STAR TREK: BEYOND
Star Trek: Beyond comes out on the fiftieth anniversary of the original series. Here J.J, Abrams steps back to take a producing role and has passed the directorial reins over to Justin Lin. Lin is Taiwanese born but grew up most of his life in the US. After three indie films, Lin gained attention as director of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), the third in the film series, and went on to make the next three films in the series with Fast & Furious (2009), Fast Five (2011) and Furious 6 (2013). Elsewhere, Lin has produced the tv series Scorpion (2014 ) and has been associated with the remake of Highlander (1986) and a sequel to Space Jam (1996). The script for this film comes from co-star Simon Pegg, who plays Mr Scott but one should also remember wrote Shaun of the Dead (2004), Paul (2011) and The Worlds End (2013), among others. Pegg inherited the job after Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the two Abrams Star Trek films, proved difficult and was removed from the job after angling to turn it into his own directorial debut. (Notedly, the film comes produced by Kurtzmans writing partner Roberto Orci but he is nowhere in sight).
It says something sad about what the Star Trek franchise has become when to celebrate the series fiftieth anniversary Paramount chose to make a new film (great idea) and then selected as the person to helm it not someone who comes steeped in science-fiction and genre history but a director whose only fame comes from the Fast and the Furious franchise. Now, while I have no wish to knock the Fast and the Furious films, they are aimed fairly and squarely at the male 18-24 demographic and come with an emphasis on fast cars, cool, simplified heroics, hot-looking guys and spectacular vehicular stunts. None of these are things that immediately come to mind when you think back at the original Star Trek. They are however exactly what you associate with the Star Trek reboot series.
In Justin Lins hands, what we have is essentially Star Trek: The Action Movie. This begins from fairly much from the moment The Enterprise leaves Yorktown (a very coolly designed Bernal Sphere by the way). Thereafter the film has been designed to do nothing more than keep providing a series of action and effects sequences. There is a spectacular and intensive set-piece with The Enterprise being invaded, torn into several parts and crashlanding on the planet. (The inherently spectacular nature of the sequence aside, blowing up The Enterprise yet again, which we also went through in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek: Generations (1994), is starting to get old hat. Its the cinematic equivalent of a Comic Book Death where a long-standing fixture or usually character of a series is killed in a massive rush of publicity, while the fans fully know that they will be revived not too far off in the future). Thereafter, the film propels us with little let up through a series of action sequences fighting and running through the halls of the crashed Enterprise, raising its wreck off the ground, Chris Pine on a motorcycle (why, well just because there is not a lot of logic as to why things happen in this film) and a climactic fight in and around a gravity control centre as the Yorktown is attacked.
What this is not is much in the way of Star Trek. Well the characters are there and imbued with many of the aspects that we expect of them. And certainly the new ensemble cast are starting to come together as a well-rehearsed unit in their third film. But what we have feels like a Star Trek that is now been run by the marketing department and sold to aforementioned 18-24 demographic. Its about relentlessly hurtling action and big spectacular effects, cool motorbike stunts, the cast exchanging snappy retorts. Where, you ask, in all of this is Gene Roddenberrys concept about confronting the alien, the lessons about contrasting different types of cultures and ways of life? Put it another way take what we have here and imagine it as an episode of TOS enacted by Shatner, Nimoy etc. The show wouldnt have the budget for massive displays of effects so it would have been stripped to an adventure about the crew stranded on a planet, hunted by an alien who wants an intergalactic McGuffin of ill-explained purpose (we never even get to learn how Kirk came to possess it) because [insert generic evildoer purposes]. Stripped of all the effects sequences, the script of the filmwould lack any substance to get it past the commissioning editor back in 1966. Star Trek the tv series created strong and original stories, Star Trek: Beyond only seems to know how to create action sequences.
The other Star Trek tv series are:- Star Trek (1966-9), the animated Star Trek (1973-5), Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1992-9), Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001), Enterprise (2001-5) and Star Trek: Discovery (2017 ). The classic Star Trek films are:- Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). Star Trek: Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) are film spinoffs from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
(Nominee for Best Special Effects at this sites Best of 2016 Awards).