Tag Archives: Star Trek Beyond

Review: Star Trek Beyond meets expectations

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SPOILER POLICY FOR THIS REVIEW: Most of the plot details I mention in this review are things we knew from the trailers (casting, fate of Enterprise, name of villain, etc.) I plan to talk a bit about the specifics of the Enterprise sequence, but I’ll avoid some details about the villain. The basics of Jaylah are discussed, as well as some of the cast pairings that happen in the middle section of the movie. If you’re spoiler sensitive, avoid this post until you’ve seen the movie. If you want a sense of what’s cool, what could have been done better, and whether you should go see this movie (you should), then read on.

Right from the first trailer and the announcement of this film’s director a lot of fans were worried that we were getting Star Trek: The Fast and the Furious, a generic action movie instead of true trek spirit we’ve come to know and love. Simon Pegg’s script and a lot of sly references do what they can to challenge that expectation and there are bits and pieces of something greater, but most of the middle section is exactly what we expected from Justin Lin. But the movie is still eminently watchable.

The fate of the Enterprise: There’s a real “oh sh-t!” moment early on in the sequence that my wife actually caught a few seconds before the rest of the audience. The design of the Enterprise throughout the decades has often been criticized for putting the nacelles on long delicate arms. And in Beyond we see the consequences of that choice. It actually takes a good ten or so minutes from initial battle till everything comes crashing down as the Enterprise is picked apart by a swarm of ships unlike anything they’ve ever encountered. Most Trek battles are naval engagements, two heavy cruisers duking it out until one is victorious. The swarm of enemy ships in this movie is a force of nature, one that will be next to impossible to defeat. Everyone gets a good moment, from Scotty’s clever escape, to Uhura’s battle with the baddie, to Kirk saying a last goodbye to the bridge. Everything up through this moment is the Trek we love.

Let’s wander around on a planet for a while: There was a lot of potential in the middle act of this movie, and we get glimpses of it through some character beats. Most of the crew is picked off by Krall and huddled together in cells pretty early, but a few are able to escape on their own or with a buddy. We see some traditional and unexpected pairings here: Kirk and Chekov, Spock and McCoy, Scotty and Jaylah. There’s some real potential for interaction and character development in these sequences, but the best we get (as expected) is Spock and McCoy. Their grudging respect for each other is explored, as well as Spock dealing with a big loss. I’ve been a fan of Urban’s McCoy and feel like he’s been underused until this movie. The Kirk and Chekov stuff is all action, and Scotty and Jaylah are mostly played for laughs. Uhura, Sulu, and rest of crew in Krall’s camp is less compelling, though Uhura’s one-on-one’s against the villain aren’t bad.

New life-forms: Jaylah’s a nice character. She’s got a cool character design. Her outfit’s not exploitative. She’s shown as being a capable engineering novice and a fighter. She calls Kirk “James T.” Overall, not a bad effort. Simon Pegg mentioned on Late Night with Seth Meyers that her name comes from her script designation (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone) and I don’t know if we would have made more of a connection with this character if it was actually Jay Law. Her development is a little lacking, but I look forward to seeing how potential future movies use her (or at least the comic books).

Ordering off the menu: Idris Elba on the other hand, is buried in the makeup and that voice he put on for this movie. Whatever you think of Cumberbatch’s Khan, you were getting everything that actor had to offer as a sympathetic villain. There’s so much we could have gotten from Idris, even just from his voice, that his slow, spittle-spewing performance didn’t give us. On Fallon, Idris remarked that you didn’t really have to act when you looked like his character, which makes me wonder why they used someone as talented as him for the role. If you hadn’t told me it was Idris, I wouldn’t have known for much of the movie.

Callbacks: The trek references in this movie were largely from one of the least popular series: Star Trek: Enterprise. There were a lot of good TOS refs as well. The Enterprise callbacks make sense, since technically the prime and Abrams (Kelvin) timelines share that common ancestry. There was one choice of music in a sequence toward the end of the movie that came off as very hokey, especially considering what it was being used to do. That was probably the most Fast and Furious the movie got. Yes, I know that First Contact used “Magic Carpet Ride” in a sequence, but it made way more sense in context than the moment in Beyond. The best moments are the movie’s tribute to Leonard Nimoy, which is handled with more than just a title card. There’s a moment at the end that really connects with Trek’s 50 year legacy.

