Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the continuing adventures of the USS Enterprise “Star Trek Beyond,” the family-friendly “Ice Age: Collision Course,” Edina and Patsy’s drunken adventures in “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” and the ‘are you afraid of the dark’ movie, “Lights Out.”
Seven years ago director J.J. Abrams, the brains behind hit TV shows like Lost and movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, thought there was still some uncharted life to be found in the Star Trek universe.
This weekend the third film in his new generation of movies, Star Trek Beyond, puts phasers on stun. Directed by Fast & Furious director Justin Lin it continues Abrams’s mission to seek out new cinematic life and civilizations.
After five television series, ten movies, countless books, comics and video games, a stage version and even an Ice Capades style show Abrams re-launched the big screen Trek franchise. Simply called Star Trek, he took audiences where no man (or director) has gone before, back to the very beginning of the story before James Tiberius Kirk bore an uncanny resemblance to T.J. Hooker.
In this prequel to the original series Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are assigned to the maiden voyage of the most advanced starship ever created, the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).
Star Trek was one of the great popcorn movies of 2009. Notice I didn’t say sci-fi movie. Star Trek is a lot of things but despite all the talk of warp speed, black holes and time travel, it can’t be strictly classified as science fiction. It’s a character based space serial more concerned with the burgeoning relationship between Spock and Kirk than with photon thrusters.
2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness is a sequel AND a prequel (something so illogical Spock would never approve) that gets underway when an act of terror robs Kirk of a close friend. Determined to bring the perpetrator to justice the reckless Starfleet captain takes the Enterprise and crew to a war zone populated by Klingons and one brilliant and ruthless genetically engineered adversary (Benedict Cumberbatch). To finish his mission he must make difficult decisions.
Abrams finds a balance of old—Kirk, Spock et al—and new—the space suits are redesigned, the tech is different and there are younger characters—that should satisfy hard-core Trekkers and attract tenderfoot Trekkies. For fans there are in-jokes like Kirk telling two expendable members of the landing team to “lose the red shirts.”
At the beginning of Star Trek Beyond Kirk’s life on board the U.S.S. Enterprise has become a grind. He’s three years into a five-year mission and he is, personally lost in space, trying to find meaning in his mission. “It can be hard to feel grounded when even gravity isn’t real.”
Lin, taking over for Abrams, does his best to spice things up for the good captain. The director, best known for his Fast & Furious films, knows there is nothing like a wild alien attack to snap James T. out of his funk. Expect more hi-fly action than sci fi intrigue.
Star Trek Beyond producer Abrams admits he “didn’t love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey, but I love them now.” It seems the fans love his interpretation of the characters as well. Trekkers have embraced the new movies but Abrams knows the Star Trek universe is so vast it’s impossible to please everyone. Instead he says he caters to the average moviegoer “who just wants to be entertained, understand, and care about the world and the characters.” As Spock might say, “Sounds logical to me.”
At the beginning of “Star Trek Beyond” James Tiberius Kirk’s (Chris Pine) life on board the U.S.S. Enterprise has become a grind. Sure Sulu (John Cho) is gay and Ambassador Spock is dead, but Kirk is three years into a five-year mission and he is, personally lost in space, trying to find meaning in his mission. “It can be hard to feel grounded when even gravity isn’t real.”
Director Justin Lin, taking over the rebooted series from J.J. Abrams, does his best to spice things up for the good captain. The director, best known for his “Fast & Furious” films, knows there is nothing like a wild alien attack to snap James T. out of his funk.
Because the movie is pretty much an all-out action flick I’m not going to waste a lot of words describing the plot. Put it this way, there’s an artefact, a piece of a deadly old weapon that an ill-tempered villain named Krall (Idris Elba) desperately wants. Why? “To save you from yourself!” Kirk and the Enterprise crew don’t want the wrinkle-faced alien saving them from anything, particularly when every word out of Krall’s mouth sounds like it was lifted from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” “Unity is not your strength,” he growls. “It is your weakness.” Couple that with the destruction of their beloved ship and they have more than enough reasons for Scotty (Simon Pegg) to jerry rig the warp drive, Bones (Karl Urban) to grumble and complain and Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) to excitedly push buttons on her colourful control board.
