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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 2:34am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

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.

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.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 4:53am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

My impression of the Abrams movies is that they are just too gosh-darned pleased with themselves. We know (because he said so) that Jar Jarhad no interest in STAR TREK, and set about (as he said) to do everything he could to turn this into STAR WARS. We also know, based on the evidence, that he had little knowledge of TOS. (I've said the first movie reads as if someone who saw a few episodes in first run described to Abrams what he remembered, and that was the whole basis of the movie.)

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.

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Marten van Wier
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 7:04am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I never really understood any of the praise JJ Abrams or Oric and Kurtzman got with the movies and television shows prior to Star Trek 2009 or even afterwards.

Perhaps I was either too frustrated or conservative in thinking but whenever I read a summary or review of their products all I could think "I am missing something others are seeing, what is so good about this? Story sounds dull, characters sound uninteresting, etc."
And I do occasionally like the generic overdone Hollywood popcorn production.

I never had the idea that Kurtzman was a fan, a superficial one at best who just wants to play with the old toys but remakes them how he thinks they should be (and kinda hoping that the audience forgets all the old incarnations or are not aware of them).

As for "Beyond", well I did not like the previous two movies so I was not going to see this one. But when I heard that a Beasty Boys song was used to destroy the drone spaceships I honestly had a facepalm moment. You can pull this off in a Manga/Anime but not in Star Trek.

BTW, Mr Byrne, in "Swarm" did you want to show how the plot device of disrupting communication between automated ships could be done better?

* * * * *

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.

* * * * *

I don't want to be critical on the man but I never understood that. Didn't the character of Spock not already go gracefully out in "The Undiscovered Country" and the TNG episodes "Unification"?

I am not going to bring up subjects such as greed because I don't find it appropriate.
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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 7:43am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

The destruction of the Enterprise in this movie was very similar to the destruction of the Odyssey in the "Jem'Hadar" episode of Deep Space Nine. Another rehash?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 8:13am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

BTW, Mr Byrne, in "Swarm" did you want to show how the plot device of disrupting communication between automated ships could be done better?

••

When I did "Swarm" in STNV, for some reason no one at IDW bothered to tell me it had already been done in one of the movies.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 8:21am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The movies are basically what civilians think STAR TREK is -- superficial characterizations and "tits in space".
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:03am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.
++++++++

As the story goes, the script (featuring Spock as the crux of the story) was written before Nimoy was signed, and everything would have fallen apart if he’d declined to appear.

What I find interesting is that Nimoy had previously declined to appear in (or direct) GENERATIONS, because he was unhappy with the script, and because he felt that Spock’s intended cameo in the opening Enterprise-B sequence was not meaningful or interesting. So, did he come aboard NuTREK simply because Spock played a key role in the story? Or maybe because he knew that this was truly a “passing of the torch” moment, and just wanted to be a good sport about it? Especially considering that he was nearing the end of his life? This reboot was gonna happen with or without him, after all.

I think it would be a tough position to be in to publicly grumble about a character you’d played for decades being recast with a younger actor and/or totally rewritten. I believe that Takei was generally supportive of AbramasTREK until they decided to rewrite Sulu. And, even though he spoke out about that, he still remained supportive of the new cast and films. 

The private thoughts of the TOS cast and crew regarding AbramsTREK may very well have been very different than their public comments. I have a feeling that none of the original cast would want to be perceived as “get off my lawn” types who publicly grumbled about the All-New, All-Different TREK. There had been some of that back when TNG started up, but the show ended up becoming a massive success, after all.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:12am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I liked Jaylah, and there was significantly less eye-rolling and facepalming coming from me while watching BEYOND than there was when I watched STID. That’s all I have. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:14am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

The movies are basically what civilians think STAR TREK is -- superficial characterizations and "tits in space".
++++++++

Yep. And the self-referentislism is an element which has a chokehold around so many of these lazy rehashes of old properties. I mean, INTO DARKNESS has a red-shirt joke! 

Over the years, I’ve become a big believer of the idea that a fictional work must be true to its own internal logic. Story and characters must come first, and they should be treated as their own immaculate reality. Self-referentislism and meta-jokes need to be used very, very sparingly, if at all. Far too many of these reboots and rehashes hinge upon the first-viewing novelty of including a bunch of meta jokes and references to prior continuity. It’s become all about “Memba that?” and “I understood that reference!”-type moments.

I mean, flawed it may be, but STAR TREK- THE MOTION PICTURE was totally committed to telling its story. No Easter Egg references to old episodes, no meta jokes, no self-parody. It was an honest attempt at making a real STAR TREK movie for the big screen. And, even in 1979, STAR TREK was certainly embedded enough (and parodied enough) in the culture for people to get those sorts of self-references. But, the film didn’t stop dead to make a joke about how the crew had ditched the red shirts for bland grays and beiges.
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 12:38pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I find BEYOND to be the least painful to watch. I've watched a few times because Amazon Prime had it in 4K for free. Mind Numbing is apt. 

"I’ve become a big believer of the idea that a fictional work must be true to its own internal logic. Story and characters must come first, and they should be treated as their own immaculate reality."

Yeah I'm going to have to steal this for when I complain about something on Facebook  with it's only a movie/work of fiction/etc who cares.  
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 3:55am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

It's the dirt bike that killed it.

Just like the dune buggy in NEMESIS.

Do not under any circumstances have a joy ride scene in an offroad vehicle for your third franchise film!

(oh and actually make it a good film too)
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 11:31am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I hated The Beastie Boys music use in the first film,
and hated it`s use even more in Beyond! It reeks of old
men trying for `cool` to be `Down wiv da kidz` and
having no idea what cool is.
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