Raise the stakes: Star Trek (2009) destroyed Vulcan mid-movie. It’d be hard for any movie to rise to that level without repeating itself. Into Darkness did it with a personal character death, Pike being killed by Khan early on. Beyond does shock us early on with the Enterprise attack, but the actual threat of the movie seems relatively minor. Most of our villain’s violence, and the devastating power of his weapon, is implied not shown. The thing to protect is largely significant because it looks cool and has a lot of people on it (oh and Sulu’s husband and daughter who we’ve never seen before, and never talk to). I’m not sure how you correct this point, but since there was less connection with earlier movies or Trek lore, it seemed more generic in a building-smashy way than the previous films.

Bottom-line: The movie is fun. There’s a lot of laugh lines. The space action sequences are superb. The planet stuff is more generic, but still fun. We’re back to the curse of the odd numbers, but if you think about it, only 1 and 5 are real stinkers. 3, 7 and 9 are all very watchable. I think Beyond actually most resembles 9 though without the romantical time-freezing bits. It’s definitely still in the top third of Trek movies. I doubt you’ll hate it, and you definitely will want to see it in the theater.

Just maybe go for the matinée.

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Your Essential Star Trek Beyond Comics Checklist

Star Trek Beyond comes out later this week, and all this week on the blog I will be celebrating my life-long love of Star Trek (as if I really needed the excuse).

Did you know that Star Trek comics are canon? To be specific, we’re talking about the Star Trek Ongoing and Countdown related series which are supervised by Roberto Orci. Gone are the days of having to ret-con a recovered Spock off his own ship back to mind-melded confusion (re: the effect of Star Trek III and IV on DC’s Star Trek Volume 1). We even occasionally get a mention in the new movies of events in the comics. Did you hear that throwaway line about “The Mudd Incident” in Into Darkness? That was for the comics nerds. All one of us.

Who knows if any of this stuff is going to affect Beyond. Probably not, but here are some comics that should at least get you in the mood for the new movie.

The Legacy of Spock (Star Trek Ongoing Issues 55-58): This is a fitting elegy to Leonard Nimoy, bridging the gap between the end of the 2009 Star Trek movie and the establishment of the new Vulcan colony. Turns out the Vulcans want to colonize Seti Alpha V, which prime Spock knows is a bad idea because it’s going to become a hellish wasteland when Seti Alpha VI explodes (see TWOK). But the Vulcans aren’t too eager to listen to Spock as there are more than a few who blame him for failing to stop Nero and the destruction of their home. Spock becomes an exile and is forced to rely on unlikely allies to save the last of his people from themselves, and from two remaining members of Nero’s crew who get their hands on the last few drops of red matter. There are some great cameos from characters from both TOS and TNG and the last few pages of 58 might even bring a tear to your eye. (The latest issue, 59, has new Quinto Spock waking up in Nichelle Nichols Uhura’s bed. Scandal.)

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Star Trek Manifest Destiny: A limited series similar to the two countdown series that preceded the prior two movies. The events of this will probably have little affect on the plot, but the tone appears similar with a vicious enemy taking over the ship. You can read my review from a few weeks ago here. Read 53-54 on Ongoing as well to get a lead-up story to the Kai character.

Star Trek Starfleet Academy: I’ll probably review this later this week, but this series bridges two timelines, the early academy days of Uhura, Spock, and Kirk and a crew of new recruits competing in the academy’s 100 year celebration a few years later. In the past Uhura stumbles across a transmission from a lost NX class ship and risks her academy career to find out the truth about a possible mutiny. In the present a Vulcan student is torn between her desire to join the rest of her people to preserve her race, and her wish to continue a career in Starfleet. She’s teamed up with a diverse set of students, including a race that is just learning verbal communication which leads to some great comedy. The new team stumbles upon Uhura’s research and possibly even the lost ship. The series explores the early ups and downs of the Spock/Uhura relationship, and does a nice job of integrating NX ships and Star Trek: Enterprise into the Ongoing series (both these elements look to be explored in Beyond as well).

Star Trek/Green Lantern – The Spectrum War: Hear me out on this one. Even though the reviews of Beyond are turning out to be favorable, it’s probably wise to not let your expectations get too high. If the movie is only so-so, at least you’ll be able to say it was better than this sin against nature. Sadly at some point I still need to review this for NetGalley.

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Star Trek Vol 9: The Q Gambit: Another run I’ve previously reviewed. The high-water mark of the whole Ongoing series. Much better than their frankly disappointing attempts at Mirror-Mirror. Check out my review here.

