Thursday, August 04, 2016

STAR TREK BEYOND (REASON)

WARNING: This is one of those reviews where I disagree with most reviewers.

So you can either say I’m wrong, or at the very least I have my own opinion, or I'm right and it’s the Starship Commander’s New Clothes.

First let me say I am a STAR TREK fan. Some installments are better than others, but I’ve enjoyed the reboot. Sure, I had my quibbles – not sure why Alice Eve had to gratuitously play a scene in her underwear, but if that’s the worst thing about this franchise it should go for another eight light years.

So imagine my surprise and disappointment seeing STAR TREK BEYOND. Even more baffling were some of the reviews I subsequently read. People I respect like Anthony Lane and Peter Travers. What movie were they watching?

The STAR TREK I saw was a complete and utter mess. Half the time I had no idea what the fuck was happening. Sorry. Maybe that makes me shallow, but action sequences bounced around, they were disorienting, absurd, and so busy that I just checked out through most of them. Often the screen was filled with a thousand detailed moving images that made for great viewing while stoned and listening to Jimi Hendrix but not when trying to follow a story.

If there were rules they sure weren’t consistent. Sometimes people could be beamed aboard from midair, other times they couldn’t from the designated beaming-aboard area on the ground. Mechanical breakdowns were never a problem. Faster than Sulu could shout out, “We need to re-activate the frabazabber to fifty million zigabytes and calibrate the Plutonerator to the same frequency as the spitzsensor board” Simon Pegg had fixed the problem. Not once was he short a tool or had to send to Detroit for parts.

The dialogue is a mixture of space gobbledygook, some good one-liners (thank you Simon Pegg), and the usual turgid, “Damn it, Jim!/I can’t hold ‘er, Cap’n!” STAR TREK-speak.

I saw it at a WGA screening and half the departing audience thought it was confusing, and the other half analyzed it to death (as they do every film). “I don’t think the villain got enough screen time.” “The pacing was acceptable but not extraordinary.

The villain was essentially Birdman. It was a guy in a bird beak helmet. He could moonlight as the Phantom of the Opera. How he builds an army and fleet of twelve million space drones I do not know. Right – “creative license.” And like all galactic villains, he seeks revenge and wants to blow up planets and a space station that looks Chicago if George Jetson had designed it. To me, STAR TREK villains are only interesting if Kirk can outsmart them. This was just a thug with brute force.

I take back my complaint about Alive Eve because at least she looked human. Most of the women in this film looked like a cross between Max Headroom and dancers in the musical CATS.

Again, critics and many moviegoers are giving this film thumbs up. So it may only be me who thought "Meh." And Vulcans. Because this movie was not logical.

Levine out.

34 comments:

Carol said...

I got the impression that this is less a Star Trek movie than a movie about space with people in Star Trek uniforms.

I liked the first one well enough; was grateful they pulled the 'alternate universe' card so as to keep the 'real' universe intact. I was deeply disappointed in the 2nd one, for reasons that would take too much time to review here. I had no real enthusiasm for the new one. I'm enough of a nerd I may give in and go see it anyway, though. Unless I just wait for it to show up on Netflix.

Colin Holmes said...

Yep. Beyond - logic. They can wake up a 150 year old starship, fly it out from under 70 tons of dirt and make it do things it was never designed to do. I can't get my lawnmower to start if it sits two weeks.

Jim S said...

Ken,

I couldn't agree more. For an "action" movie, I found the action very confusing and hard to see. A common problem when you rely in CGI.

Splitting the crew up was supposed to give everyone something to do, but it divided the plot into slices so thin that one never knew what was going on.

The villain's motive was hard to understand. The film wasn't awful. At least it didn't turn on the ravings of a 9/11 truther like the last oe, but it wasn't Wrath of Khan. Now there was a film that had time to breathe, had action that was easy to follow and a villain with a clear and understandable motive.

Nicholas Myers was limited in what he could do by time, money and special effects technology. So he made sure not to waste anything. Everything on screen had to matter and it did. He believes limitations sharpen focus. And the result is a film that holds up 34 years later.

Peter said...

