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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Star Trek Beyond

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly ramble about one of the movies I own.  The #1 blog on the Internet, according to my cousin whom I just saw at the last family reunion and admitted to reading it.  So...hi, Shane!  Anyway, today it's the better-than-expected Star Trek Beyond.  This is in my notes at November 13, 2016.

I had really low expectations going into Star Trek Beyond.  The bar was originally set pretty low thanks to Into Darkness, and then, that first trailer, with the Beastie Boys song and the dirt bike races, had me cringing.

Actually, I remember reading an interview with director Justin Lin about Beastie Boys and the dirt bikes.  According to Lin, he was kinda forced by the studio to put the dirt bikes in because he's "the Fast and the Furious guy."  (Lin directed Fast and Furious 3 thru 7.)  And as for the Beastie Boys, it was used in the first film in this reboot trilogy, so "it's canon now." 

For making the third film in this reboot franchise, there was a bit of a creative shake-up.  Since the first film was mocked as being J.J. Abrams' demo reel to do Star Wars, he is now off doing Star Wars, although he's still on-board as a producer and his company Bad Robot is still responsible.  Roberto Orci, who co-wrote the first two films, was working on the third film solo with plans to direct, but somewhere along the way, his take got jettisoned, and Mr. Lin was brought in as the director.  There was a lot of fuss about Lin directing because, as pointed out before, he's The Fast and the Furious guy.  But, as many pointed out, Hollywood doesn't have a lot of experienced blockbuster directors anymore, as most indie filmmakers seemed to be given a $200 million blockbuster for their second film these days.  So Lin was a man who brought experience. 

But what about a writer?  To pen this new Star Trek film, they turned to Scotty himself, Simon Pegg.  Seemed like an unusual choice, but let's not forget that Pegg first rose to fame as, not only the star of, but co-creator of Spaced, and he wrote many episodes.  He also co-wrote Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so he knows how to work the genre. 

And that added to the controversy, right?  In a few interviews, Pegg mentioned that the Orci project was dumped for being "too Star Trek-y."  How can a Star Trek film be too Star Trek?  The popular rumour has always been that Paramount saw the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and said, "Make a Star Trek movie like that!"

So, there was enough to be cautiously optimistic about when the film came out.  Although, I started worrying again when I heard that Rihanna theme song.  It came out around the same time as the Fallout Boy cover of Ghostbusters for that reboot, so while everyone was hating on that, i was standing in the corner going, "But...but...Star Trek films don't have pop theme songs." 

So I went into the theatre feeling pretty low.  And I came out surprised at how much I loved it!

The film opens, and the Enterprise is about halfway through its 5-year mission of deep space exploration.  A certain malaise is setting in over the crew.  Even Captain Kirk, who's starting to question why he does what he does.  With his birthday around the corner, and Kirk about to become officially older than his father, he laments, "He joined to make a difference.  I joined on a dare."  The Enterprise is about to make a supply stop at Yorktown, Starfleet's most remote and most technologically advanced starbase.  Here, Kirk seriously considers putting in for a desk job.

And that's not all.  Spock and Uhura's relationship has hit a rough patch again.  Acknowledging the real life passing of Leonard Nimoy, it's announced that Spock Prime has died, so Spock, too, is considering leaving the service to follow in Spock Prime's footsteps and re-building Vulcan. 

But all that changes when a mysterious escape pod escapes from a nearby nebula, and its pilot claims that her ship crashed on a planet in the nebula and are in need of rescue.  Using the old Star Trek trope of the Enterprise being the only ship in range, Captain Kirk and Spock go out on what could be their last mission together to rescue this ship. 

They enter the nebula and find the planet, but it's a trap.  The Enterprise is thoroughly and completely trashed by a mysterious swarm of ships, and our crew is stranded on the planet.  Kirk and Chekov wind up with the mysterious pilot who lured them here, Spock and Bones are stuck together, Sulu and Uhura become captives of the our villain, Krall, and Scotty ends up with Jaylah, a young woman who escaped from Krall and now leads a one-woman resistance.  It's a planet full of mysterious alien technology and even a long-lost Federation ship, the Franklin, which Jaylah has as her base.

Yeah, let's talk about the Franklin and Krall for a minute.  It's a classic Star Trek trope.  Highly decorated Starfleet officer finds mysterious abandoned alien technology, and is soon corrupted by the power it offers.  They introduce that the Franklin mysteriously disappeared about a hundred years before.  Its captain, Balthazar Edison, found the alien technology on this planet and used it to prolong his life, the technology transforming him into Krall.  Starting to feel abandoned by the Federation, who never rescued him, he vows vengeance.  But not just vengeance.  He thinks the Federation has grown stagnant through its peaceful ways, and by reigning down destruction on it, he can bring about its evolution.  It's a great concept, and a classic Star Trek way of doing things, but sadly, they don't really introduce this mystery until the start of the third act, when it feels a little tacked on.  I wish the mystery was woven a little more throughout the film, rather than just rushed through at the end. 

That being said, Jaylah is a great character, played by Sophia Boutilla.  She's got just the right amount of attitude without being annoying.  At first, she just wants their help to get off the planet and escape Krall, but before long, she's drawn into the fight, and the Enterprise crew becomes her new family.  She also kind of becomes this surrogate daughter for Scotty, and they develop a very nice relationship.  I hope they bring her back for the sequel.  She can take over for the sadly deceased Anton Yelchin. 

Anyway, on the planet, Spock and Bones get thrust together, and I gotta say, out of this entire reboot trilogy, this easily has the best Bones.  I was recently reading that Karl Urban felt like not coming back for this third film, because he felt Bones was marginalized in Into Darkness, and I kind of agree.  But Lin and Pegg pleaded for him to come back, and once Urban saw how they beefed up Bones's role, he was on board.  He's the cantankerous doctor we all know and love.  He knows when to drop his shields and be that empathetic ear.  Bones finally has something to do in this franchise, and it's glorious. 

And you know what?  When I saw the finished film, and I saw how the dirt bike race and the Beastie Boys worked into it, I was OK with it.  They took enough time to set this up and where it was going that it wasn't as bad as when it finally happened. 

Once again, Michael Giacchion delivers and amazing score.  I swear, when we first arrive at that alien planet, he's channeling a little bit of Jerry Goldsmith.  And the music when we arrive at Yorktown is just beautiful.  How come I don't own it yet? 

At the end of the day, I enjoyed Star Trek Beyond a lot more than I thought I would.  Yeah, it's kinda just a big dumb action movie, but Star Trek's done its fair share of big dumb action episodes.  So just roll with it, and you'll probably like it.

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