Darke Reviews | Star Trek Beyond (2016)

I was asked today are you a Trekkie or Star Wars fan. The immediate response “I have the blueprints for the NCC 1701 D, but I also have the blue prints for a YT-1300 freighter and an X Wing.”  Yes, it is allowed to love both series. Screw anyone who says otherwise. I watched the original series in syndication, the original animated series, I was the perfect age for Next Gen when it premiered and watched every last episode on its first run appearance. I’ve seen, and own, every Star Trek movie – which is more than I can say for Star Wars. I was in love with the first movie of the reboot, and overly kind in my review of the second one. I looked back on that one the other day and wondered what I was thinking when I wrote it.

So where does that leave us with Star Trek Beyond? Should it have stopped before the final frontier?

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. Director Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 6, 5, 4, and 3)  is a good director. He does ensemble well and when I heard he was picked for the chair I was happy despite the haters. He made a very entertaining and profitable franchise that focuses on the story of multiple characters with a few in central focus. This is his “thing” as a director. He does it well again as the crew is separated and each get their own mini arc and he services each intelligently.

Writing. Rule of Three violation inbound. Simon Pegg (yes…) and Doug Jung (Dark Blue) have official writing credits. Uncredited are Roberto Orci (Transformers 3, Star Trek Into Darkness), Patrick McKay (absolutely nothing -alias maybe?), and John D. Payne (also nothing). Five writers, one of which is an accomplished comedian, one of which has only done TV, one who may have sold his soul for profit and production, and two who may or may not exist. In my perception this has created a hot mess. Knowing about 11th hour reshoots and the insertion of a new member of the cast back in March probably left me with a nice quiet dread.  Simon Pegg tried to pass them off as common place, but normally this indicates the movie is missing something or audiences/producers didn’t like something and a change was needed. Adding a full character just doesn’t happen. Seeing the scenes with the new character makes me wonder what else was added as part of these, how the story flowed otherwise? There were other technical flaws that made it feel disjointed as some characters inexplicably vanished during parts and some wardrobe adjustments between beats that told me we missed something.

I want you to focus on the next paragraph…really.

That said they do one thing right. The crew. They are a family. They make this work! They care about each other and aren’t afraid to show it. Every last one of them is family to the others and have absolute faith in that relationship. It was really really pleasing after some of what we saw in Into Darkness and so many other movies with forced conflicts. They also show that multiple races (literally) regardless of skin, sex, orientation, eye socket placement, appendages do come together and truly show the ideals of Roddenberry’s Trek. We haven’t had that in so many many years. I rather despised what happened with many of the TV series as they grew darker and more like something that Alan Moore would write to highlight the flaws of government. They did it right here. While George Takei may have (legitimate) issues with making Hikaru Sulu gay, John Cho had his own, knowing a friend who saw it tonight about cried seeing non straight orientation in such a big budget film in a known verse. Representation is important folks and I could do a huge post on that alone…I probably will another day.

Overall the writing was very disjointed to me and I can see why now as there are full on beats that I didn’t care about or have any emotional response to, yet others did make me smile.

From an acting perspective, there isn’t a lot to say. It’s movie three and the crew is the crew. Pine is Kirk. Quinto is Spock. Urban is Bones. These are facts, nothing more nothing less. When they are in frame you know who they are and the idea of it being someone else doesn’t cross your mind. I about cried when I saw Anton Yelchin. He is going to be missed and I am happy they announced they will not recast Pavel Andreievich Chekov. Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Jungle Book) was given bad direction and so so make up, and doesn’t really work as the villain for me. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, upcoming The Mummy reboot) is a gem as Jaylah. They do everything right with the character and absolutely nothing wrong…except one thing.

They don’t let you see her actually fight. Oh she fights, but the cinematographer needs his camera privileges taken from him. The camera work was absolutely abysmal for most scenes either panning and zooming without a point of focus or unnecessarily shaky. I would have loved to watch a lot of the physical combat, I think it looked interesting from the few frames I saw. Other shots were so derivative as to be distracting and I am almost sure I got someone nauseous from the work. The make up effects were mostly solid. Some creatures were new, original, and others just looked good with smart designs. Others….not so much.  The other FX are ..ok. I mean well well above average; so I guess they were good. Though I really really want to ask if Simon Pegg or the production designer play Mass Effect, if you watch it you will see why.

TL;DR?

*sigh* I didn’t like it.

Wait wait wait!!

