Star Trek Beyond

July 23, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

For those of you familiar with the Star Trek canon, this film will be exactly what you expect it to be, for better and for worse. Though widely more popular than the last one (“Into Darkness”), I liked it less. Perhaps, I am experiencing sequel fatigue, but I recall having the same reaction to the latest James Bond film after really loving the previous one. I think I am just craving something new and I didn’t really find it here. Much has been said about director Justin Lin (the ” The Fast & The Furious” series) and his style and it was noticeable here in the pacing, which was faster and more unrelenting than previous Trek films. For me, that fast pace is entertaining but led to little plot development; the film was a series of rapidly presented problems that were almost as rapidly resolved. However, what I was most aware of was how this story line seemed like best-of clips from so many Star Trek films before it. We have the one maniacal leader who has an irrational/poorly justified hatred of The Federation (or Jim Kirk, in particular) and who is somehow capable of getting others to mindlessly die for his cause. Inevitably, after the rest of his group is defeated, he ends up mano-y-mano against Kirk (or, as in the last movie, against Spock). Throw in a good henchman, wisecracking banter and maybe crash the Enterprise into a planet while you are at it, and you pretty much have the components of most of the films (“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and “The Voyage Home” being the two notable exceptions). If they want to stick to the formula, fair enough. But, if you are not going to engage me with a plot that surprises me, give me more depth. Slow the film down. Have less unrelenting action and more opportunity to get to know the characters (and introducing Sulu’s husband doesn’t really count as getting to know the characters) and to create tension. I can’t help but think of the great “Wrath of Khan” and the final battle scene in the nebula. The film had invested in all of those characters enough that there was real tension in that scene and, because it unfolded so slowly, that tension really built.  It’s true that they had an advantage because Khan was an established character but Trek has the Klingons or the Borg or many others they can draw on. “Wrath” was a very slow paced film by this today’s standards but the pacing allowed me to invest in the action in a way this film never did. This one was like a roller coaster. I just hung on and then it was done. I mean, I enjoyed the ride but it’ll never stay with me. That nebula scene still does, even 35 years later.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

May 20, 2013 at 11:46 am | Posted in 2013 | 1 Comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

Within the pantheon of Trek movies (there have been an even dozen now), this definitely ranks up there with the best.  It is not as good as “The Wrath of Khan” or “First Contact” but is solidly third on the list.  This one involves the newly minted Captain Kirk, still cocky having never lost a single crew member, learning a thing or two about humility when facing off against the mysterious John Harrison.  Along the way there will be plenty of explosions (and dead crew members) and a healthy dose of the banter and quips that audiences love. The film’s action moves at a blinding pace.  In fact, I confess that I often prefer the slower, more tense and more psychological pace of a film like “Wrath.”  However, the film did not suffer from that awful CGI overload that some films have (eg Transformers)  that make it impossible to follow the action.  There is little I can say about the plot without giving away key plot points and surprises.  What I will say is that it was action-packed, visually interesting and funny.  The acting was par for a film like this, though (as everyone is saying) the breakout star here is Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s “Sherlock,” “Tinker Taylor Solider Spy”) as Harrison.  He brings a cool, intellectual creepiness to the role that is just right. This film is darker (both in theme and in production) than the last one and, while it was appropriate, I missed some of the bright colors and lighting of  “Star Trek,” which helped differentiate it from all the other films in the franchise.  This movie also felt a bit like a set up for every other film going forward.  The first one (of JJ Abrams’ series) changed the timeline and announced a new Trek universe to explore.  This one appeared to try and check off all the highlights from the original universe in rather rapid order (here’s a Klingon, there’s a tribble, that was a reference to the classic Trek episode, “Mudd’s Women,” was that shuttle craft named “Takei?”, oh, THAT Carol Marcus, I think they just mentioned Nurse Chapel, and on).  It felt like Abrams felt the need to wrap up the old universe to move on with the new.  The movie ends with the crew starting it’s fabled 5 year mission.  Much has been made of Abrams jumping ship to the Star Wars franchise.  I say, “good” (god knows, they need him) and he has left this one on pretty firm ground.

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