Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Tuesday's Reviews - STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

I've had mixed feelings about this film since I first saw the trailer. I hadn't exactly been blown away by 2013's Into Darkness despite my love of Benedict Cumberbatch. I just didn't like the silliness that the trailer seemed to be portraying. It was trying to go down the Guardians of the Galaxy route with the references to The Beastie Boys. It felt fucking desperate if I'm honest. Like it's just trying to fit in with the other spacey blockbusters instead of trying to be something new. Of course, there was still hope. I know I've said a lot of shit about Simon Pegg over the years but the fact that he came on board as co-writer surely had to be a good thing. I mean the man helped write Spaced and a trilogy of films that succeeded 2 out of 3 times. At the very least we'd have enough in-jokes and references to keep is preoccupied long enough to not notice how shit everything else was. So, with only a month to go before the film comes out I finally got round to watching it.

I have to admit that I enjoyed Beyond way more than I thought that I would. It's a pretty standard kind of Star Trek film but it was enjoyable enough. Naturally, it is one of the funniest films in the franchise and certainly the most self-aware and humours since the reboot. However, I still couldn't get away from my feeling that it was trying too hard to be the opposite of Into Darkness. It takes the dark and grittiness of its predecessor and goes to great lengths to be sillier. It means that, instead of being a complex film with a narrative that flows nicely and deals with real human feelings, Beyond is basically just a selection of hit-and-miss jokes between massive action sequences. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The Original Series hardly went into great depths about the human relationships at the heart of the show.

I guess Simon Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung attempt to bring some emotional range into the mix as both Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) contemplate leaving the Enterprise for more fulfilling work. Kirk is finding out that a five year journey in space isn't quite the fun-filed adventure he had hoped and Spock must decide between the Enterprise and political work on New Vulcan. However, this is never really developed to the point that either of them learn anything about themselves. Every time they get close something will inevitably blow up or something funny will happen to distract them. Ultimately. both of them make their decision without really discussing anything important, which makes the whole enterprise really fucking superficial.

However, there are many who will love that about Beyond. It took a lot from the negative audience reactions from Into Darkness and made a film for the fans. Something that is both clever and really fucking risky. After JJ Abrams' second film came out the audience wanted more Kirk and co, less darkness, and a plot that wasn't just a rehash of a classic. All of these things are catered for but the team seem to have forgotten a few key points. Namely, a coherent and engaging story, a well-written baddie, and decent roles for anyone who isn't Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty. But, as Some Like it Hot famously told us, "nobody's perfect".

I'd try and sum up the narrative here but, really, I don't really understand much of what happened or why. The crew of the Enterprise were lured into a trap set by the supposedly villainous Krall (played by a completely wasted Idris Elba) and have to stop him unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on a Federation outpost. Hang on, what was that I was saying about "original story"? Change this guys name to John Harrison and we've got Into Darkness all over again. Although, Beyond does have the unmistakable feel of classic Star Wars about it. The gang get stranded on an alien planet and there are plenty of unnamed red shirts who get offed. This is also the closest the reboot has got to getting the characters to be familiar interpretations. Well the main trio anyway. The relationship between Spock and Kirk is a wonderful as ever and, thankfully, Beyond shows us more of Bones (Keith Urban) and Spock. Bones was the underused but brilliant aspect of the last two films and Urban is finally able to get some real screen time. The banter but ultimate care and respect the two show are some of the film's highlights.

However, the rest of the crew really get fuck all to do. Although, there is a wonderful new addition to the team thanks to Sofia Boutella's Jaylah. The newcomer is a stronger, more intelligent and developed female character than anyone in the previous films in the reboot. Although, even she basically just turns up to fight people and give vital bits of exposition when needed. There's nothing wrong with films that are all about action but that action needs to be spectacular to make it worth it. There can be no denying that Justin Lin has a better handle on the action sequences than Abrams didn in the previous instalments but they're still all over the place. The first major action sequences is kind of spectacular though. The Enterprise is set upon by Krall and his fleet of tiny, bee-like ships. The later two setpieces are edge-of-your seat stuff but they're nothing near the first. The rest of the film does little to prove that Star Trek is a decent enough action film to rival the ones currently being produced. The editing is choppy, the camera bounces around all over the place, and there is an over-reliance on deafening sound effects. No amount of cheesy references to the Beastie Boys is going to convince me that the action scenes save this film.

Somebody really needs to remind the people who make these films that the whole reason the Enterprise set out was to "boldly go where nobody had gone before". Modern filmmakers have clearly forgotten this fact and decided it's better to just copy every other big action blockbuster that's ever created. When Abrams first took up the reboot I was excited. I loved the idea of new Star Trek. However, it's always tried to be something else. Abrams wanted to make it his version of Star Wars and now it's just the poor man's Guardians of the Galaxy. This film should have been the franchise's Skyfall but instead it's more like fucking Quantum of Solace. Something that had a load of promise but just lost its way. I mean in the grand scheme of things Beyond isn't a shitty film. It is, however, shitty Star Trek.

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