Star Trek II

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Star Trek might be one of the most popular franchises based on its theme, but this surely is my first encounter with it. But the situation seems to be all set to change, as this movie surely seems to have increased its fan base by one on this day. Still, throughout the ages, Star Wars had been a favourite – but I had to miss this one at that time. Now, I am surely into this series, and its main aim, that is exploration and not invasion, destruction or colonization. There is the need to watch the Original Series, and it would add to my list. For now, this movie has come early to this part of the world, compared to its United States release. Even as it is the twelfth Star Trek movie and works as the sequel to the movie Star Trek which was released in 2009, this one still works well as a stand-alone version, with not much questions remaining unanswered. This could have have been the first movie of the series and might have still worked here, and that was evident from the reactions of the people in the theatre hall, and there is no visible doubt about the fact that it was their first Star Trek experience, and they clearly enjoyed it. This one might not do as good as Iron Man III or The Dark Knight Rises, but is still a formidable force in a world which is not used to such an environment in a movie.

In Star Trek: Into Darkness, the spaceship USS Enterprise is sent to explore another planet, but finds a volcano which is very close to going off and wiping out its primitive inhabitants. Nobody is supposed to know anything about it, but as the first officer and good friend Spock’s life is under threat, Commander Kirk is forced to reveal the Enterprise to the planet’s civilization to rescue him leading to the indigenous people worshipping the ship as God as the crew leaves. It was a heavenly object to a group of people who were in such early stage of their civilization that they hadn’t even discovered the wheel – they get to see a space ship instead and be stunned. As a result, Kirk is relieved of command, and Admiral Pike takes over the command of the Enterprise. But, later a meeting is called as the result of a bombing, and a resulting shootout leads to the death of Pike ultimately leading to Admiral Marcus sending Kirk to take out the terrorist who has taken shelter in the homeland of the war-loving Kilgons. The Enterprise is supplied with seventy two long-range photon torpedoes to be fired at the terrorist’s hidden location once they can locate him. As he fails to have enough information, chief engineer Montgomery Scott refuses to take the unidentified weapons aboard the ship and is thus forced to resign. The Admiral’s daughter, scientist Carol Marcus also joins the crew, under a false identity.

But the ship is stuck at the Klingon homeworld as there is malfuncion in the ship’s core, and they are saved by the same man whom they were planning to capture, whom after surrendering, reveals his real identity as Khan, a genetically enhanced superhuman, who has been in cryo-sleep for three hundred years after fighting an unsuccessful destructive war on Earth, and his success could have deprived the Earth or even the whole galaxy of most of its population. When he says “My name is Khan”, I wonder if something comes to the mind for the Bollywood fans – but in this case, there would be no possible second half of that sentence. This man would indeed be another name for terror without any boundary. As Carol and McCoy look into one of the torpedoes, they realize that each of them contain a genetically enhanced superhuman in cryo-sleep, the remaining members of Khan’s diabolical crew. Khan explains to Kirk that Admiral Marcus used Khan to develop advanced weapons to start a war with the Klingons, while keeping his crew as hostages. Kirk understand that they might be in big trouble, as none of the possible solutions might work out, as they are stranded in space.

Chris Pine as Commander James T. Kirk has come up with full power, as the character scores both with its negatives and positives. Each decision he takes seem to change him and lead him to the moment of the ultimate sacrifice. Karl Urban as Lieutenant Commander Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy, the chief medical officer – this could have been a longer role, even as there are some good memorable lines from him, for the Native American Viking of the Pathfinder, as well as the shooter of Doom had never really attached to the minds of the viewers as they never clicked as action movies, even as I have always felt the first one was superior stuff and the second one was quite fine. Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Nyota Uhura also has quite a smaller role, even as it is significant. Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock steals show in many ways, as the one who chooses not to feel, but still has the feelings for his best friend, and finds his logic at the right moment, sometimes evoking laughter and sometimes saving lives. As half-Vulcan, half-Human, neither belonging to here nor there, but having the qualities of both, the man is more Vulcan among a group of humans and not really of his own species, thus more of an outsider even when considered more belonging to the group than anybody else.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan makes the perfect augmented villain of another timeline; condemned, frozen and now back in business. He is highly effective in his powerful superhuman role which is threatened only by the fear of the death of his comrades. He makes Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus a lesser and weaker warmonger, another role which has been done according to the need. Talking about Alice Eve, the name reminded me more of the two superhuman, but gorgeous women – Alice of Resident Evil and Eve of Species; a bond with the T-virus and with the alien DNA respectively, both seemingly having all positive effects on beauty as well as strength and aggression. Both Milla Jovovich and Natasha Henstridge had made their roles memorable enough to make the characters that popular. Leaving the unreal superhuman element aside, one also can’t stop thinking about that 2010 romantic comedy film She’s Out of My League, when a gorgeous Molly McCleish was out of the league of an ordinary Kirk Kettner. Well, here she proves the same by being out of the league with those looks, and there should be a lot more coming for her in a sequel.

