but once you’re aware of it, it’s incredibly hard to not see everywhere.

Okay, with that out of the way I can now talk about the rest of the film. I’ll try to keep it brief so as to avoid big spoilers. It was good fun and well made with fantastic production design and special effects. The actors channeled their predecessors fairly well, some even better than the originals.
Then we come to the story. The makers of this film had the tough objective of keeping fans happy whilst maintaining enough mainstream appeal to make this film a successful blockbuster. For the most part they just about pulled this off. It did veer very close to the space fantasy territory that Star Wars occupies (hey, maybe they should get J.J. to direct the next star Wars!) and a little bit too far away from Roddenberry’s original science and philosophy vision, but that’s okay.
The real problem with this film is about two thirds of the way through, when plot and motives become a little blurred and convoluted, thus diluting the main villain. Without giving spoilers you’ll have to watch the film; trust me, you’ll understand if you see it.
As stated earlier: this is an immensely enjoyable film but I hope the franchise is brought back to TV where it can really rediscover its roots. Keep it set in the new cinematic universe and focus on another ship or situation maybe? A bit like what Marvel is doing with the new SHIELD tv show.

I can’t complain too much though: it is 2013 and new Star Trek is still being made, which is a good thing.

The Hobbit: An Expected Delight

Bilbo and Frodo

I could not resist the temptation of putting some reviews up on my website. I think writing about other peoples creative endeavors can be a helpful experience. Actually writing my thoughts down and organising them into coherent paragraphs will enable me to analyse what I do and don’t like about things I have watched or read. This will in turn help with my own creative process. Err, well, that’s the idea, we’ll see.

My first review is for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I went to see this as the filmmakers intended; 3D IMAX HFR (48 fps). I could take or leave the 3D, it’s just a gimmick that I hope fades away until we get a true holographic 3D, that does not require eye straining glasses. I always enjoy IMAX, it thoroughly enhances the cinematic experience. It was my first time viewing a HFR film, but more on that later.

The film itself was exactly what I was expecting it to be, which is a good thing. It feels just like revisiting the world we saw created on cinema screens 10 years ago. A lot has happened since then and it is, in a way, comforting to go back to Middle Earth. I am happy that Peter Jackson eventually found his way back into the director’s seat; supported by most of the production team from the first trilogy. Even though the film is set in the past, relative to The Lord of the Rings, it still feels like we are somehow picking up where we left off. The inclusion of two actors from LOTR helps here. Some may say this is being indulgent, maybe it is, but I don’t care. The direction, acting and production design are spot on.

It would have been very interesting to see Guillermo Del Toro’s interpretation of the book, though I think his fingerprints can still be found on this film. I may be saying that because I was looking for them and have seen something that is not there, but I am convinced an underground sequence towards the end of the film contains a lot of Del Toro.

Middle Earth is a fully realised world, with a detailed history. It is one of the few fictional worlds that justify an indulgence in their history. There is a wealth of material to draw from and it would have been silly for them not to (I loved the references to the earlier Ages). The Hobbit is unashamed about telling the whole story that was not fully seen in the original book. I can see now why it is being made into three films. The filmmakers have taken a once in a lifetime opportunity and ran with it. I will be surprised if there are extended editions released after the theatrical run; everything seems to be present already. I’m quite happy about that, as I get to see it all in glorious IMAX.

On the subject of the format, as I said earlier, this is the first film I have seen in HFR. It took some getting used to for a few minutes, then I soon got used to it. It provided a vivid crispness and clarity; which suites the bombastic presentation of the Hobbit perfectly. HFR is definitely the future for similar blockbusters. I imagine upcoming films such as Star Trek: Into Darkness and Oblivion would benefit. There will, however, always be a place for cinematic 24fps. Another upcoming film, Django Unchained, would, in my opinion, suffer from HFR.

Back to the Hobbit after that little diversion. I can understand some of the criticism leveled at it. It could have been made in one film that would have been a brilliant, rip roaring fast paced adventure. But Jackson and friends have taken the truly epic route. This is a film by fans and very much for fans, of whom, there happen to be rather a lot.