So I was wrong.
I mentioned just recently, as I pondered whether I should see another film, that I am not particularly a fan of the 3D format. It just seemed like a Hollywood flavor of the month and a needless contrivance. I literally didn’t see what all the fuss was about.
Then, I saw Star Trek Into Darkness… in IMAX 3D.
Now, don’t worry if you haven’t seen it. I promise I can discuss the experience without giving anything away. No spoilers here.
I’ve tried for three days to muster an adjective that properly describes this movie experience. I can’t do it. It’s the most extraordinary film I have ever seen. I have certainly had emotional reactions to movies; I am man enough to acknowledge that Braveheart and Toy Story 3 moved me to tears. I have had my mind race at thrillers like The Usual Suspects and Identity, and my heart race at the chase scenes in Bullitt and Skyfall. I have jumped at the suspense movies and covered my eyes at the gory ones. However, I have never had the physical reaction – the visceral reaction – I had to this one.
I need to back up for a moment. I am a great lover of the Star Wars saga and seeing the first film had truly opened my eyes to what movies could be. I had high hopes in December 1979 when Star Trek: The Motion Picture hit the theater. While critically panned at the time, and universally reviled as the worst of the series since, it was a ground-breaking visual display. Seriously, go back and look at it – it’s stunning, especially considering those effects are nearly old enough to run for president now. The “villain” is uniquely compelling and the acting – the most understated of the entire Star Trek universe – is quite good. Unfortunately, it’s ponderous and just doesn’t have “it.” It remains roundly underrated but, as even the gifted-and-talented class must have a student graduate last, it is indeed the worst of the batch.\
Back to now, the tradition of jaw-dropping visuals goes up several notches. Since it’s been in every trailer and commercial, I’m OK mentioning the chase through the “red jungle.” Just the difference between what you’ve seen of it on TV and the final 3D cut is nothing short of mind-blowing. The elements of nature alone – sparks of volcano lava, bubbles in water, billows in clouds, debris in space – are enough to win me over to the format. The effects that relate more directly to the plot go well beyond that. No superlative can adequately quantify the look of this movie in IMAX 3D.
The care that J.J. Abrams has taken with this franchise is remarkable. He has deftly walked an impossible tightrope, simultaneously honoring the past while embarking on a unique future. Abrams has taken some elements – some big, some small – and reused them as they were, juxtaposed others, turned still others completely on end, and woven them with just enough new. With the acting, writing and directing, Star Trek Into Darkness captures the magic – the “it” – that Star Trek: The Motion Picture could not. It also cements my confidence in the director to take on the Star Wars mantle.
Thanks to Abrams and IMAX 3D, the mission continues “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”