Movie Review : STAR TREK BEYOND… Great or Badly Flawed??!!

STAR TREK BEYOND – As a rule I avoid trailers for movies I know I’m going to see. Like CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR or STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, I knew STAR TREK BEYOND was a movie I knew I was going to see, so I wanted to go into the film, and be as blank a slate as possible, not basically pre-watching the film before the film.

It has worked with me for other films. Loved CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR, liked STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS.

With STAR TREK BEYOND  I  did manage to catch one trailer, the one with the mortorcycle and music that caused something of a negative pushback online, but for myself I thought it was fine. Not a great trailer, but an okay one.

The movie, finally seen, in a solid, nearly empty theater with great picture, and great sound (2D not 3D) and verdict?… I enjoyed it. I think the look of it was fantastic, the beginning and middle solid. Some good performances and fun scenes. It’s a nice, if flawed, addition to these new STAR TREK films.

Why flawed?

To explain that I’m going to have to get into specifics, as in spoiler theory. But a quick nonspoiler take on STAR TREK BEYOND… if you haven’t already seen it in the theater, save money and wait for it on streaming or for rent.  A cheap rental.

Okay that sounds harsh for a movie that I thought started off very strongly. Okay here is some detail to explain my feelings. To avoid spoilers skip everything except the last paragraph, and come back after you’ve seen it.

Here we go:

 

An action movie ultimately is defined by the quality of the conflict, the quality of the conflict that opposes our heroes, the quality of the antagonist. STAR TREK BEYOND has a great actor, Idress Elba, who is completely wasted;  who is given a largely mediocre and nonsensical role, and motivation.

You have an antagonist that in one of the film’s most memorable scenes early in the picture, shows he possesses a weapon that can kick serious ass. But instead of using this awesome weapon for achieving his vengeance, he… for over a hundred years… only uses this devastating weapon, to pirate other ships, in an attempt to find a so-called ultimate weapon.

That weapon when found is unimpressive piece of nonsense, compared to the weapon he already had at his disposal.

It’s like somebody who wants to take revenge against the people he blames for his family’s death, armed with a machine gun, who instead of taking this machine gun and getting his vengeance immediately, spends over a hundred years carjacking  people in the hopes of finding a different ultimate  weapon, and that weapon when found, turns out to be a yo-yo or slingshot.

It’s that much of a let down and disappointment, compared to the weapon he already had.

It makes no sense and delivers a flawed and weak and toothless ending.  How no one in production could see this glaring issue with the plot/script is baffling.

And speaking of weak, why would our antagonist, this eater of life… be getting weaker after consuming lives? Each life should be making him stronger.

So on top of this dud of a doomsday weapon, this antagonist himself at the ‘climax’ Of the film, for no conceivable good reason… is a weak, crying, easily beaten, and more than a bit rubbish, whiner.

The actors do the best they can with this, but the writing /plot ultimately lets them down. This one falls squarely at the feet of the writer, Simon Pegg, who writes everything well except the most important thing to get right, the villain and the villains motivations.

I thought the first rebooted STAR TREK film was great. In many ways it is STAR WARS done better than STAR WARS, possessing as it does that EMPIRE STRIKES BACK vibe. It is a solid A-.

I thought the 2nd one, while it had deeper pitfalls than the 1st film, the poor idea to try to cleave too close to WRATH OF KAHN, also had higher peaks. And as a whole I think it is masterful, it just edges  out the first film being a solid A-/A.

END SPOILERS

 

This third one I was enjoying till the whole idiocy of the  ‘doomsday weapon’ and the poorly written antagonist and final act. Whereas I can rewatch the first two reboot STAR TREK movies constantly, and proudly own both Blu-Rays, I have no desire to sit though this 3rd movie ever again.

Grade: C-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Movie Review 3D

star_trek_into_darkness_ver21

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – My abiding thought upon watching STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS was… enjoyment. From first frame to last I was just very captivated by the film, and completely along for the ride.

As a reviewer 2nd, but a movie goer 1st, I think it is very important to go into a film with as fresh eyes as reasonable to pique your interest. Beyond the broad stokes of a trailer or two, I avoid leaked plot details or guessing games about the storyline. Beyond broad generalities I think it is important to allow a filmmaker and a cast, to present the movie to you unfettered by too many preconceived notions or expectations.

Otherwise how can you fairly judge a film or a film-maker’s work that you have in essence previewed? It’s hard to get moments of surprise and originality in films, when too many people these days go into the film with all surprises read and all originality already squandered before the film ever opens.

Increasingly it is the impetus of a cynical audience, that is numb to all but the basest pleasures, to take comfort in that self same cynicism.

JJ Abrams, much like the New STAR TREK itself, flies in the face of such cynical times, being a throwback as well as a leap forward to old fashioned film-making. A filmmaker who understands emotional resonance and story and character is every bit as important as blowing things up, but in his affection for the old, never loses the skill and love for crafting the new. JJ Abrams and his writing staff for my money for the 2nd time do the impossible, creating a remake that manages to brilliantly embrace the new, without invalidating the old.

It’s the choices he makes as a director (that others may deride as sentimental or romantic or syrupy) that are the choices that for me make INTO DARKNESS a great film, and Abrams a great filmmaker. Not an opinion I’ve always held on Abrams, but an opinion he has earned since his first Star Trek film.

There’s a scene early in INTO DARKNESS [extremely minor spoiler but feel free to skip till after you’ve seen the film] where someone goes traitor, you’ve seen it in numerous films if you are even a casual moviegoer. The bad guy has an inside man working for him, a traitor. It is a movie cliché and virtually no one ever looks at that character as more than a means to an end, No one ever asks or seemingly cares about the why of such a character’s actions. In this movie in a scant few minutes, in nearly wordless scenes, Abrams takes the time to paint the reason why someone would do it. And it is a reason that if we can not condone, we can understand.

In scant minutes of screen time he takes an actor I generally have not enjoyed on screen, and gives him I think his best role to date. A role that in nearly any other film, by any other filmmaker, would be a meaningless plot device, here resonates and is memorable.
[End of minor spoiler]

With that scene I knew quickly and completely…. that I was in capable hands.

And the film continues with such heartfelt performances, married to beautiful visuals. It is the Star Trek universe re-imagined, and it looks grand and mythic. And any film’s protagonists, must be measured by the quality of that which they struggle against and in that role Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a fantastic performance as a character who must be feared yes, but also respected. Well written is the film where there is no simple villains, or villains at all, but only people in conflict, with agendas neither completely right nor completely wrong.

I could go on, but to say more about the film is to ultimately say little, what is best in the film has to be experienced, not regurgitated.

I will however say about the theatrical experience that I saw this film in a matinée showing in RealD 3D format (only the 3D showing was available), and the 3D, to my surprise, did not annoy.

No doubt the pleasant experience owes some to the theater I saw it in, not your typical multiplex, but seemingly it is just handled well here. It became very immersive, just part of a rich tapestry that pulled me in. I found this viewing while not noticeably 3D, definitely noticeably beautiful to look at, and that is all that visually I ask of any film.

In closing, JJ Abram’s 2nd foray into the STAR TREK universe, INTO DARKNESS was a long time coming, but I think has justified its wait, being as smart, as fun, as energetic, and perhaps more emotional and more grandiose than the admittedly excellent first film. On all fronts, for this reviewer, an unqualified success, and a movie I see myself returning to often. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Grade: A.