I enjoyed it for what it was, but I'm surprised you didn't mention Anton Yelchin, this being his final appearance as Chekov, though not his final film, as there are a couple of others still to be released, and also Leonard Nimoy, both of whom got touching dedications after the main end credits and before the scroll of the remaining credits. If you left as soon as the credits began, after the main credits, the screen faded to black and then the words "In loving memory of Leonard Nimoy" appeared, followed by another fade and then "For Anton."

Salad Is Slaughter said...

My complaints about most of the Star Trek movies is that they replace plot and character development with explosions. Just once I'd like a Star Trek movie where there is no mass destruction. Some of the best TNG episodes involved exploration and diplomacy, not expensive special effects.

I wonder if part of the problem with Star Trek movies is that they have too much money to spend, so the story part of the movie suffers.

gottacook said...

Would you have seen this latest Star Trek movie if you'd had to buy tickets to it, rather than see it at an industry screening? I haven't paid to see a Star Trek movie since 1996, despite being a long-term fan who first watched the show when it was still on NBC in 1968-69. Indeed, I'm somewhat gratified that the second weekend of Beyond suffered a 60% drop in domestic ticket sales.

TV is where Star Trek belongs, and I have hopes that the CBS online series soon to begin production will be decent. The Star Trek feature films have been on the wrong track since the late 1990s, depending on illogically motivated villains and/or threats to Earth; the original series never even went to "present-day" Earth. A Trek series has the flexibility to do many different kinds of stories, as proven especially by Next Generation.

blinky said...

You didn't even mention they blew up the enterprise. Talk about a reboot. Bam!
I haven't seen it but the trailer made it look awful. In fact it it made it look exactly as you described: too many face painted aliens and not enough underwear. And no JJ Abrams this time.
So thanks to Ken (Movietone) Levine I will go see the Bourne movie today instead of boldly going to be confused.

Al said...

Got to love The Huffington Post...

On this morning's (Thu, 8/4) homepage, just below the blog headline, "I Was Capt. Khan's Commander In Iraq. The Khan Family Is Our Family", is the "news" headline, "Proof That Ariana Grande Is Truly Committed To Her Ponytail".

Sigh. I give up, universe.

Anonymous said...

just as i suspected. jj sucks you in the 1st 2 installments then phones it in for the rest.

Pete Grossman said...

"gottacook" mentions that the original series never went to "present-day" earth. El wrongo says this 3D chess playing, nerdo. The episode with Gary Seven (I don't remember the name of it, and I'm not looking it up, so maybe I'm not a total nerdo) went to present day earth with Teri Garr - granted it was the 60s, but it was present-day earth when the series was broadcast. :-)

H Johnson said...

I agree. This movie is a mess. Too much on screen and not enough on paper. Nothing to say? Turn it up! Not a surprise though. The director's last film had cars jumping from one skyscraper to the next.

I'm usually amused by Simon Pegg's movies, but they almost always start with a good idea and whither away from lack of plot. Maybe we expect a little more thought for our Star Trek scripts. He's closer to Adam Sandler than JJ Abrams.

If Chris Pine wants to jump ship, now'd be the time.

Aloha

Peter said...

Anonymous

JJ Abrams didn't direct this, he was only on board as producer. It was directed by Justin Lin.

gottacook said...

Of course I meant the crew's present-day Earth, not ours. (I settled on quotation marks because all the alternatives I tried seemed awkward.)

The episode with Robert Lansing and Teri Garr that takes place in 1968 is "Assignment: Earth," the last episode of season 2. It was intended as a so-called back-door pilot, like the "Love and the Happy Days" episode of Love American Style a few years later. Gene Roddenberry reused the basic idea of "Assignment: Earth," but with a Data-like robot (Robert Foxworth) in the lead, for the TV movie/failed pilot The Questor Tapes in the early '70s, co-starring Mike Farrell.

Todd Everett said...

OK, I have a question for those who have seen it -- warning, spoiler ahead, though I'll try not to reveal too much:

At one point, early on, Scotty is in an extremely precarious situation, and all alone.

Director Justin Lin cuts to another scene.

Next time we see Scotty, all's well, and he's back with the crew acting as though nothing's happened.

Did I sleep through a scene, or what>

Otherwise, I agree with Ken: bloody mess, though (as with Stark Trek generally) the best parts are interactions among the crew.

