Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Let's Blow-Up the Enterprise, Star Trek Beyond

When J.J. Abrams took over the Star Trek Movie franchise, he did one really smart thing: he reset the Star Trek Universe.  Some fans hated it, but in one fell swoop, Abrams got rid of the weight of the Star Trek cannon which had become a cumbersome beast.  It was, I thought, brilliant.  He then made a blunder or two.  He blew up Vulcan which was a change that was just too much and kind of unnecessary. He also tinkered with the nature of the relationship of crew members, most notably giving Uhura and Spock a love relationship that hadn't been there before. He also gave us some new and really good back story as to who some of these characters were and something of an interesting villain in the character of Nero.  

Flash forward, Abrams made a great movie but again he made the blunder of trying to remake one of the most popular storylines in Star Trek.  Yes, the timeline had been reset, but one does not change the very nature of Khan and "Space Seed" and Wrath of Khan and completely reset it. All he actually had to do was just not name the character, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch, Khan and not steal lines from Wrath.  True, they were nods to The Original Series (TOS). 

Don't get me wrong, I loved these first two movies. They were creative and more action/adventure oriented for a new generation of Trekkers. There were some things, I just wish had been done differently, and I wanted new adventures, not retellings of TOS episodes. I have loved this series since it first appeared in 1966. Yes, I am that old a Trekker.  With Star Trek Beyond, we finally get one of those new adventures. While some of the unnecessary character tinkerings are still there, Beyond takes us to a new world where the Enterprise is in its third year of its five-year mission, and Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to wonder what his place is in the Federation.  Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggles with his own issues as we are none too subtly reminded that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), one of the icons of TOS, has passed away.  

The movie is original and well balanced with action and humor, something that has always been a mark of the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek Beyond has both that old familiar feel and new creativity that will make the movie work for both old and new fans. The trope of blowing up the Enterprise is used well.  Ever since, Star Trek III, it seems like every few movies, it comes time to blow up Enterprise so there can be a new one. It's like destroying the Astin-Martin in Bond movies.  I hope we get to keep the next Enterprise for a bit. 

Star Trek Beyond has a new director.  J.J. Abrams has moved on to direct Star Wars, so Justin Lin, best known for Fast and Furious movies, has taken over "helm" duties. Gone are the lens flares that I personally found pretty annoying in Abrams cinematography.  The movie also was re-written when the first script was found to be unacceptable.  The new script was created by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung which explains the inclusion of a much stronger humor element. The new TOS cast has returned, and we have an interesting new villain and possibly a new character to add to the crew. I must admit, it was at times, given his recent death, difficult to watch Anton Yelchin.

Kirk and company are drawn into a trap by the insane Krall (Idris Elba) who wants a weapon to destroy the Federation.  We also meet Jaylah, (Sofia Boutella) who is both natural warrior and engineer. Jaylah is a fun and interesting character, and it's clear that she could return in the next movie. If there was any major issue I had with the movie it was Krall's make-up but mostly delivery which reminded me a bit too much of Jerry Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.)  in Alien Mine. Then again, that could just be me. Still, Krall was the right level of maniac and killer making him a pretty good villain.

The movie reminds us why we love Star Trek.  It isn't just action and adventure.  It is also about acceptance and the strength that happens in unity. Individuality may make us stronger and independent, but unity makes us unbreakable.  All the cast have integral parts to play. It's not just Kirk wins or Spock saves the day, but each, from Chekov to Sulu to Uhura to Scotty to McCoy, all has a part to play. We see the relationships that we came to know and love with Shatner and Nimoy and company are now forming with Pine and Quinto and company.  After fifty years, Star Trek seems to be in pretty good hands. I will buy the Blu-ray.