Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Into Audio Darkness


I wouldn't be the first to say that Star Trek Into Darkness disappointed.

Nor would I be the first to note that the novelisation was probably better and just added a few essential lines and asides that helped fill out the plot and smooth over some rather gaping cracks that made it to the silver screen.

Which should mean that the unabridged audio version of the novel by Alan Dean Foster is a pleasure to behold and kept my attention from page one to the end. Sadly this isn't in the same league even though it's basically the same material.

Comprising of seven CDs, the audio book is presented in a simplistic card case with a white folding sleeve. No booklet, no inserts. Nothing. This is about as no frills as it gets and  a shame straight away as I would have loved a little additional info sheet or something that would have enhanced the experience akin to that which you might get with a DVD. All we get on the rear of the case are details the plot and a brief profile of the actress narrating.

For note, I'll be avoiding any discussion of plot here as I've already discussed some elements of that in a previous blog talking about the recent novel tie-in release. Also this will be distinctly shorter as I'm sure we're all familiar with the content!

Alice Eve (aka Carol Marcus) is the voice that adorns every word of this narration. She has a very distinctive, crisp and unashamedly English accent that is absolutely perfect for this type of media and in that respect every single word is crystal clear from start to finish. 

The shame of it is that while Ms Eve is undoubtedly a very talented actress she is definitely not a voice artist. The story is engaging enough but when Alice attempts to change into another character it can become very, very painful to listen to. Case in point being John Harrison. Despite being English herself, Alice Eve insists on turning Cumberbatch into one of the three witches from MacBeth which is very offputting. Every word is over enunciated and suddenly the calculating superman becomes something not too far different from a pantomine villain. Admiral Marcus and Scotty are equally badly represented. Peter Weller's Starfleet commander becomes slow and lethargic while Scotty, well...let's say it's played out to the stereotype in the movie a little too much in the recording. Luckily Keenser is mute so we're spared that interpretation but the rest of the crew come out as bland and uninteresting. She does do a pretty good Carol Marcus for note.

I just don't get why Alice Eve had to put on all these different accents. I think we'd have been perfectly happy with her reading the novel in her own precise English tones. In fact it would have made it very enjoyable as it's very well read throughout. The other trouble is that Alice just doesn't get excited. At all. Ever.

The scenes on the Nibiru set the tone for the whole seven discs actually. There's no excitement, increase in pace or addition of tension through Eve's narration. Everything seems matter of fact and unsurprising. Nor does the final scene in San Francisco bear any of the pace that marked it out on the screen as Khan and Spock duke it out. It all stays very calm, very serene. Very well spoken. Very dull. Sorry, Alice, it's just not what I hoped for.

Now I can understand this might be to ensure that every word is heard and every word is understood but this is action. It needs some kind of edge. At one point I even failed to realise it was an action sequence (Vengeance versus Enterprise) until about three-quarters of the way through the scene. A shame as I could imagine Alice building the tension nicely from Alan Dean Foster's novel but this never happens. Everything is delivered at the same, smooth tone. Ideal for a nice relax but not when you might want to feel the action and become immersed in the story. Coupled with some of the worst improvised accents in recent years it doesn't make for the ideal package. 

For those who perhaps have partial sight I would, absolutely, recommend this because it will give you a better picture of what happens in Star Trek Into Darkness. For those of you who enjoy an audio book as a diversion I would maybe direct you to read the book as a first choice. If necessary, yes, try this out if it's an easier listen for a car journey but just beware that the monotone level of narration pervades the whole story and might lead you into distraction or worse, sleep. If it was Alice Eve's choice to read it this way, I'm shocked however if it's a standard approach, then I think it might be time for a rethink. 

Overall, a good and enjoyable story that is let down by the performance and interpretations of the vocal artist used. I hope, for one, that Alice Eve remains on the screen rather than the speaker.

The Star Trek Into Darkness audio book is available now from Simon and Schuster priced $29.99