If you have time for only one, read Starfleet Academy. It’s tonally the most fun, and serves as a nice bridge between all parts of the current new Trek Trilogy.

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Review: Star Trek – Manifest Destiny

Star Trek: Manifest Destiny

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Writers – Mike Johnson & Ryan Parrot, Artist – Angel Hernandez

Prior to the release of each of the new Trek films IDW has released a four-issue “Countdown” series. The first Star Trek: Countdown fleshed out the character of Nero and tied the universes of old Star Trek canon with the Abrams-verse*. Countdown to Darkness, perhaps in part because it couldn’t reveal anything about Khan, is a weaker tale of Robert April still implausibly being able to use his old command codes to take over the Enterprise. Its only tie to the movie is Mudd’s ship from “The Mudd Incident” i.e. Countdown to Darkness. While Manifest Destiny isn’t explicitly a countdown series, it’s doing some of the same work of setting the tone for the new movie.

It seems a little odd that this was split off as its own tale, as what we’re really getting is another continuing adventure of the Pine-Kirk crew following Issue #54 of the Ongoing series. While Manifest Destiny was running, Issues #55-58 of Ongoing had its own mini-series, Legacy of Spock, following the events of Prime Spock between 2009 Trek and Into Darkness (incidentally this is the tale the earlier Spock: Reflections wishes it could have been). It would have made more sense to me to have Manifest Destiny as part of Ongoing, and to split off the Spock tale separately, but such are the vagaries of the comics industry.

As for the plot of Manifest Destiny it follows a light-skinned Klingon commander named Sho’Tokh (not the albino from “Blood Oath“, I checked) who is determined to seek glory at any cost, especially the cost of his own men. After luring the Enterprise in with a fake distress call, he begins an all out assault on the ship including a battle directly on the hull to gain entry (always cool in my book). The majority of the tale is spent with Kirk and crew fighting the Klingons from within the Enterprise, while McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu are captured by the Klingon crew. Turns out the Klingons aren’t too happy with their commander’s tactics, with letting them be killed and all, and want the Enterprise crew to help them defeat Sho’Tokh before he gets them all killed.

IDW’s Trek tales have never had problems with the visuals. We get good likenesses of the whole crew, great Klingon ship designs that are a blend of new movie sensibilities and classic design, and the Enterprise looks as good or better than it does on screen. The fight scene on the hull of the ship is too closely drawn to feel like we’re out in space, and I don’t think the Bat’leth needed a redesign, but that’s a taste thing. I’ve never been a fan of the Klingons from Into Darkness, but I do get that they’re trying to blend what we saw in Next Gen with TOS sensibilities.

The story is serviceable, and sets up a tale of Kirk’s ship being overwhelmed by a superior and determined force which we’ll probably be seeing in Beyond as well. There’s a through-line of McCoy being disgusted with some old attitudes, then discovering that some Klingons aren’t just interested in killing, but this isn’t consistently handled. We do see McCoy and Uhura being capable in a fight which is always good.

The attack itself is brutal, tearing apart the ship and crew. We lose a character whose tale we were just served in #53-54 of Ongoing and Klingons are at their most animistic and brutal. We forget sometimes with the TNG and DS9 Klingons that they are a warrior race who have a killer nature. Not so here. In some ways this tale makes me wish that Klingons would have been a bigger threat in the movies than they actually are. Sho’Tokh is a little one-note, a little expository at weird moments, and undone largely by cowardice, but other Klingons are drawn with a sense of honor. Kudos to the person who included all the Klingon swearing (there were a few really deep cuts). Also we do see enough of Klingon medicine to know we would rather be treated at a bus-station.

This story is action-packed if not very heady. It’s better than Countdown to Darkness, but I doubt it will have much tie with the movie. There are a few character moments that won’t make sense to you if you haven’t been keeping up with Ongoing, but the tale is largely stand-alone. My favorite part of the whole series are the subscriber covers which I think is a neat idea even if some of you might consider them sacrilege:

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There’s also a Klingon variant which is basically just another way to get you to spend money unless you’re really a geek. Overall the series is worth a look as part of getting yourself in the mood for the new movie.

(3.5 Stars | 4 for the NetGalley rating. Better than some of the Countdown series and a higher mark than a lot of Ongoing, but still not IDW’s best)

*I am aware of the term Kelvin-verse and refuse to use it.

** Note: I received issue 1 from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Since I’m a collector, I now have all 4 and this review covers the whole series.

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