Commentaries

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

STAR TREK: BEYOND



PEGG AND URBAN SAVE THE FILM

Film Review by Fiore 


The original Star Trek franchise is known for its keen, sometimes misshaped, cultural observations and commentaries.  Pittsburgh’s own Frank Gorshin starred in one of the better episodes, concerning racial prejudice, playing characters who had split back and white faces.  But, the overriding social commentary in STAR TREK: BEYOND is nothing more than a watered down cheerleading rant for the Progressive Movement.  It’s like Mr. Mackey claiming: “Progressivism is good.  M’mK.”  The film tentatively claims mankind, even in the 23rd Century, is somehow moving in the right direction.  Hooray.  The rest of the movie is Director Justin Lin pretending he is doing another Fast and Furious movie with starships.

Captain James Kirk, played again by Chris Pine, is in the third year of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s five-year mission, and he’s bored with all the scientific gathering and analysis.  He is so lackadaisical since stopping the genetically enhanced madman Kahn, that he is considering a promotion to a desk job.

While he and the crew are on shore leave at the Yorktown, a deep space “snow globe ready to burst”, a ship arrives with a frantic SOS. The ship’s captain claims her research vessel is in distress and her crew injured, on the opposite side of a nebula, in deep space.  Before vetting the claim, the crew of the Enterprise is dispatched to help those in need.  I guess this is one of the founding tenants of progressivism – believing everything, and everyone is intrinsically good.  It’s probably the same mental disorder that mandates increasing immigrants by over 500 % from a country that is bombing your citizens and promised to murder all of them.

Undaunted, the Enterprise embarks on its rescue mission only to discover it’s all a ruse by yet another madman, Krall, played by Idris Elba, determined to rule the universe.  His main malfunction is his lack of belief in the Progressive Movement.  He wants the status quo, filled with conflict and war.   It’s not long before the Enterprise is reduced to rubble and the crew is left to its own innovativeness to save the day.  For a spaceship as famous as The Millennium Falcon, The Nostromo, and The Botany Bay, Paramount producers seem all too eager to blow the Enterprise up.  If the flagship of the Federation can’t handle initial encounters on the other side of a nebula, it doesn’t speak well for the rest of the fleet.  No wonder Commander Ryker passed on numerous promotions.

Returning are: Pine; Karl Urban, as Dr. McCoy; Simon Pegg, as Montgomery Scott; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Pittsburgh’s Zachary Quinto as Spock; the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov.  Joining the cast this time around are: Elba; Sofia Boutella as Jaylah; and Joe Taslim as Manas.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      Transportation of Bones and Spock
2.      The toast between Bones and Kirk
3.      Filtering the scanners for Vulcan metals

STAR TREK: BEYOND is SFX eye candy.  Interspersed with the action is an acceptable, though stogy story.  The studio, initially was not impressed with the script.  They asked Pegg to lend his talents as part of the writing team.  In the film’s final credits, he is listed as the prime screenwriter.  His influence is noticeable, since STAR TREK: BEYOND is infused with myriad humorous moments.  This is a good thing, since the rest of the plot is rather mundane.

Of all the new Star Trek characters, Pegg’s version of Montgomery Scott and Karl Urban’s of Dr. Leonard McCoy are the best.  In fact, at the risk of upsetting Trekkers everywhere, I’ll go as far to say Urban’s portrayal of Bones surpasses DeForrest Kelley.  Fortunately, these two characters dominate the screen and have some of the best scenes.  Pegg even gives a well-deserved nod to screenwriter Nicholas Myers.  Myers wrote the two best scripts in the original Star Trek film series, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN, and STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY.  In both, he quoted classic literary works, including Shakespeare.  There is a dramatic scene where Spock quotes the Bard, and not coincidentally, it’s Bones who makes the observation.

If you are a millennial with ADA (it seems a requirement of the generation), you’ll love all the frantic action.  For the rest of us, the sequences are cut too quickly and too many shots are close-ups, giving a disjointed sense to the scene.  Kirk and Scotty’s escape from the saucer section, the penetration into the Yorktown and the gravity swirls in the ventilation tower are all a blur of colors and shapes, suitable for small children.  Part of the problem is the shot options of Cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, and the other part is allowing a posse to edit the film.  A keener sense of linear continuity is always achieved with one editor.

The controversy before the film’s release was making the character of Commander Sulu homosexual.  This was done as a nod to George Takei, who originally played the role.  Fans of actor John Cho, who now plays Sulu, balked at the scene, claiming it detracted from the actor’s career and talents.  Takei, himself recoiled at the scene, claiming it was totally unnecessary.  The scene is fleeting and as such is awkward, and unnecessary.  It is as forced as some of the main characters’ trademark lines being uttered by actors still uncomfortable with their Federation personas.

Kirk intones “The universe is endless”, so you would think somewhere in the universe there must be a really bad guy the crew of the Enterprise can battle.  Something like the Borg, who caused Captain Picard major headaches.  Instead, we have a disgruntled member of Starfleet, who doesn’t like all this happy, happy ideology.  It is a veiled commentary on Progressives vs. Conservatives, but it’s too thumbnailed to be anything but trite.

STAR TREK: BEYOND is fun, primarily for Pegg and Urban.  And certainly no one would ever expect Rhianna and Public Enemy to play an integral role in the salvation of mankind.  So, there are a few surprises.  Despite convoluted race scenes with space ships, a watered down social commentary surrounding unity and an antagonist with no creativity, STAR TREK: BEYOND fits into this new timeline, though it does come in third place.   It’s certainly not as good as STAR TREK: INTO

DARKNESS, but then, it’s tough to beat Benedict Cumberbatch. 



THE GRADE FOR STAR TREK: BEYOND = B

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