I should start this with a caveat: I know a lot about Star Trek because I have many friends that are fans. I have not even remotely seen all the episodes, and haven't even seen all the films. I am, however, a large fan of the science fiction genre. I am appreciative of the use of time travel, chaos physics, and quantum physics in my dramas. I'm actually jazzed that Abrams will be tackling Star Wars next. I consider myself well rounded in this field, and not a die-hard fan. Now....
Long ago I discovered that reading a Houston Press movie review can often lead to much face-palming...one can actually give oneself a fairly decent face massage just by wading through one of these gems of altered reality and almost consistently negative reviews. Of course, you have to read these reviews after you see the movie (which kinda misses the point) since they tend towards revealing most of the plot in the review. These are the type of reviews that would reveal that *censored* is Keyser Soze, or that very important twist in Fight Club.
Amy Nicholson's review of the latest Star Trek film suggests she has has fantastic career in politics ahead of her. The first clue is that the second sentence of the review gives away a central twist of character identity, being kept secret even by the ad agencies promoting the film, followed by the third line " And that's not a spoiler — it's a selling point. "
Er, yes, yes it is a spoiler. Simply saying "it's not a spoiler" doesn't make it so. This isn't Hamlet discussing what makes something good or bad. Giving away a major twist...in the 2nd sentence of her review, no less...is a spoiler.
Ok, yes, it's not exactly a surprising reveal to Trekies(ers?) or even causal fans who began to suspect it given clues in the story, but it's nice going INTO the story without this knowledge. This is something Abrams and his writing team understand about film scripting that's different that TV writing...the reveal doesn't have to be shocking to keep your interest. In a film, a logical buildup to the reveal can result in a fun first viewing because you hope you're right, and then you are...which is ruined if you hear about the twist early on. Twists don't have to be M.Nightly to be effective.
"Abrams's mystery-box marketing gave a boost to weaker, cheaper films like Cloverfield and Super 8, but if Star Trek Into Darkness bombs, the trick is on him."
Well, it was released overseas before it was released in the US, and did much better than any other Star Trek film ever had internationally. So when this review was released, it was already proven not to be a bomb, so this phrasing shows an interesting insight into the reviewer's bias. That aside, there was absolutely no Mystery Box Marketing here...they just didn't reveal the spoiler she dropped at the beginning of her review. There was no mystery about the plot, no big wonderment about what kind of film this was. Mystery Box Marketing gets your attention by making you curious about what that ad was all about, what the movie may be about...what's in the "box" of the movie. Star Trek Into Darkness ads were all about tone and flash-bang and "look, they're back!" moments.
"Cumberbatch, a tweedy Brit with an M.A. in Classical Acting and a face like a monstrous Timothy Dalton, has beefed up to become a convincing killer."
Well, no...he went back to his normal self after gaunting himself down to play Sherlock on the BBC. A small bit of research on the actor...one of the headliners of the film being reviewed... would have shown this. Nice wordsmithing, though.
Ms. Nicholson goes on to completely miss the source of Uhura & Spock's lovers' spats (despite it being spelled out in several scenes), correctly quotes McCoy while missing the meaning of her changed delivery of his line, gets events out of order in the timeline, and generally suggest she saw a different working print of the film than what was released to general public. (The link for this will be provided at the end if you've already seen the movie. If you haven't, don't spoil yourself.)
She does do all this, however, with some solid writing and turns of phrase, turning the review into a bit of a love-hate relationship with those of us reading the article around lunch at the local Red Robin.
"His only real love is for the Enterprise, that hermaphroditic ship shaped like three phalluses and a flattened boob."
Seriously? She has to go THAT far for a Freudian reference? Three male parts and half of a set of female? I'm afraid to ask for her description of the International Space Station.
"To validate his 2009 reboot, Abrams worked in a space-time splice so Leonard Nimoy could cameo as old Spock, or "Spock Prime," as though he specializes in overnight shipping."
It's about here the face-palm massage starts to really kick in. Carl Reiner, through Dick Van Dyke, once explained that comedy is the unexpected. In other words, it's the juxtaposition of things that shouldn't go together. There's so much of that in this one sentence, it's golden.
"William Shatner is sealed in his pop-culture terrarium chanting lounge covers of "Space Oddity,""
Sealed so far away that the 2 Emmys and the Golden Globe he's won since then must be from an alternate timeline (again, basic research). The reason this line hits my ironic funny bone is, admittedly, personal...I never really liked Shatner until his more recent work, such as Denny Crane and his send-up of himself in Free Enterprise...while my mother in law loved him younger and can't watch him now. I'm actually fascinated by various people's impression of which Shatner is THE Shatner, as if the man can't grow and change. People tend to freeze him in one stage of his life, not unlike Elvis.
"Darkness is a cheery combo of classic catchphrases and young Hollywood heat, like blond babe Alice Eve as a weapons expert who can examine torpedoes only in her underwear."
Er, no. Two completely different scenes. Granted, the changing into a suit scene was gratuitous and one of the writers kinda apologized for it, but only being in your underwear would kinda suck when you're examining a torpedo in the hostile environment on a moon surface. Several points for word usage, minus a score or two for not actually paying attention to the movie you're supposed to be reviewing. I get Ms. Nicholson's point, and agree, but it's hard to take other things without a grain of salt when she gets several things wrong about the actual movie.
The best line of the review I can't share, because I promised no spoilers. But if or when you see the film, towards the bottom, there's a line that contains these words: "causing such a doubled-back crimp in the chronology that in our universe (snip) may now no longer exist."
This section has so many points of misunderstanding of what happened and what the writers were doing that my face-palm massage was now complete, and I could walk away a happy man.