Lin knows how to stage high-octane sequences, so the film bursts into frenetic action scenes every few minutes. Chekov (the late, great Anton Yelchin) plots a course through the stars and BOOM! action ensues. Spock may be inured but that won’t stop him from being at the center of maelstrom after crazy maelstrom. Lin doesn’t seem to know what to do with the characters, but he sure knows how to entertain the eye with gravity defying actions scenes.
As a result “Star Trek Beyond” doesn’t feel so much like a “Star Trek” movie as it does a sci fi action adventure with some familiar characters. Everyone you expect is present and accounted for—and there’s even tributes to the first generation TV Trek crew—but they are reduced to cartoons, spouting jokey platitudes and techno gobbledygook. Lin can’t decided what’s more important, the science or the fiction.
For all the talk of fighting humanity’s battles, this is the least human “Star Trek” yet. Purists may resent the vaguely detailed characters but those simply looking to have their eyeballs dance around the screen to expertly staged space carnage will find much fast and furious action.
People say Hollywood has run out of ideas. How else do you explain all the sequels, prequels and remakes that clog up multiplexes? “Star Trek: Into Darkness” could easily have been lumped in with those movies.
It’s a reboot of a movie franchise that was based on a television show. So it’s a sequel AND a prequel (something so illogical Spock would never approve) featuring a cast of characters originally created by Gene Roddenberry when Lester B. Pearson was still prime minister.
Nothing new there, and there’s nothing much new in J.J. Abrams’ film—they boldly go where many men have gone before—but rarely has a retread of material been as exciting and entertaining as this movie.
The story gets underway when an act of terror robs James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of a close friend. The reckless Starfleet captain becomes determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. Taking the Enterprise and his usual crew—Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and a new addition, weapons expert Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve)—to a war zone populated by Klingons and one brilliant and ruthless genetically engineered adversary (Benedict Cumberbatch) he must make difficult decisions to finish his mission.
There are certain things you can count on when paying money to see a “Star Trek” movie. Spock will have pointy ears, Bones will speak in terrible metaphors, Scotty will speak in a thick brogue and Kirk will have a thing for alien girls.
All accounted for here. In fact, Abrams skillfully reacquaints the audience with the characters during a wild opening sequence that establishes the traits of each of the major players. It’s a primer for newbies and a reminder for fans, but it also establishes the film’s warp speed pace.
Abrams doesn’t waste a second of screen time, paring the story down to the essentials. The action, story and characters work in harmony, resulting in a near perfect popcorn movie.
Abrams finds a balance of old—see above—and new—the space suits are redesigned, the tech is different and there are younger characters—that should satisfy hard-core Trekkers and tenderfoot Trekkies. For fans there are in-jokes like Kirks telling two expendable members of the landing team to “lose the red shirts.”
No summer tentpole is complete without a compelling bad guy and Benedict Cumberbatch gives good villain. Prone to opining about “walking over your cold corpses,” he has a great villain stare and is suitably unpredictable.
But it’s not all dire and dark like the recent “Iron Man” outing. It’s funnier than you might expect it to be, but it avoids the kitsch sometimes associated with the original series. Abrams finds genuine humor in the characters and situations.
Surprisingly many of the laughs come from the highly logical Spock. “I’m Vulcan,” he says, “we embrace technicalities.” Zachary Quinto’s deadpan delivery sells the gags, but he also does a good job of playing both sides of Spock’s make-up—Vulcan and human—bringing some subtle but real emotion to many of his scenes. SPOILER: A suitable title might have been “Star Trek 2: The Tears of Spock.”
It’s not all perfect, the final action sequence is exciting and well done, but is much more standard than the work that comes before—think Michael Bay—and you might go temporarily blind from the CRAZY lens flares and occasionally distracting 3D, but it is such a good time that none of that matters much.