Still, I wouldn’t disagree on the fact that there is exaggeration involved here; thinking about that romantic comedy, exaggeration is never out of the equation, and it is time the common movie watcher of this part of the world who rarely checks the names of the leading actresses know a few names other than the usual leads; its time someone other than Megan Fox and Paris Hilton is known to the lesser movie watching world. The best extentions of the procedure of knowing go only from Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and Meg Ryan, as far as Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Further into the movie, it is no surprise that here she no longer does the same with a romantic character, but with her role as Doctor Carol Marcus – and she is surely the eye candy in this movie, but she is not simply that. She is the balance between the evil of her own father and the righteousness of the crew of The Enterprise. It is her help that leads to the discovery that changes the whole situation of being misguided into the abyss and it is her presence that leads to their ship getting an extension of lifeline which is instrumental in the final battle.

Star Trek is not just a movie – it is a spectacular environment created by the wonderful special effects and the 3D which works correctly. It works so well, right from those moments in those bright, coloured planet with dazzling red coloured trees and the natives painted white, who throws their spears at our heroes, or rather the viewers, thanks to the 3D. The movie is about authority, and also about personal relationships, as well as the collision between the worlds of emotions and logic. The job is done professionally, and it is evident in the ratings in IMDB as well as the critics ratings. Its background philosophy has also worked out well, and there is no doubt that this ship is heading towards a sequel. This encounter between the different worlds, and the species, not as the usual alien invasion is something which is worth more what The Avengers and The Transformers were worth. This is so much like that one game which I felt more than anything else, which was Mass Effect. Commander Shepard might be Commander James T. Kirk, Garrus Vakarian – Commander Spock, Ashley Williams – Doctor Carol Marcus/Nyota Uhura, Kaidan Alenko – Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy; the Reapers could be Klingons or Romulans – such a connection has helped me in liking the movie even more with relation to my favourite game.

Release date: 10th May 2013
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Alice Eve, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Noel Clarke, Peter Weller

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Oblivion

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It was about six or seven years ago, that the Vampire Bat landed on a game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and he landed on his broken tooth which made him as addicted to it, as Count Dracula is to his coffin. This sequel to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and the predecessor of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim had shocked him in a good way, like no other game had before, and his wish was to write a review on it, giving it 100/100 along with Mass Effect, for providing him with that world, his second life where he actually lived, died, resurrected and got beheaded/shot on the head – well, he loved these two games so much that he finished it, as he wanted to that right from the beginning with no rest. For years, the Vampire Bat wished for the movie adaptations of these two, especially of the first one which was his mythical/fantasy world of chivalry compared to the inter-star battles and interactions of the second. But he has been disappointed for long, and here what he get is a movie of the same name as the Oblivion game, with a setting similar to the Mass Effect game. No, the movie doesn’t resemble both of these in story or theme; but this coming together of the elements of these two games is what came to the mind of this nocturnal soul when the first time he saw the movie poster, and he wouldn’t have dared not to share it.

The awesomeness of these two games are clearly visible in this movie though, but not in a way which has similarities. In those games, we could travel anywhere, but coming into the movie, it is a limited world which follows an alien invasion which nearly destroyed the Earth. After the devastation of moon which caused horrible natural disasters including earthquakes, tsunamis and terrible climatic variations. The land is left uninhabitable with the mankind being transported to their new habitat. Former Marine commander Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a drone mechanic who repairs flying machines with advanced weaponry used for defence against alien lifeforms, and is also one of the last few humans stationed on the dying planet with his co-worker Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) living in a baseless tower-like structure thousands of feet above the Earth, but she is still no Rapunzel, and neither is he her prince or adventurer, something which shall be revealed later. Most of their memories are erased, and the knowledge about their past stays locked at the moment. For now, their relationship would seem to reveal that they are in love and might have been even married.

They are part of an operation to clean up the remaining forces of the alien invasion who are referred to as scavengers and also extract the planet’s remaining resources and are due to join the rest of humanity on Saturn’s moon Titan. Jack and Victoria maintain contact with civilization through a video link with their commander, whom they recognize as Sally (Melissa Leo) who is their symbol of hope and salvation, an escape from a world which is almost a wasteland and surrounded by radio active areas. Jack suffers from dreams which are more like flashbacks, having images of New York before the alien invasion and an unknown beautiful woman (Olga Kurylenko). Meanwhile, Jack rescues an unknown woman from a crashed spaceship as she was encased in a sleeping capsule, in a state of hibernation/hypersleep, and she turns out as the woman from his dreams. But they are captured by a group of humans led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) who reveals to him that there are no aliens on the planet and it is the humans who are hunted by the drones. He requests Jack to reprogram one of the captured drones. But Jack refuses. Malcolm then tells Jack to visit the radio active areas which are restricted to him, and there all his doubts will be cleared.