Toby the Wonder Horse said...

Wait, you “respect” Peter Travers? The man’s critical standards have sunk lower than an aging stripper’s breasts.

Louis Burklow said...

From Ken's review it sounds like this Trek has the same problem just about every action movie I see anymore does: action sequences with cuts so quick they would make Michael Bay nauseous. Maybe the Trek people do have too much money to spend so they don't have to focus on anything. The whole genre seems to suffer from a "hey look what I can do" problem. Does this mean the next Trek will be one of the good ones?

William C Bonner said...

I've liked previous Star Trek Movies and went into this hoping to enjoy it. I came out mostly bored. CGI doesn't impress me anymore, I need characters and emotion. Go into a space ship sized destruction / fight screen, and if no major character dies, I'm simply waiting for it to be over.

I also went to see the new Jason Bourne movie recently. It had so many cuts and jiggly action cam scenes that I barely kept track of what was going on. Looking back on it I may like the Jeremy Renner bourne movie better simply because it had more character development.

Mark said...

I liked it. I didn't have any trouble following what was going on and, other than Quinto's portrayal of Spock, which I've never liked, I thought most of the cast got the closest to the essence of the original characters of any of the rebooted movies. I bought the premise, thought it was a fun ride and I liked that the whole cast had their moments. It's not the best ST movie. That would be Khan or First Contact but it was a solid effort as far I'm concerned.

Chris said...

I don't think the script is the real problem, bad as it is. For me, the real lack in the movie was a credible villain. For someone to be a believable and frightening bad guy, you have to be able to see the nuances of evil. That means facial expressions, and the mask utterly prevented that.

Unknown said...

(pushing up nerdy taped-together glasses) A light year is a unit of distance, not time.

Brian Schroer said...

(pushing up nerdy taped-together glasses) A light-year is a unit of distance, not time.

VP81955 said...

This is why I fear any potential big-screen adaptation of "Gunsmoke," that explosions and CGI will replace character development and the genuine sense of community in Dodge City (on both the William Conrad radio version and the James Arness TV version).

Evan said...

This will be the first Star Trek movie since Star Trek V that I do not see in the theater. I gave the reboot a try. The first one had problems from a purist point of view but did have some virtues. The second, however, wasn't just disappointing. It felt like an insult to people who have cared about Trek for decades. Given the trajectory I have no interest in rushing to the theater. I'll see it on DVD in a few months. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised but I doubt it.

J. Hauschild said...

I remember the time when you could just enjoy a silly sci-fi/action-movie for what it is, so that's exactly what I did with this movie. Btw, Star Trek IV is regarded as one of the best in the series (among the top 3 in every listing), the script makes no f*ing sense and doesn't even have a villain.

Mike Doran said...

A Minority Report:

The original Star Trek aired in the mid-'60s, when I was in high school, and my older brother was just out of same.

Sean was a major devotee of Science Fiction - or SF for short.
NEVER 'sci-fi' - for Sean and others like him, this was their "N-word", the slur of slurs.

Sean was on the Star Trek bandwagon from the get-go.
He was one of the first signees for Gene Roddenberry's mailing/merchandising list.
I remember one Saturday morning when Sean received an enormous package, quite the worse for wear from '67 snail mail, packed to the bursting with Trek scripts, film frames, and various other stuff. Our parents were nonplussed, I was indifferent, but Sean was in hog heaven.
So it went, continuing through and beyond Star Trek's NBC run, through the features with the Original Gang, and all things Trek thereafter.
Was Sean a Trekkie or a Trekker?
I always thought of him as a Trekkeur - above and beyond any latecomers to the order.
It only took the initial run for me to become thoroughly bored with all things Star Trek; my brother's devotion didn't help any.

Sean passed away six years ago, so he's missed out on the Abrams Era of Trek in its entirety.
I wonder how he'd be handling all this foofaraw about the new film, being an Originalist and all (he'd be 67 this year).

I sent this in as a perspective not usually seen in these debates - from someone who's always been an Star Trek outsider (there must be others, but I rarely meet up with any ...).

Dixon Steele said...

Chris,

I don't recall too many facial tics coming off Darth Vader....