The audience around me applauded. The friend I saw it with really liked it too. They acknowledged the flaws but were able to move past them and enjoy the film. Unlike last week with Ghostbusters, I couldn’t. It has points I clearly do like, aspects of Act III that made me give a damn, and is solid. It just doesn’t work for me. It didn’t resonate and that kind of makes me sad. It is absolutely better than Into Darkness. It is ORIGINAL. not the plot so much, but it’s not a rehashed episode or plot from a previous movie.

Should you see it?

Yes, yes  I think so. I mean there were overall applause from the audience and that means something. A movie like this not resonating with me doesn’t make it bad or unwatchable, or even un-recommendable. It’s very clear that there’s good here and good should be celebrated.

I think a lot of people should and will enjoy this.

My friend said it best, “it’s like an episode with a bigger budget!”

Will you buy it?

Probably? I mean I can give it a second chance in the comfort of my own home. I know my friend is and they never buy movies.

What about? You know…

They handle the legendary Mr. Nimoy’s death in a way that had me tear up. Both he and Anton are acknowledged in the credits.

What’s next?

Suicide Squad!

Darke Reviews | Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Reviewers Log, Stardate – 54868.6.

These are the continuing voyages of director JJ Abrams at the helm of the NCC 1701, the Enterprise. His four year mission to once again appear the fanboys and girls of the Roddenberry universe in the same way he deftly handled the 2009 relaunch of the Star Trek franchise. His crew, Chris Pine, Zacahary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Peg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin suit up to reprise their roles and give us the Prime directive of any actor – make us believe in them as their character.

Do they succeed? Is JJ once again able to warp us into his vision of the Star Trek universe and its alternate timeline?

Yes. Yes they do. – so in short- Just See it!

In what for me is a nearly flawless film, which is hard with just over two hours of running time, we are taken through the highs and lows of James T Kirk’s first captaincy. It’s unclear how long after the events of the first film this is, but it’s also largely irrelevant to the current plot as well.

What is the plot? In my usual non spoiler fashion we have a bit of a challenge here since the trailers did a fantastic job of hiding things for a change. Starfleet is attacked from within by a man of their own making. A nightmare for them given meat and willing to break bone to get what he wants. We then have a somewhat humbled Kirk driven to vengeance for this mans acts. In the course of the film he learns what it means to be a captain, to know fear, to know about the value of the lives of his crew, and truly what it means to be a Starfleet officer.

He isn’t the only one to learn things – Spock also learns what it means to be a (hu)man, a friend and a partner all while holding true to being the right hand that Kirk needs. The voice of wisdom that his commanding officer won’t necessarily listen to but will hear. His relationship with Kirk and the crew is pushed to the limits, just as much as his own repressed emotions are.

With a rare talent among directors JJ Abrams allows each of the crew their own heroic savior moment. While some characters don’t get as much screen time or epicness as others, and that is a shame, those that do earn their moments well. That is what this film does well by the way; it continues the character development of the first film and brings it to a head and cements it all. The command crew of the Enterprise are now and forever a family. All moments from here on are earned. Every tear, scream of rage, heart break and panic can be believed.

Even Alice Eve, as Carol Wallace-Marcus, new comer to the crew earns her stripes and becomes part of the family with one scene as a glaring flaw. Benedict Cumberbach brings all the weight and gravitas of his acting prowess as the films heavy. Even Peter Weller , welll not even , delivers in his characteristic way. Bruce Greenwood, reprises his role as Pike and shows all the charm and dignity he did in the first film. All of the acting is right where it needs to be.

So why isn’t this a perfect film? There are a few small flaws, some pacing issues and even some editing/timing issues. They are minor. My biggest complaint is a completely and totally unnecessary cheesecake shot with Carol. It was shown in at least one of the trailers and for that moment she was posed like a bloody store mannequin. My partner in crime with movies will be giving her well reasoned rant soon on this and it is well earned. Count on me to share it.

Aside from that one scene, damn near flawless.

TL;DR crowd – here’s what you are waiting on.

Just go see the thing. Everyone. Period. No exceptions. No alternatives.

This right now is THE movie to beat this summer until Pacific Rim in July. Nothing else will come close to this quality in every respect. Sure other movies will be entertaining (Fast 6, Now You See Me, etc) but few if any will deliver on so many levels so successfully.

So to you JJ Abrams, please continue to take us in this timeline where no one has gone before. I can’t wait to see what you do with the new Star Wars.