Double Feature Review: Star Trek versus Iron Man


Time for another of my Double Feature reviews.  This time it’s:

Star Trek Into Darkness

Science Fiction, Action, Adventure; U.S.; 2013; 133 minutes; directed by J. J. Abrams.

Medium:  Currently in Theaters (including 3-D)

Rating:  4.5 (5-point system)

Versus

Iron Man 3

Science Fiction, Comic Book Character, Action, Adventure; U.S.; 2013; 130 minutes; directed by Shane Black

Medium:  Currently in Theaters (including 3-D)

Rating:  3.5 (5-point system)

Star Trek Into Darkness

First up:  Star Trek Into Darkness.  I have a confession to make before you delve deeper into this review.  I’m a Trekker from way back.  How far back?  Try September 8, 1966.  That’s when the first episode aired on NBC.  I also consider latter characters and offshoot developments a departure from the original concept, and not in a good way.  And just how big a fan am I?  Someday I’ll have to post photos of my studio-grade, museum-quality replica of the original USS Enterprise NCC-1701, complete with exterior lighting.

That’s not to say that I was all that happy with the 2009 remake using new actors in the original roles.  There was much in this movie about which to be disappointed.  The Captain Kirk of 1966 was not nearly the rebel portrayed in the remake.  The Enterprise was incapable of landing on a planet; the gravitational field would rip it apart, which is why starships were built in orbit (not on the surface of the Earth as depicted).  Most of the actors chosen came very close to nailing their respective characters, but Chris Pine was a bit of a disappointment.  It was a good effort, but it simply fell short.

Chris Pine as Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Not so this sequel.  I like action, but not when it gets in the way of storyline and character development.  This action-packed visual extravaganza served up heaping helpings of all three, and Chris Pine actually took this role seriously this time.  Alas, some of the mistakes carry over from the 2009 version, including ridiculous depictions of the Enterprise not only enduring a planetary landing (and departure), but even substituting for an oceanic submersible at one point.  Gene Roddenberry would probably have slapped J. J. Abrams up the side of the head and yelled, “Don’t you understand the physics of all this?

Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison

Still, the storyline and characterizations quickly overcame such distractions.  This was, quite frankly, just a fun movie on every level.  And the star of this show?  That distinction has to go to Benedict Cumberbatch, whose acting ability I’ve greatly admired ever since I viewed him in BBC’s Sherlock Seasons 1 and 2.  His portrayal of the villainous John Harrison, aka (well, that’s a secret) was stunningly brilliant.  All in all, of the entire Star Trek film franchise, this effort is probably the best or at least a very close second to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

* * *

Iron Man 3

The next film Ursula and I viewed this past Sunday was the less-than-stellar Iron Man 3.  Not much I can say here except that it suffers from the same affliction that in my opinion taints all the recent offerings from the Marvel stable of comic book heroes — story and character development don’t just take a back seat to the visuals and over-the-top special effects; rather, they get left standing at the curb searching their collective pockets for enough change between them for a cup of coffee and a stale doughnut.

Now for the good.  It’s better than Iron Man 2.  Alas, that’s not saying a whole lot, as Iron Man 2 was a huge disappointment on almost every level.  Fortunately, all is not lost.  We get much more of Tony Stark in this film, and with the incredibly talented Robert Downey, Jr., that’s an immensely pleasurable thing in itself.  Mr. Downey owns the role of the self-absorbed, ego-driven Tony Stark, and in this outing he goes out of his way to prove that.

* * *

In this battle of the blockbusters, Star Trek came out by far the clear winner between the two.  And that’s not a lifelong fan talking now.  Ursula, who has never enjoyed Star Trek, absolutely loved this film and everything about it.  She was enthralled from beginning to end.  Not so the latest Iron Man effort.  Indeed, if I were to allow her to influence my rating, I’d have to knock off at least another half point, and possible a whole one taking it down to a dismal 2.5 rating.

In conclusion, if you want an action flick for the kiddies then send them off to Iron Man 3.  If, on the other hand, you want entertainment that will engage the whole family, get in line for Star Trek Into Darkness.

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