Sunday, August 14, 2016

Star Trek: Beyond *Review* Spoilers!

When people ask me what TV-series I like I often start by saying "Star Trek". Sometimes I get a bit more precise and say that I like all of them a lot, but Voyager is probably my favorite because that is the first one I got really in to. Overall however I would have a hard time comparing them, eventhough I have been known to do so in the past, as I feel they are all very well done, worthwhile and bring their own ideas to the Star Trek Universe.

Of course I am also a big fan of most of the Star Trek movies. Yet again I would have a hard time picking a favorite - I am one of the few people who thinks the first Star Trek movie is brilliant (when it was revealed that V'Ger was actually the Voyager space probe I was completely amazed, it gave me a complete new sense of what kind of story telling sci-fi was capable of), I belong to one of many who thinks Star Trek: First Contact is one of the best sci-fi movies ever and I almost cried of joy (because the scene was so awesome, not because it wasn't sad as hell) when I watched the opening scenes of JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot (coincidentally all these three are the first of their lines). I was less enthusiastic about Star Trek Nemesis and to be honest I don't consider Wrath of Khan all that entertaining - there, I said it. It was a while ago since I watched Star Trek 3-6 so I get them all a bit confused and jumbled in my head, but my overall memory is still one of getting the Star Trek feeling from them. So they're not all great movies, but at least you've got the characters and the Star Trek core still feels present in all of them. Until now.

This week I went and saw Star Trek: Beyond and I don't want to say it's a bad movie, although I think deep down that is really what I think about it, but what is almost worse than that - it didn't really feel like a Star Trek movie. It completely failed to give me any Star Trek feeling, and I was almost angry when I left the cinema. A lot about the Star Trek universe can be silly and goofy (more about that shortly) but this movie just ended up feeling plain stupid to me.

It didn't start out well with the opening scene. As I watched it unfold I remember my thoughts being "oh sweet mercy, I hope this isn't setting the mood for the rest of the movie because I don't know what I even just witnessed". That scene was just ridiculous from beginning to end. I realize, and even thought about it as I saw it, that they tried to envoke the idea of the comic Star Trek, the Star Trek that gave us The Trouble With Tribbles (one of the best original ST episodes) but it fell so flat it was like when someone tries to be funny and you just end up feeling ashamed for them. That scene definitely had me worried for the rest of the movie.

If you haven't seen the Tribbles, you've missed out.

And unfortunately it just never got any better. Scene after scene I just ended up sitting there thinking "that's not a thing!" or "are they doing this, for real?" in exactly that ashamed-for-them kind of feeling. We're talking sci-fi here! I'm pretty damn lenient about what I allow in terms of imagination, but that doesn't mean it's ok to make scenes that just end up being completely laughable. Let me mention a couple of scenes that really grated on me and that felt like they had given them absolutely no time for thought, they were just shoved in for effect (if you think I have misinterpreted any of these scenes, feel free to explain them to me!);

