August 11, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond

These are the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise... Ok, you get the picture, I love Star Trek. So it was with great anticipation that I went along to watch the latest installment Star Trek: Beyond, hoping for another positive experience in this universe.

The previous two films directed by JJ Abrams were not only entertaining, they were also moving, making them, in my opinion, of substantial quality. Unfortunately, I walked away from this film feeling like it was contrived, with a somewhat tired script, which lacked the same quality of substance we had seen previously. I still enjoyed it, but they were phoning it in.

The 3rd Installment is directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and The Furious fame. If you're a fan of the TV Show 'Community' he directed 3 pretty terrific episodes, which you can go and find yourself. I recommend using Google.  Lin, along with screenwriter Simon Pegg, begin the film a little under 3 years into the deep space mission being undertaken by The Enterprise and her crew. Time has passed, and life seems to be getting a little monotonous, as it can from time to time.

Stopping at the largest space station in existence, and on the edge of the frontier, 'York Town', some down time for Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) leads to some reflection on whether this is, indeed, something that they wish to continue. Are they doing what they should be doing with their lives? The reflection doesn't last long, however, when the Enterprise is tasked to help rescue the crew of a ship, stranded on a planet on the other side of an uncharted nebula. Uncharted space. Without hesitation, the Enterprise heads out into the 'Beyond' and so the real story begins.

If you like grand concepts, such as being filled with joy at the possibility of life having greater meaning by venturing further out into the cosmos, then you will like this film. I did like this film for that reason, and the contemplative nature with which it considers our place as individuals in the great scheme of things. But from a dramatic stand point, the film is largely underwhelming. Turning points for character and story are either under explored, or extremely predictable. The only surprising thing in the film, really, is where a device is hidden. It's simply not in the place that you think.

Our Villain, Krall (Idris Elba), suffers the worst of what the cliche riddled and predictable script has to offer. While he absolutely masters what he has available, he can't make it epic or truly evil, because he is constantly undermined by the ease with which things come to characters opposing him. Neither his motivations, nor what he does seem even remotely insurmountable after the first 3rd of the film has passed. His role is underwritten, as are many of the secondary characters. You cotton on very early to what is happening, and throw your hands in the air asking 'is this really the best story they could give us after Khan?'

That's not to blame the actor. And to a certain extent, I don't blame the director either. It is a slick and big action film, and I would let him helm the next one to see what he could do. What I wouldn't do, however, is let Simon Pegg near a Star Trek script again. His brilliance in the sphere of comedy is often writing and portraying morally flawed characters who find a way to become better human beings- which I thought a perfect fit. Unfortunately he seemed incapable of writing something more nuanced. Where the flaws in character are not just someone refusing to be a good Father, rather they are based on ideology, or temperament, or great character flaws involving ego, narcissism, or even Nihilism.

It dawned on me that he is so used to writing comedy where characters are always lovable, and never truly dirty or messy, or caught at their worst moment, that he didn't know or was unable to take his characters to places where they were truly unlikable, or had great conflict, or could even be believably angry at each other over something asinine. You cannot take a two dimensional view to science fiction writing and expect a gag, or one singular moment to justify your story or character growth. Science Fiction requires depth, very nuanced, and it is always- always- an allegory for the intellectual rigors and ideas we must wrestle with in society today. The depth of script is lacking so much it gives no credence to the actors doing any more than having an existential crisis on screen, which is interrupted and mildly inconvenienced by some alien. Everything is too easy, too convenient, and as much as I like Pegg, he has not challenged himself enough and produced a story equal to what the franchise has done to date.

That being said, I know I am being technically very critical. It is still an enjoyable film, and is worth seeing on the big screen to give you the full experience of space in the great beyond. Space at the frontier of new worlds. See it to be immersed in possibility, and connect it to our own current forays into our own solar system. You will definitely be entertained, find many parts of it highly amusing, and you will come away feeling like you have also seen something authentic to the Star Trek canon. It just lacks a dynamic story, idepth of emotion, and ultimately it is the lack of substance that undermines the grand vision of what the Beyond means for us all.

Rating: Pillowsac + Minisac

By Rod @ Lovesac