Cinema Noises Off

By Blackburn, David | The Spectator, May 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Cinema Noises Off


Blackburn, David, The Spectator


Star Trek Into Darkness 12A, Nationwide P.D. James is a figure of fun in my household.

She used to be a regular pundit on Newsnight Review, the old BBC arts programme, and her film criticism was guided by her hearing. Every new film, she complained, was 'terribly loud'. Why didn't projectionists reduce the volume? We wondered if it had ever been thus with James. We replaced the baroness's soft tones with the austere squawk of Dame Edith Evans and declared that Buster Keaton was 'terribly loud'.

But the great lady is on to something: an overbearing sound system can harm a film.

Star Trek Into Darkness began and it was as if a choir of Hell's Angels, on their way to the seaside to biff some unsuspecting daytrippers, had taken a detour via the Leicester Square Empire. I reached immediately for the nonexistent remote.

The second film in this Star Trek franchise is a blockbuster aimed at families with teenage children. The script is as witty as the special effects are dramatic. It's probably even wittier than that; but I couldn't say for sure because I lost some of the dialogue to the background cacophony.

The supporting players get the best lines, as is meet and right. Karl Urban pitches Bones (the Starship Enterprise's doctor) somewhere between Jack Benny and Jack Klugman as Quincy, while Simon Pegg is often hysterical as chief engineer Scotty (think Frankie Howerd with a dodgy Scottish accent).

Those two characters embody director J.J. Abrams's success in creating a film that honours Star Trek's place in popular culture while managing to have a sense of humour about itself. The exasperated Scotty does not (at least to my ears) shout, 'She cannot take any more, Captain!' because that would be too obvious. Instead, he derides Captain James Tiberius Kirk as 'James Tiberius Perfect Hair', which is novel.

The lead roles have been given an extra dimension or two since their first outing.

There are three character-driven subplots to supplement the ripping yarn at the film's heart (about which I shall say nothing for fear of being beamed somewhere nasty).

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) veer between affection and animosity, exchanging barbs and bonhomie in equal measure. Pine and Quinto have developed a strange and compelling chemistry that promises to intensify in the final film of the trilogy.

Spock's love affair with his shipmate Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is sufficiently troubled to be interesting. …

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