Monday 25 July 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Peachy Elba

Star Trek Beyond
2016 USA Directed by Justin Lin
UK cinema release print.

Warning: Very slight spoilers beyond...

Well the thirteenth cinematic Star Trek movie is finally here and... I still don’t quite understand why the heck it’s called Star Trek Beyond but... oh well... abstract title for a bit of a fuzzy movie. Star Trek Beyond is probably my least favourite of the mini trilogy within a franchise (to date) which began with the 2009 Star Trek (reviewed by me here in one of my earliest NUTS4R2 reviews) and continued with Star Trek Into Darkness (reviewed here). That being said, it’s nowhere near being a bad movie, certainly in terms of the Trek franchise as a whole... it’s much better than Star Trek Nemesis (reviewed by me here) for instance.

Okay... the story isn’t all that great on this one, to be honest. However, you can tell that British comedy guru Simon Pegg, who plays ‘Scottie’ in the new films, has been let loose on the script for this one because the dialogue is pretty sharp. It’s also a movie which is big in action but still lives up, somewhat thinly perhaps, to the basic science fiction storytelling which made the original 1960s series which these current movies are based on so great.

The actors are all fine here with a much bigger role for both Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Anton Yelchin’s take on Pavel Chekov. I’m sure the majority of my readers will know of the tragic accident which claimed the life of Yelchin about a month ago, a big blow to the acting community, I believe. I remember how good he was in the Jim Jarmusch movie Only Lovers Left Alive (reviewed by me here) and, just recently, Green Room (reviewed by me here). So it’s actually very sad to see him go. Something which I’m sure won’t get easier for audiences as each of the other four films he still has coming out this year are released.

Ironically, Yelchin’s part is somewhat beefed up in this movie and, although Chekov is still very much assigned to a functional role in this, Yelchin gets his chance to shine as he’s with Chris Pine’s incarnation of James T. Kirk for large chunks of the movie, as the two pair up to try and find their lost crew. I think the dead give away that the writers have been getting more interested in Chekov as the franchise continues is the inclusion of a nice line towards the end which certainly echoes the original character, as played by Walter Koenig in the TV show. “Did you know that Scotch was actually invented by a little old lady in Leningrad?” asks Yelchin, which made me smile and realise they were possibly looking to get much more invested in the character as the franchise continues.

Star Trek Beyond is not just a memorial movie for Yelchin, however, who gets a credit at the end of the movie which simply states... For Anton. Pryor to this on his own memorium credit, and throughout the movie, we are continually reminded of another famous Star Trek actor who passed away recently... Leonard Nimoy, who played the original Mr. Spock and continued to do so in the previous two movies. Nimoy is the one constant that bridges the original franchise and this so called reboot (or sequels as most people know them) as his original character went back in time and bore witness to the creation of this redirected timeline that started off this version of the adventures. With two identical Spocks at different ages living in this timeline, the writers have now chosen to kill off the Nimoy version of the character too... or Spock Prime, as he is now known. It’s a touching moment when the current Spock, played so well by Zachary Quinto but with a slightly diminished role in this adventure, is left his older self’s few artefacts which, presumably, he managed to somehow bring back in time within him. Amongst these is a photograph of Nimoy and the rest of his fellow cast from the original movies, grouped in a publicity shot that I’m guessing was one used for Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country (reviewed by me here). It’s one of a few touching moments and, probably, one of the very last times we’ll see Nimoy’s face in a Star Trek movie.

All the other actors are great too, of course, with Judge Dredd himself, Karl Urban, playing a great version of Doctor McCoy, Zoe Saldana as a much more active Lieutenant Uhura than Nichelle Nichols ever really got the chance to be and John Cho continuing his good work as Sulu. Also joining the cast are Sofia Boutella as new ally Jaylah and the always watchable Idris Elba as the main villain of the piece, Krall.

So solid acting, great dialogue and special effects which are up to the scratch, as usual. However, there’s perhaps way too much action in this one or, at least, way too much motion. I’ve not seen any other movies by director Justin Lin but in this one the camera seems to be swooping all over the place for most of the time. It rarely comes to a stand still, even in the quieter, more low key scenes, and while this technique serves some scenes well, like the first proper ‘swoop through’ of the ‘snowglobe space station’ Yorktown and also in some of the action scenes... the camerawork does get kinda dizzying and disorienting at some points, it has to be said.

Another thing which had me questioning if I had my 3D glasses on correctly was the lighting in some of the scenes... so much so that I had to take them off at one point to prove to myself that, yes, the scenes really were lit that badly. There are certain sequences in the movie, especially in... without giving too much away... Jaylah’s house, that are not exactly dark but... well, just downright dull and which are hard to register on the eyes. Like the interiors in some scenes are all shot through a fine fog which doesn’t quite want to engage you in a way that might help you appreciate the sets. Fair enough, I guess. I’m assuming the director was going for some kind of neutral effect to give other scenes contrast around these, maybe, but it really didn’t do much for me.

The other thing which didn’t quite work for me was most of the last act... the action sequences seem somewhat less than entertaining although, even with all the swooping and whirling camera movement, I was actually able to keep up with the choreography of the kinetic set pieces in this one. So there’s that, I guess.

At the end of the day... Star Trek Beyond is an okay addition to the franchise. Some of the dialogue such as Scotty’s reference to a giant, green hand, which is obviously a humorous reference to the original Star Trek TV episode Who Mourns For Adonis?, had me chuckling a fair bit and you can’t help but buy into the characters when they have lines like this. Alas, it doesn’t make up for a finale which, for me, brought to mind some of the worst Star Trek movie finales such as Star Trek Insurrection (which was an okay film with a terrible last act and which I reviewed here) and the aforementioned Star Trek Nemesis. Truth be told, by the end of the movie, I was getting pretty bored and I think it could have done with either some pruning at the end or, possibly better, a much more interesting couple of set pieces rather than the usual... countdown to stopping the villain realising his plan with just a few seconds to spare kind of scenario. It was already a tired way of doing things back at the dawn of the century... it’s really yawn inducing now. Or, at least, it is the way it’s presented here.

All in all, though, it’s sure to please Star Trek fans who, I’ve no doubt, will turn out for it in force... although I noticed the 3D screening I went to wasn’t even half full on its opening night... which I can’t quite figure out since it easily took number one spot at the box office. So, yeah, not a bad one and I’ll definitely be rewatching on Blu Ray at some point... possibly when it’s been out for a while and goes onto the sale racks. Star Trek Beyond doesn’t really take you anywhere near where the franchise hasn’t boldly gone before but, at least, it doesn’t do that in a competent manner and there are some really witty one liners along the way. Maybe give it a go if there’s nothing else on at the cinema this week.

Star Trek @ NUTS4R2
Star Trek Series 1
Star Trek - The Motion Picture 
Star Trek II - The Wrath Of Khan
Star Trek III - The Search For Spock
Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home 
Star Trek V - The Final Frontier 
Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek - Generations (aka Star Trek VII) 
Star Trek - First Contact 
Star Trek - Insurrection 
Star Trek Nemesis 
Star Trek Beyond

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