Friday, 19 August 2016

"To Infinity and Beyond"

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for the test.

 

Director Justin Lin brings his action energy and a certain nostalgic flair to the series. The dimension of the original series that turned fans into lifelong nerds is that it pushed boundaries, it kept spinning your head with space marvels and awe. You could argue that the philosophical, political and sociological subtext is what always set this universe apart from other tech-heavy space adventures. This film brings back the old philosophical lessons in an old-fashioned way. In fact, some of Kirk lines are relevant to the whole of humanity. Star Trek Beyond fits smoothly with the universe J.J. Abrams started, though, it's lighter and funnier than Abrams' movies with a welcome sense of adventure after Into Darkness. Abrams always had intuitive grasps of the hearts and minds of diehard fanboys and girls. He knows what they want and gives it to them. 


Abrams already reinvented the series once, he did it brilliantly, casting the series with such accuracy for the inner qualities of every Trek crew member. Like the show, it lets the audience share quality time with cast members, who now seem like old friends.The set-up is, in my opinion, the smartest part of the script by Simon Pegg, now pulling writing duties as well as co-starring. Splitting up the characters into unexpected pairings opens up the interactions giving some of the lesser-seen players a platform and reducing the screen time of the usual Kirk/Spock bromance. Simon Pegg injects plenty of fun, wit and certainly doesn't hesitate to give his own acting role, chief engineer, Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, a touch more dramatic significance than before. 


Zachary Quinto's imperturbable First Officer Spock, who conveys logical calm, whimsical humor and a kind of martyred romanticism; also rules the movie with a single raised eyebrow. Without Spock, this might be a bit ordinary. Pine is as usual charming and very effective as Kirk, this time, his character is wrestling with the ghost of his father and a monumental career decision. Once again, he manages to blend the perfect charming action hero with a slight touch of a smirk and a gleam in his eye. Plus, him jumping on the back of an antique 20th-century motorcycle at one key moment, where he goes full Steve McQueen in the Great Escape is a highlight. 


If there's an area in which the film disappoint, it's in the choice of bad guy. For all his faults Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan was a glorious highlight of Into Darkness. Krall after an amazing entrance worthy of a master villain retreats to the edges of the movie. His motivations are unclear and his machiavellian grand plan somehow shady. Until the third act, no spoiler, but wait and see. 


I have to pay a tribute to Anton Yelchin work as Chekov because we've come - through the course of two films - to love and appreciate his character. He did an inspired job of making Chekov's face match his heavily accented words, demonstrating his light comic touch. Yelchin as honoured in the closing credits with a simple "For Anton", slyly disappeared inside this role and in that very act of disappearance, he was never more himself. 


Here is a movie where the emphasis is on good, old-fashioned fun, and that feels in a good way, almost like an extended episode of the Trek TV Show. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why director Justin Lin was handed the reins of the Star Trek series from the outgoing J.J Abrams. Justin Lin, director of four Fast & Furious entries, is a master at making vehicles fly through the air (here space), as Star Trek Beyond has a few of the most spectacular set pieces ever seen in the series. When the action starts, Lin is more than capable of handling it. Most notably in the extended sequence when the Enterprise is ripped to shreds by Krall's bee-like ships or the final battle. Which takes place in a Federation outpost, that looks like a mix of the Aristocratic Satellite in Elysium, the city of the future in Wall-E and an Apple Store. Those sequences are ones you won't soon forget. Finally, Lin gets the job done remarkably well and it's got a likable retro vibe that takes us right back to the TV series spirit. 


Overall, Trek isn't going to start challenging Wars as the dominant Star franchise, but there's plenty of evidence it could still prosper (see what I did there?). It also serves as a sensitive send-off for the both beloved Anton Yelchin and legendary Leonard Nimoy.

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