Re STAR TREK, I liked this one, but not as much as the first. Bad reviews scared me off the second one.

cadavra said...

Funny, when the first movie came out in 1979, people complained that it wasn't like the TV show, so they did KHAN like the TV show and everyone loved it. Now we have a new one that specifically tries to be like the TV show, and everyone's bitching. Sheesh.

Me, I thoroughly enjoyed it, much more than DARKNESS. Pegg made a real point to give everyone something to do (unlike the last one, where McCoy and Scotty had little more than walk-ons), and studded the script with humorous references to past entries. I had no trouble following the plot (though, yes, the action itself occasionally got out of hand, but that's par for the course these days), and Jaylah is a welcome addition to the series. It was the first TREK movie that felt like a TREK movie in a long, long time.

So, sorry, haters, but I got my money's worth and then some.

Chris said...

Valid point. But vocal inflection is a tic too. Tell me Idris Elba's voice was 1/1000 as scary as JEJ.

Lockhart said...

I second all your other comments, especially about the staging and editing. I couldn't understand most of the environments, since the director seemed to be allergic to establishing shots.

Among many other science problems, I have trouble with people slipping around tilted decks in space. There are no tilted decks in space. Either you have artificial gravity which is always aligned to your deck, or you have zero gravity. Tilting happens on ships and boats and airplanes, but not ships in outer space.

Add to that the threshold problem that the movie wasn't about anything at all. Other franchises can have just a dumb adventure, but Star Trek with no ideas is not Star Trek.

gottacook said...

Cadavra: I have a different interpretation of what happened with the first two movies. The first one in 1979 tried to please the entire moviegoing population (hence the G rating) and ended up not pleasing very many viewers. The second movie focused on pleasing the fans of the series instead - by being a sequel to a particular episode, rather than a sequel to the first movie - and thereby ended up pleasing a much wider general audience. Whether the latter was by design or just luck, I don't know, but I'm glad of the result.

In any case, I have no desire to see any more movies with villains, whether Trek, James Bond, comic books or otherwise. Movie villains have been around for so long that they can't help but be tiresome.

gottacook said...

Lockhart: As noted by Gary Westfahl at locusmag.com, "the film’s voluminous credits, while incongruously acknowledging an 'international political advisor,' do not include a 'science advisor'."

Science goofs in Star Trek are nothing new, sadly. In the old episode "Court Martial" (with Elisha Cook Jr. as Kirk's book-loving defense lawyer), the ship's orbit quickly begins to decay as soon as the engines are tampered with, and the saboteur is detected by a device that amplifies heartbeats by a factor of "one to the fourth power."

And with respect to artificial gravity on Federation ships, nothing could be more ridiculous than the scene in Star Trek V (co-written by director Shatner) in which Kirk falls dozens of decks in a vertical maintenance shaft; there is no good reason why, if you've got artificial gravity in the first place, it has to be active everywhere in the ship. Just plain stupid, although no more so than the rest of that movie.

Greg Ehrbar said...

The Saturday morning cartoon version was pretty neat. They should do a live-action version of that. I liked the end, when two producers' names spun around in a little circle.

tavm said...

Greg Ehrbar, those two names spun in a circle were Lou Schemer and Norm Prescott, the founders of Filmation which produced not only the "Star Trek" cartoon but also "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", the live-action and animated versions of "Shazam!", "Uncle Croc's Block" and various series of "Archie" cartoon programs.

Wayne klein said...

The issue I had with the film was, if the bad guy can create those drones that can destroy the Enterprise, WHY can't HE revive his own Starship, were those drones left by the previous inhabitants of a dying planet? Also, what was killing his crew? Be curious to find out. He could have easily used the Enterprise without bringing it down to exact his revenge. So what was our villain from repairing his own ship (and yet the Enterprise crew can do it in a couple of days).

The editing was horrific to the point where the action scenes were, indeed, incomprehensible because we aren't given any context (I.e., an establishing shot orientations us towards where they were) and the rapid fire editing did, indeed, make the action scenes confusing.

It isn't the worst film but not the best and I honestly don't understand why it's so high at Rotten Tomatoes. In reality it's Star Fast and Furious. Linn has no business directing this type of film.