I suppose I was feeling a bit masochistic when I read yesterday that my cable provider would be offering a number of new free-on-demand movies for this week only. One of them being STAR TREK BEYOND.
|Posted: 20 July 2018 at 2:34am | IP Logged | 1
I’d gone two years without ever seeing the film, but I figured I might as well give it a shot, if for no other reason than because it was free, and because I like to try to learn from failures as well as successes. Although I’ve taken a hardline stance on not even wasting my time with films I know will irritate me (I have no intent to ever watch BATMAN v SUPERMAN or JUSTICE LEAGUE), I made an exception with this one. Despite the film’s financial failure, it seemed fairly well-regarded by a lot of hardcore TOS fans, so I figured I’d see how justified those opinions are. And, hey, no Abrams this time!
Let’s set aside, for a moment, the likelihood that Abrams killed STAR TREK with only two films, and will likely soon do the same to the other big “STAR” franchise. That said, I’ll give the ‘ol hack some credit: TREK ‘09 is a dumb, entertaining popcorn movie with a lot of energy and wacky charm. That’s what Abrams brings to the table as a filmmaker: energy. He’s very good at bringing a sense of speed and excitement to his films, and he casts well.
BEYOND actually could have used Abrams’ energy. This is a thoroughly average and downright boring film. With yet another “bad guy needs a MacGuffin to get revenge/start a war” plot. It looks pretty, and has some good moments, but it’s incredibly average. Sort of the INSURRECTION of the Abramsverse.
A lot of people said back in 2016 that this film, of the three Abramsverse movies, best captured the spirit of TOS. Um...no. There are plenty of blunt, subtle, and cutesy references to past episodes and films, but this is pretty much a generic sci-fi action film dressed up with with certain STAR TREK bits and tropes. The overarching theme of “unity is a strength” is not subtle, nor is it explored in a meaningful or interesting way. The pacing is very ADD-ish, there’s the usual barrage of rapid-fire jokes, and the characters are mostly very shallow.
Not to say that this is an awful film. Merely an average one. Passable entertainment, but certainly not good STAR TREK, although it clearly wants to be. Whereas Abrams’ two films felt like bad fanfic written by non-fans (despite Roberto Orci being a fan), this film feels like average fanfic written by below-average fans. Namely, Simon Pegg, who went out of his way to establish NuSulu as Gay over the objections of George Takei. It’s not a major plot point or anything, but the actual shot of NuSulu, his husband, and their child lingers long enough to seem like it has some sort of plot significance. I presume it’s to give a sense that NuKirk sees them, and is thinking about the sort of family life he could had, but for his life as a Captain. Or maybe it’s just a case of rewriting an existing character to serve the cause of virtue-signaling, which seems to be all the rage, these days.
I like Chris Pine and the rest of the cast, but ya just can’t recast these iconic characters and expect it to work. Pine played a better Kirk in WONDER WOMAN than he did in these films. The fact that NuKirk—three years into his mission—is bored and ready to quit represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. Yeah, yeah, “alternate timeline, new directions”, whatever. I know. Still ain’t any Jim Kirk I know.
The great Idris Elba is largely wasted under lots of makeup and a shallow character, but he still turns in a good performance. I wish he’d had better material to work with.
The Abramsprise is destroyed a mere 20 minutes in, and it has zero emotional impact. Then, we get a new NCC-1701-A at the end of the film, which is just another rehashed idea. As with that other “STAR” franchise, as well as so many other rebooted/rehashed franchises which are long past their glory days, NuTREK just keeps falling back on references and winks to past continuity. It seems like a good percentage of beloved franchises have fallen into an endless cycle of obnoxious self-referentialism which ostensibly takes the place of actual creativity and innovation. These movies become more about fans hunting for Easter Egg references to old shows and movies rather than exploring new territory. If you’re more excited that NuKirk quoted Shatner-Kirk’s line from “The Corbomite Maneuver” about there being no such thing as the unknown than you are about Krall and his plan, then there’s something deeply wrong with the movie.
You could probably count on one hand the number of direct references to TOS episodes which were made over the span of the first six STAR TREK films. TMP may have been a rehash of “The Changeling”, and TWOK may have brought back Khan, but there weren’t constant quotes and wink-wink references to past episodes to get fans excited, y’know? It was the stories and the characters which were exciting, not the thrill of playing WHERE’S WALDO: STAR TREK EDITION.
Anyway, this movie tries to move things closer to the flavor of TOS, but it never quite gets there. The idiotic NuSpock/NUhura romance is quickly dispensed with (at least until the coda), and we get a lot of NuSpock/NuMcCoy scene’s to make up for their scarcity in the prior two films, but the jokes mostly have that snappy, snarky, Millennial feel that’s aimed at the general audience.
The photograph of the original crew (from STAR TREK V!!!) that’s included among the late Nimoy-Spock’s personal effects (conveniently located in a box labeled “Ambassador Spock’s Belongings”, because this is that kind of movie, where exposition is provided in clunky ways that don’t always make in-universe sense) is a nice touch. Of course, to balance it out, Spock’s death announcement lists him as “second officer” of the Enterprise. Uh...guys...he may have said that he was second officer in literally one scene of one episode of TOS’ first season, but I don’t thin’ it’s a stretch to say that it is widely accepted that Spock’s position was that of First Officer. Good job.
I’m still not sure why I bothered to watch this. The film failed, and has been largely forgotten. Its legacy is that it paved the way for STD to be a streaming show quarantined behind a paywall, and for TREK to again fade from the cinematic limelight. Watching it with all of that in mind didn’t exactly constitute a victory-lap for me, since I’m not a fan of what Abrams did to STAR TREK. No, not at all. My hoped-for victory-lap will come in December of 2019, when Abrams is crucified for failing to save that other “STAR” franchise.
Fact of the matter is that the AbramsTREK gave the property a very brief shot in the arm, but quickly proved to not have legs. The first film was a massive success, but the second was a lousy TWOK retread. And BEYOND was a case of “too little, too late”.
But, hey, the crew kills the space-swarm with Beastie Boys music. For f***’s sake, standards really have dropped for STAR TREK (and intelligent genre storytelling in general), haven’t they? Yeesh.
I really have no overall feelings about this one, positive or negative. Just a big “meh”. I just don’t care enough to get upset at the usual mishandling of characters and concepts. A damp squib of an ending to the false euphoria that the first Abrams film kicked off for so many hopeful fans.