Saw the new Star Trek flick last Friday morning in the unusual setting of a near-empty Empire Leicester Square, alongside a friendly Big Name Critic. I'm a big fan of JJ Abrams, having both met him and sung his praises, in print, on several occasions. Indeed, I boldly go-ed into the West End to see this purely for pleasure — no review, no feature.
I'm not a Trekkie in the strict sense, though the original series were an integral part of my childhood, as they were for many gentlemen of a certain vintage. I was a too-cool teen by the time Star Wars rolled around and which was why, for me, Abrams' 2009 Roddenberry re-boot proved one of the most deliriously enjoyable summer films of recent memory — a real thumb in the eye to those dreadful George Lucas exhumations. Abrams had absolutely nailed it — an enjoyable romp, reintroducing the old Enterprise gang and all pulled off with spot-on humour (and which was why, presumably, they have since hired him to revive the Star Wars saga as well).
But this?... Oh dear. This was like a man telling you the same joke twice... and on autopilot. It even has a repeat "cameo" stunt. More than that, the film makes the dreadful error of eschewing much of the first's levity for straight-out, earnest, Michael Bay-esque action, and with a hackneyed 911 subplot to give it a self-sense of import. JJ, you've forgotten the very thing that has made your stuff so entertaining: character, character, CHARACTER!
So utterly incomprehensible is the story here, something to do with Benedict Cumberbatch's stock British baddie (I understand you have to be familiar with the first round of Shatner/Trek spin-off movies), that the first words out of the mouth of said Big Name Critic, once emerging into the sunshine and pigeon-droppings, were "The franchise. He's killed it."
Maybe it was due to the empty venue, but — note to theatre owners — full-on 3D and Ted Nugent decibelage do not a pain-free experience make, either.