With a spoiler alert, this paragraph shall proceed. It is revealed that the mystery woman is Jack’s wife, Julia who was with Jack and Victoria when they approached the alien ship, before Jack sending her and the other crew of the ship who are in hypersleep, into the space by detaching the backside of the ship, keeping them away from the aliens. Later it is found out that Jack and Victoria are cloned and there is a large number of clones of both, and they were not born, but grown – a reminder of The Matrix and The Daybreakers, I guess. Their supposed to be passionate relationship is also a product of these alien method of growth and one photo of them together. The alien shown here is more of a super computer, may be sent by the possible original aliens, masters of technology. This monolithic structure is clearly logical in its talks and even uses the images known to the originals of the clones so that they could be made to believe and obey. It creates a little dystopia to the group of two, or the groups of two to be exact. They are actually oppressed and are made to fight against their own race by naming them scavenger aliens. But, thanks to the imperfection of the humans, the imperfect cloning technology of the aliens and also a possible divine providence, Jack becomes somewhat the original again and leads the fight against his former employers. The solution would surely be much better than using a computer virus in Independence Day style.

The mystery starts and ends with Tom Cruise’s Jack – may be brings something from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall. We have had so many Jacks, from Jack Reacher to Jack the Giant Slayer, Jack Frost, Jack Sparrow, Jack and Jill etc. Here, this one is more of a thinker and a lover of nature, which makes Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome catch his attention, and he has quite a good collection of books including Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which he has kept in a small house in the middle of greenery unaffected by the destruction that has gone around for years. He is no parrot and this poetic imagination and love for literature makes him different, and may be he evolved thus after his cloning and erasing of memory. How can one not remember what happened in the movie The Island? Such a thing is perfectly applicable to an alien technology. Well, there is no limit for fiction, and if too many limits are placed, it would lose its right to be called fiction. It would become closer to reality, which would still spawn the question, who’s reality? Now that would be something better left untouched. This is another one of Tom Cruise’s memorable characters for sure, even as he may not be the perfect protagonist, and even if he may be many, numbering in millions. He seems to have fitted into the character with ease.

Jack’s should be existential. He should have been that confused in that wasteland, and also when he had realized that he was just a clone or a copy of someone else. There was that redundant identity crisis and those dreams which seemed to perpetuate nothing. His life gets more and more absurd every time he tries to get answers, as all the answers lead to him finally being a random copy. He had waited for salvation, the firmament which awaited him in the moon of Saturn, but that too is crushed. Now what would remain for him to end as a nihilist, but he has the last fight on his list, as he decides to help the human rebels, and in that process, even sacrifice himself. It is through that loss of life, that the Earth could be redeemed. But who needs an alien invasion to destroy the planet, and considering what is done to it, who might be the aliens? Some are alien to the planet and also to their fellow human beings, and in that case, aren’t these aliens with a powerful inverted pyramid computer better as they keep the human race alive? There is the oppression factor, but is that so much of an oppression considering what humans have done to their own kind for centuries and still continue to do the same in a worse manner even while calling themselves modern and technologically advanced?

Morgan Freeman is as solid as ever, and the two women, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough goes through their sequences as the characters themselves. The former is the emotional lover and the latter the passionate lover. Still, their roles are limited despite the screen presence. Another thing is that the CGI and the special effects out-did the beautiful women. As Jack “wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills” in his mosquito-like helicopter (like that futuristic helicopter they called Raptor in Unreal Tournament 2004), the visually stunning world is brought to light. There is destruction clearly visible, and the signs of the civilization included destroyed buildings, ships and bridges half submerged in sand, never-ceasing smoke from some areas and so on. There are gaps leading to somewhat an abyss between a group of buildings held together by soil or may be in their own centre – a path to Hades and Persephone, half-destroyed structures which look like different things all together, as well as whatever is underground and underwater. To add to it, there is the beautiful area of nature with the small house. Oblivion is an experience, and a lesson to mankind, as well as a reminder of the power of art and literature – rooted on that creativity which is more important than logic, for science can win brutal battles, but to win the war, you need art and literature, as they heal the soul better and people need their wounds to heal and their scars to fade after a major disaster.

Release date: 13th April 2013
Running time: 124 minutes
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Zoë Bell, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.