Star Trek: Beyond

Rating:

BOLDLY GOING

Main Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto

Director: Justin Lin

Winslow Arizona Corner PD

The Winslow, Arizona locals seem to have a strange affinity for standing on corners.

The local mechanics were able to successfully repair my motor coach allowing me and my entourage to pack up bag and baggage and leave rural Arizona.  I think Kim Dee and Mary Gee; my personal seamstresses, were glad to leave.  There was such a demand for my marvelous designs amongst the local populace that we ran through all the fabric we had brought with us and ended up having to use the blackout curtains of the motel to complete the last couple of orders.    I wasn’t sure what the locals were going to do with those as they really didn’t have as much pizzazz as I like in my couture, even if we did use the last few yards of tassel trim to accentuate the bodices.

It was unclear to me what the local ladies were doing with all of my stunning creations as I had not seen any of them being worn on the street.  That mystery was solved when we arrived in Winslow, Arizona.  We were simply standing on the corner when a portly Native woman drove past in a flatbed Ford with several racks of my GlamourPuss gowns in the back.  A large sign attached to one of the panels read ‘Just In – New Native Crafts’.  I was a bit surprised so Leah and I went into the local trading post and sure enough, the lady inside was selling GlamourPuss gowns as authentic Navajo fashions – at a 150% markup from my original prices.  I will have to talk to Joseph my manager when I return to California, perhaps we can write a contract with local businesses to keep supplying them with traditional Native dress-up for a small fee.

My little motorcade continued on into Flagstaff where we stopped for a light repast and I noted a Cineplex quite handy to the interstate.  As it had been some time since I had seen a film in wide screen with relaxing stadium seating and a large bucket of popcorn, I decided that we should stop and while away a few hours.  My choice for viewing was Star Trek: Beyond, the third installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise featuring a new young cast playing the venerable roles of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and the rest of the gang.  It follows up Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).  The first two films were helmed by J.J. Abrams who stepped down from the director’s chair in favor of Justin Lin but stayed around as a producer.  Much has been made of Mr. Abrams (from television’s Lost, Alias and Fringe) lack of expertise in handling the great science fiction franchises of Star Trek and Star Wars by other authors.  I am not here to pass these sort of general judgments and prefer to discuss individual films on their merits.  This film, while having some things to recommend it, ends up ultimately as something of a disappointment.

This time out, the crew of the Starship Enterprise find themselves several years into their famed five-year mission.  They arrive at a large federation space station, the Yorktown, for resupplying.  Yorktown appears to be something along the scale of the Death Star but with more water features and pedestrian plazas.  While there, a female alien (Lydia Wilson) arrives asking for help in rescuing her ship and crew which has crashed in a nearby nebula.  Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) immediately volunteers the Enterprise for the rescue mission and off the gang goes.  Once inside the nebula, they are betrayed, the Enterprise is badly damaged and the crew barely escapes with their lives.  Stranded on the remote planet, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) deal with various injuries while Scotty (Simon Pegg) discovers another female alien (Sofia Boutella) with odd facial tattoos and the gymnastic abilities of an albino Simone Biles while Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) try to confront their betrayer.  Meanwhile, Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) have been captured by the evil Krall (Idris Elba).  There are narrow escapes, sneak attacks and the threat of the end of the world unless our plucky heroes can save the day.  (Three guesses how that turns out and the first two don’t count).

The script is credited to Simon Pegg and Doug Jung (who turns up in a bit part as Sulu’s family (husband?  Uncle? – the film plays very coy with this)) but smells of multiple other uncredited authors and revamping by studio committee.  All the necessary elements for a Star Trek adventure are there but the story exists as mainly an excuse to hang extravagant special effects sequences together.  The dialogue scenes ring perfunctory and hollow as if there is no interest in these characters as people and the interpersonal relationships are underdeveloped at best.  A potentially interesting love story, for instance, is reduced to a plot device about a necklace with a unique radiation signature. The actors, all talented, do what they can with the material and three movies in are comfortable in their parts but there’s just not much for them to do.  The script also feels overly long and stretched, as if an episode of the old TV show were padded out to two hours:  the ending is also filled with a number of false climaxes which make the ultimate ending rather anticlimactic rather than the ratcheting up of the tension and drama that I think they were aiming for.  The use of the Beastie Boys as part of the ultimate showdown also comes across as one of those ideas that should have been left on the writer’s table.

The biggest disappointment is the special effects sequences.  Many of them are filmed in the dark making it impossible to tell what the heck is going on half the time.  I realize they are trying to be realistic as to the conditions of space but if we can’t tell who is shooting at whom, we rapidly lose interest and no number of explosions are going to keep us from checking our phones or making a brief trip to the loo.  Then there are a couple of sequences that just weren’t a good idea.  A motorcycle chase through some sort of old gravel pit may have been a good idea on paper, but on film, it’s simply silly.  Chris Pine is no Steve McQueen.  The intricacy of some of the shots and the detail of the CGI, especially of the Yorktown space station shows that no expense was spared in the production.  I could have done with fewer gravity defying skyscrapers and more human interaction.

The actors all give it the old college try, when they’re not being done in by the idiocies of the script.  I particularly enjoyed Karl Urban’s McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty who seem to have all the best lines.  Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin (who was killed in a freak accident shortly before the film opened) aren’t given enough to do.  Chris Pine seems to have continued his studies at the William Shatner school of acting and Zachary Quinto is a pale imitation of Leonard Nimoy’s original.  A brief shot of the original Star Trek cast (we are in an alternate timeline in these rebooted movies) reminds us of how good an ensemble Gene Roddenberry put together and why we are still interested in this universe fifty years after its original run.  While I think Gene would have enjoyed the film, he would likely have set the writers back to their den to revamp the script before shooting.  He was always more interested in the humanity of his future than the technology.

Diplomatic failure.  Busted romance.  Gratuitous head tentacles.  Drone ships.  Energy draining.  Solidified smoke. Classical rap. Saucer separations. Gratuitous Greg Grunberg.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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Comments

  • George Bounacos

    August 24, 2016 at 4:57 pm
    Reply

    YES! The movie's beginning was interesting. The end was typical Trek-fare. But the story-telling middle crammed minutes worth of story into an hour. Disappointed was the term I was looking for when people asked me about the film. I appreciate […] Read MoreYES! The movie's beginning was interesting. The end was typical Trek-fare. But the story-telling middle crammed minutes worth of story into an hour. Disappointed was the term I was looking for when people asked me about the film. I appreciate the homage to older characters, and this group of actors have locked down the mannerisms of the original cast. I had hopes that this film would redeem the mess that was Benadryl Coughdrop playing Khan in the second of the reboots, but this alternate timeline hasn't found its feet yet after the promising start. Disappointed, MNM. That was the word I needed. Read Less

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