  • When they jump from the ship, they make it look like they slide down and jump forward to escape the ship tumbling over. How is that even remotely possible considering the size of the Enterprise? Even if they were jumping in any direction they would've been smashed by the impact of being so close to something so damn huge. THEY ARE SLIDING DOWN A STARSHIP DAMN IT! IT'S HUGE! You just can't outjump that.
  • Not a scene per se, but the villain... where do I even get started. When his motivation for all his evilness was revealed at the end I just sighed, it was so silly. I'm not saying people haven't done worse things for less, but in the movie world that makes for a very boring villain. And it was. And he says things like "I've spent lifetimes looking for this thing" whereas Bones (or someone) says that the crew from USS Franklin must be 100 years by now. Hardly what I'd call "lifetimes" and besides, did he do all the searching from that planet in the  nebula? Was he hoping the doomsday weapon would just wander into his hands by waiting around? The fact that it actually does just proves the lazy writing.
  • Speaking of the doomsday weapon... they make it out to be so horrible, but using it seems way too difficult for it to be truly dangerous. Why does he have to spread it in the airways? Is it so that it acts faster? Because what would happen if it acts too slow? It just disappears? Or was Krall worried they'd find a way to counteract the effect? In either case, the weapon never ends up being anywhere near menacing enough to warrant all the kerfuffle and dread they're trying to make us feel about it.
  • In the first half of the movie they make it seem like the nebula is some ways off Yorktown (the name of which made me realize how horribly America-centric Star Trek can be, considering it's supposed to take place in a vast Universe full of species), yet when Krall launches his attack it looks like the nebula is just around the corner. If it is, then how is it possible that it has not been charted yet? Don't give me bull about how difficult it is to traverse, I find it unbelievable that they would choose to build such an important structure so close to a nebula that is completely uncharted.
  • As we're talking about bad decisions, why would you choose to send your best starship and crew into said nebula just because some alien you've apparently never even encountered before (assuming since they don't have their language on record) says they're in trouble in there? If that is how you go about things then you will not be a strong force to reckon with for very long - just look at what happens, which is exactly my point.
  • The exploding swarm, just... wtf. I'll admit the scene was somewhat cool, for about three seconds. But then I just couldn't understand why the heck they were exploding? I can understand that they'd be rendered useless, but does that make them explode? If they had explained it by saying something along the lines of "if they're rendered useless/cut off from the command centre they will self-destruct" then maybe (like they do in the anime Heavy Object), but we get nothing like that. To me this is like those scenes of vehicles exploding just for bumping into a tree.
  • Why is Jaylah saving Scotty? It seems like a very risky thing to do on a planet where everyone is against everyone and she is all alone. She doesn't even know he has any worthwhile skill or that he is human until after she has saved him.
  • Why is the fast-drying trap-goo breaking immediately when Jaylah knocks at it, but it can withstand gunfire/laserfire from the enemies?
  • The scene where Kirk drives around on the motorbike was just /faceplam. They choose the rockiest damn planet in the universe and think having him motorbiking around is going to look plausible? It would've been so easy to make that scene look less stupid, just make it less rocky!

I could probably go on all day, and some of these are just minor things I would normally not even care about. I'm usually not someone who gets all worked up about minor inconsistencies or bad scenes, but when basically every scenes is like this it just racks up and gets impossible not to notice or care about.

My face during the opening scene.

Worst of all though was all the squandering of characters this movie does. I didn't feel like a single character got any good screen time, not even the ones that actually had quite a lot of it, like Kirk and Scotty (weird that Pegg would give himself so much screen time btw). They're just there, delivering lines. None of the character development from the first two movies whatsoever. Most just feel underused, like Bones and Spock who don't get anything worthwhile to do. I had to think to remember what Sulu got up to in this movie. Some are there but are just not explained, like Manas. Who is he? What is he doing there? What the heck was he good for in the movie because he accomplishes nothing and could've basically been replaced by a big rock and it wouldn't have changed anything. Jaylah was alright though.

The movie almost had me intrigued for the first half, even with all the stupidity that was going on. I was almost ready to forgive it when they discovered Franklin and I felt like it might at least have a story-line that wraps up in a cool way. But no. In the end it was just one dumb scene after the next. Kralls line of reasoning could've made sense if they had given it more development, more time to sink-in, like they did with Khans (admittedly Khan has the benefit of being part of the series where he gets more explanation, I think this is needed for this kind of character that Krall in a way is trying to be). I never got the feeling that anything the characters did mattered, I only cared for them at all because they belonged to the universe I love so much. They don't say or do anything that comes off as funny or clever or even thought-through.

I'm sad too Elba...

Unlike the first movie (of this reboot trilogy), this movie completely failed in making me worry for the future of the Federation since I did not worry about Yorktown. The whole idea that the entirety of the Federation would be at risk because what happens at Yorktown was so badly explained that it never seemed like a real danger. It failed in making me awe for the villain like I did Cumberbatches Khan. Not because Elba lacks the charisma or potential, far from. I think he could've made a brilliant villain with better writing. It just makes me angrier knowing what Elba could've done with a better character. It failed in making me weep for the characters like the opening scene of the first movie. It failed in making me feel anything but disappointment, and probably the most disappointed I've ever been with a Star Trek movie exactly because the first two were so good. But even the less good movies of the past have been entertaining to watch, I have never regretted seeing any of them and would rewatch them anytime. This one, not so much.

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