Friday, July 22, 2016

Star Trek Beyond [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review 
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Star Trek Beyond [2016] (directed by Justin Lin, screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, based on the Star Trek television series [wikip] [IMDb] by Gene Roddenberry [wikip] [IMDb]) is IMHO the film in this "Star Trek reboot" series that finally "catches its stride" ;-)

Amusingly, in the opening voice-over, Chris Pine's Capt. James T. Kirk complains three years (or three films) into his five year mission commanding the venerable Federation Starship Enterprise his life has become "episodic" ;-). However, for those of us watching, we're given a chance in this film to better appreciate the direction in which this rebooted series is heading and the changes from the original that it has made.

For the original Star Trek television series [1966-69] was famously IDEA DRIVEN and surprisingly LOW TECH.  The various episodes in the original (again, _television_...) series, supposedly playing-out largely on the surfaces of presumably quite exotic alien planets, would simply play-out _on a stage_ with a quite randomly hued background (red, blue, purple, black ...) serving as the planet's (exotically hued) "horizon" and perhaps "a palm tree or two" (or even more strangely "a Corinthian column") serving as props onstage in the foreground.  On such a stage er "planet," the characters would then wax eloquently (with almost Shakespearean gravitas) about the nature of freedom, humanity (or half-vulcan character Spock's "vulcanity") as the arriving largely human (if already largely multi-racial) crew of the Starship Enterprise inevitably encountered a culture that "saw things differently."  Over the course of the (television) seasons, relationships between at least some of the (first tier) crew members also developed (Kirk [wikip], Spock [wikip], McCoy [wikip] and Scotty [wikip]) while other characters (Uhura [wikip], Chekov [wikip] and Sulu [wikip]) were left largely undeveloped. 

The Star Trek Next Generation [1987-1994] series (which took place largely aboard a more sophisticated looking Starship Enterprise) developed more (and more diverse) characters beginning with making the captain of the Enterprise a Frenchman named Jean-Luc Picard [wikip].  Women - Counselor Troi [wikip] and Science Officer Dr. Beverly Crusher [wikip] - played much more significant roles.  A (once) physically handicapped Lt. Cmdr Geordi LaForge [wikip] who had been blind functioned now as a pilot of the ship without any hindrance to his performance thanks to a high tech visor that allowed to him to see once more.  Even children/teenagers Wesley [wikip], Dr. Crusher's son were shown present on board.  And a "Klingon," Lt. Worf [wikip], (the Klingons were the Federation's enemies in the Original Series) was now a valued member of the crew, as was an all-but/more than human android named Data [wikip]).  Star Fleet of the Next Generation was thus truly "for everybody."

Subsequent feature-length films featuring the casts of both series consistently improved upon the special effects of the TV series from which they were spawned, and yet focused mostly on the relationships between the characters.

THE REBOOT took the special effects to a new and (initially much criticized) frenetic level.  Whereas the original series was IDEA DRIVEN, the REBOOT felt overwhelmingly ACTION and SPECIAL EFFECTS DRIVEN.

While (1) attention was again given to some of the relationships, notably the friendship between Kirk [wikip] (now played by Chris Pine) and Spock [wikip] (now played by Zachery Quinto), (2) there were some fairly interesting even inspired casting choices, notably of casting Zoe Saldana as the new Uhura [wikip]) and even Simon Pegg as the new Scotty [wikip]) and (3) some of the previously underdeveloped characters were given livelier roles (like Anton Yelchin's Chekov [wikip] who, wow ;-), now steals almost every scene that he's in ;-) and/or back stories (like John Cho's Sulu [wikip] who in a nod to George Takei [IMDb] [wikip] who played Sulu [wikip] in the original series, is now portrayed as being quite calmly / matter-of-factly ... gay, BOTH OF THE of the REBOOT series felt like GIANT SCALE "SMASH-EM-UP" MARVEL-COMICS-LIKE "SUPER-HERO MOVIES."

The current film, though retaining the GIANT SCALE (much of the film plays out around a GIANT new Federation colony/outpost called "the Yorktown" at the edge of a nebula) as well as an OFTEN FRENETIC PACE (the Enterprise gets attacked veritable bee-like "swarm" of alien ships coming from said nebula) ... AT LEAST THE BATTLE (and its after-effects) proceed(s) with BOTH _intelligence_ and surprise: Yes, "the aliens" come at the Enterprise in an unexpected manner and to eventually defeat them _requires_ a lot of (often quite fast) nimble-thinking / improvisation on the part of the Enterprise crew.

As a result, this third (sorry new Kirk ;-) "episode" of the REBOOT feels the most authentic (of the three) thusfar and even advances STAR TREK's story telling in an arguably positive way -- sometimes we all have to "think quickly" and respond to "new challenges" using the tools, gadgets (and "apps") around us in fairly novel / unexpected ways ;-)

So thumbs up here.  And the addition of some _new_ alien characters, notably that of Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella) a previously marooned and yet quite resourceful alien stuck originally also in that nebula was good / fun as well!  Good / great job!  Finally, this REBOOTED series is "going somewhere" again ;-)

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