2016.57: Star Trek Beyond (Cinema)
Here was me thinking that this couldn’t possibly be any worse/more stupid than Star Trek Into Darkness (do these Star Trek reboots have the worst titles imaginable, by the way?) and then Star Trek Beyond goes and proves me wrong.
We’ve come a long way from Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. Actually, hold that thought- because that actually works for me when describing how much of a let-down Beyond and so many modern films are. You see, TMP may be long, slow and a wee bit pretentious, but even today it feels more of an ‘event’ film than something like Beyond. There is a sense of importance to the events in TMP. A tension, threat, almost a perverse sense of reality in how the characters and the sets/places/mechanisms are introduced and established. Nowhere more so than with the Enterprise herself, a genuine character in TMP. The Enterprise feels huge in TMP, whereas in Beyond it is dwarfed by just about everything, even driving into Yorktown as if it’s just being driven down the street. If the Enterprise looks small in TMP, its for effecting awe (i.e. to show the scale of the alien cloud/spacecraft). The shots of the Enterprise driving into Yorktown aren’t about establishing plot or a sense of awe, there’s only a sense of it being more throwaway CGI, something to impress just because they can do it, not because it really means anything. Vacuous spectacle. Crikey, I’m making out TMP to be some kind of classic- how far have we fallen? How low has Star Trek gone?
As usual, I’ll do a detailed breakdown/discussion after the Blu-ray release as I hate to spoil films, even ones as poor as this one. But… but…. well, does anyone really care at this point about something as stupid as these Trek reboots? Let’s just say… well, you recall Mars Attacks and how those pesky critters were beat by playing music at them? Kinda crazy but it worked because it was a comedy and daft fun and… well, they sort of pull the same gag here in Star Trek Beyond. I’m still rather incredulous, frankly. They wouldn’t pull that kind of rubbish in the ‘sixties show for fear of coming off as camp as the Batman tv show. Its the Beyond equivalent of teleporting Khan all the way from Earth over to Kronos in Into Darkness, or ‘hiding’ the Enterprise in an ocean- it’s Star Trek jumping the shark yet again.
God I realise I must sound like an angry Trekkie, but what I’m suggesting is that the makers of the sixties show had more self-respect than this modern breed of Trek custodians who just think any shit goes, frankly. Well, thats the heart of it- its all so stupid. Destroy an alien fleet with loud rock music? A distraction involving hologram Kirk’s riding motorbikes (is it holographic sound as well, and how come each individual hologram races its own path around the objects and ditches/jumps)?
So here we are yet again talking about how stupid modern films and modern audiences are. Audiences accept this nonsense without walking out or yelling ‘foul!’ at the screen, so naturally film-makers exploit them all the more. And it does feel like exploitation. There is little attempt at internal logic or restraint in Beyond. Its just one excuse for a stunt/fight/visual effect after another. There’s little difference between these modern Trek films and stuff like the Transformers franchise.
Which is pretty frustrating because there does seem to be at least some attempt to recapture the spirit of the original ‘sixties Trek (probably due to the involvement of Simon Pegg in the script). Indeed, in some ways its the nearest any Trek movie (Wrath of Khan likely excepted) has ever come to an episode of the original show. The cast are pretty good. I’m finally warming a little to Chris Pine as Kirk, and Karl Urban’s McCoy is as much a pleasure as ever, but as the original Trek films found, its difficult to be fair to an ensemble cast in individual films compared to doing it over several tv episodes. The late Anton Yelchin’s Chekov is sadly wasted, as is Sulu and even Uhura feel’s under-used here, but really that’s almost inevitable. Its not that the cast are just competing with each other for screen-time, they are competing with the CGI effects and all the stunts and spectacle that these modern films seem to think they have to present. I mean, the film has its moments, but the leaps of logic and convenience to tie all the sequences and set-pieces together are just astonishing.
The leaps of logic/coincidence are quite breathtaking- the big bad guy is searching for a part of his Alien Weapon of Mass Destruction that just happens to be in the Enterprise’s storeroom-cum-trophy cabinet, and the Enterprise just happens to be taking shore leave at Yorktown which just happens to be situated alongside a nebulae-cum-asteroid field (the film isn’t great at scientifically-correct astronomical events) which just happens to be hiding the planet where the big bad guy is hiding and even though we are assured the big bad guy ‘needs’ the alien artifact for his nefarious deeds he’s already got sufficient an arsenal to take down the Enterprise and all of the Death Star-sized Yorktown but instead coaxes the Enterprise into danger by fashioning some kind of distress signal/rescue mission… oh I give up. I mean, thats not spoiling anything, thats just the basic set-up. The real nonsense/contrivances jump up a later.
Subtlety be damned, Yorktown is like a giant Death Star Soap Bubble, so big the Enterprise drives in like it’s running through a bus-lane to a service station. The bad guys armada is like a giant swarm of robots hustled in from The Matrix films. The explosions are huge. The (virtual) camera spins around from set-piece to set-piece, upside-down one minute, plunging down an abyss the next, intent on making the audience throw-up. Its all very ‘big’, very much a spectacle, very noisy and whatever. Its clearly what film studios think sci-fi blockbusters have to be in order to satisfy modern audiences, in just the same way as the carnage within superhero films gets bigger and bigger with each variant. Just where are they all going?
Oh thats enough. I can’t waste anymore time on this nonsense.