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Review: Star Trek Beyond

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Star Trek Beyond

The third installment of the new Star Trek franchise is the first not to be helmed by JJ Abrams, with Justin Lin stepping into the rather large shoes of Abrams. Lin has been best known for the Fast & Furious films from Tokyo Drift through to the sixth installment of a franchise that is safe to say has been completely rejuvenated under his stewardship. But, does he have what it takes to carry on the stellar work already done by Abrams?

If the trailers were anything to go by, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Lin had the writers destroy the Enterprise (it’s in the trailer, it’s not a spoiler. The Enterprise is constantly being blown up!) so he could shot a load of motorcycle chases. Happily, there’s slightly more to it than that.

This time around we find the crew of the Enterprise a couple of years into its five-year mission exploring space and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to wonder what the point is of exploring infinity. “Life has started to feel episodic” is one of his lines, which is the first in quite a few call-backs to Star Trek’s televisual origins.

As previously stated, due to a trick, the Enterprise is destroyed by the main villain and a seemingly unstoppable wave of an army. Due to the evacuation process, the various members of the team are split up which makes this film much less of a team movie than the previous offerings. But this, and the fact they are severely under equipped to fight such a large army, forces the crew members to put their heads together and think their way out of the various situations they find themselves in. Again, this is more reminiscent of the TV series, which was always based more on diplomacy than action.

It’s clear that Simon Pegg, as one of the writers, gave himself a prominent role in the plot as his character, Scotty, is partnered up with Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), the latest kick-ass alien in the Star Trek universe. Her character is the most interesting, the most fleshed out and the most exciting, as the rest of the original cast seem to be coasting somewhat with only one or two other actors to bounce off for most of the film and not much in the way of development. With the exception of the relationship between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) whose bickering and misunderstandings mark some of the comedic highlights of the film.

There are some fairly sizable plot holes in the film, it is a blockbuster sci-fi that has been written by five people after all. For example, who is the henchman of the villain, Krall (Idris Elba), and what’s his back story? Also, there was a distinct lack of emotion from the crew of the Enterprise after the destruction of what had been their home for the past three years, which detracted from what could have been a much more emotional scene.

Another, possibly slightly less important, issue is why would you cast Idris Elba as the main antagonist and then bury him in full prosthetics? Eric Banner was recognisable in the first of the reboot films and in Into Darkness Benedict Cumberbatch and Frank Weller had none at all.

Overall, Star Trek Beyond is better than is has any right to be on paper. It’s probably a little less enjoyable than the previous two films, but still more than watchable and one of the closest in tone to the original films and TV series. A laudable effort, that has seen the green light given for a fourth installment already. Can Justin Lin do for Start Trek what he did for the Fast & Furious franchise? He’s not definitely attached to the fourth installment, but don’t bet against it.

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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

star-trek-into-darkness

Wow. Just wow! Go and see this film if you were even slightly entertained by J.J. Abrams’ first installment of the Star Trek reboot.

Star Trek Into Darkness takes the characters we got to know from the first film and thrusts them straight into some pretty intense action. The start of the film sees Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) fleeing from a village on a red-foliaged planet being chased by the indigenous population while Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are working to stop a volcano from erupting and destroying the planet.

This sets the tone for the rest of the film. From here there is barely a pause for breath for the remainder of the running time. You have not seen a film that rattles along as fast as this in quite some time, and it looks amazing! The colours are bright and primary the design of the worlds, starships, weapons and sets are brilliant and even the 3D wasn’t a problem for me. In fact this is probably the best use of 3D in a film that I’ve seen in a very long time. The best bits are whenever the Enterprise goes into warp where the engines stretch out into your eye sockets before disappearing leaving behind a trail of blue atoms. There’s also a good use of 3D at the beginning where the people chasing Kirk and Bones are throwing spears straight into the audience. And the signature Abrams lens flare, oh, the lens flare!

The only problem with all this action banging and crashing all around you for the entire film is that there are moments where the dialogue is lost. I feel that some of this film would be best watched with subtitles, or at least watched a few times over.

I really can’t say too much about the plot in case I give too much away (I have, however hidden a spoiler in the tags of this post, so if you don’t want to know DO NOT look down there!). Needless to say the direction is brilliant, the action scenes are slick and the comedy is more than funny enough. One of my favourite moments is where Scotty (Simon Pegg) see’s something that shocks him and he starts to exclaim “Oh shh…” cut to Kirk walking through one of the doors on the Enterprise which, when opening, continue the “shhh” sound. (An audio joke on a blog, what a good example to choose!)

In fact, I was afraid Scotty wouldn’t get as big a part as he deserves after a falling out with Kirk at the beginning of the film, but he actually becomes a more integral character towards the end of the film while also providing quite a bit of comic relief from the action going on elsewhere in the film. There is a great balance between comedy and drama in this film a lot going on simultaneously in the same scene. The drama is truly dramatic and the most dramatic actor in this film is Benedict Cumberbatch, he really plays the most malevolent, brooding, hateful character, but he also shows vulnerability and really makes you care about his history, which is the mark of a great actor.

From the moment you first hear his voice, in the opening scene with Noel Clarke, you know he’s up to no good and this turns out to be the case pretty soon. But, later in the film when Kirk confronts him, Cumberbatch gives a monologue where he spans the gamut of emotions which manipulates your emotions just as he does Kirk’s. The strange thing about his performance is that all of his acting is done with his mouth. The top two-thirds of his face doesn’t move, even when he sheds a tear (there’s a small wobble of the eyebrows and a blink, but that’s it). There is a scene where Spock is chasing him on foot through San Fransisco which is uncanny. As the camera alternates between the two Quinto has a very loose sprinting style, even his hair moves, (which could piss off the fan-boys!) whereas Cumberbatch’s body and head are completely rigid. Only his arms and legs are moving and the move like pistons on a steam locomotive,  but that visual really captured my attention and gives this insight into the character’s motivation; there is nothing else on his mind but escaping.

Zachary Quinto plays Spock brilliantly as well, he was born to play this role. He becomes a more rounded character this time round, his relationship with Uhura is a little rock and his Vulcan logic has to really grapple with his human emotions. His relationship with Kirk is intensified this time round with a couple of homoerotic moments thrown in for good measure. Plus he gets to deliver the most famous of all the lines of dialogue from Star Trek history that are peppered through this movie. And boy, does he deliver it!

Truly this is a ridiculously fun, frothy, action-packed Summer blockbuster that you need to go and see and will enjoy whether or not you are a Trek fan. Look out for some bits that hint towards Star Wars too, this film shows that J. J. Abrams is ready to take on that franchise too.

Oh, and as for crash scenes; I didn’t think Abrams could have spun out a vehicle crash longer than that train in Super 8, but there is a ‘crash’ in this that takes the biscuit…it literally lasts about 15-20 minutes. I would say ‘look out for it’, but you won’t be able not to see it!