Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Generic franchise title: beyond what? An uncrowded theatre welcomed us yesterday. We considered going Sunday but off day Monday worked well.

The upcoming films look downgoing. Tom Cruise again asserts an image of invincibility with an apparent rash, yes, rash of fight scenes of complete improbability. It keeps getting said that Cruise does all his stunts. Bullshit or not, it suggests an overweening self-concupiscence. Plus video game glory in murderous mayhem. Really, screw that! His name is mud.

That nugget was followed by Matt Damon likewise, as Jason Bourne. Previous Bourne movies have been pretty good, not for the fight scenes but the narrative tension. The highlights yesterday stressed fight scenes but maybe some narrative tension remains in the franchise.

There were two, yes, two films that were based on true stories. Snowden, and something about apparent frat boys as big time gun runners. Oliver Stone directs Snowden, so it will pretend to be journalistic while clearly taking a side. The frat boys looks like it was made for frat boys. Now Ben Hur… I never read the book or saw the Charlton Heston film, but it looks like Gladiator so I’m all in.

Beyond begins with Kirk looking restrained and official, like he got old on us. He’s on a diplomatic mission with some cgi creatures. The diplomacy immediately goes comically bad and ends with the creatures swarming him and him getting beamed out. No worries!

Really, Chris Pine completely out-shatners Shatner. Bemused yet heroic, and comfortably so, he wears the role well while remaining an actor, not an icon. Shatner was never more than Hollywood okay.

From there, things go dim for me, narrative-wise. The problem is that much of the expositionary parts explaining why things are happening are shouted in the midst of action scenes. I couldn’t track it all. Especially as the screen is so visually active with stuff going on, and noises. Much of it exceeded my processor speed. Your mileage may vary.

For the most part, my lack of understanding didn’t matter. The ensemble is really good together, with lots of wry, dry comments of hearty yet likely humour. The action scenes certainly are active.

So the Enterprise sets out on a rescue mission at the behest of some captain or something. They encounter an alien ship that pulverizes the Enterprise with pokeballs, I believe. It looks like 99% of the crew dies, except for a handful of captives and our headliners. There’s even a point where it looks like Kirk will have to sacrifice himself to save the crew, just like his father did. In the event, the headliners all escape using pods. They land scattered on the planet below.

Spock and Bones land near each other. Spock is injured. They spend a while bantering, then head off knowingly to somewhere. Sulu and Uhura end up together, I forget how. Scotty lands on a cliff edge, we see him hanging by one hand. Later it appears he has made it to the bottom of the cliff without utilizing the falling protocol. Must have been a considerable hike. Here he is met by some aliens (natives, actually) who are about to kill him. Then appears a warrior woman, almost deus ex machina. Some sort of flashing business makes her difficult to fight, so she vanquishes the aliens. She befriends Scotty, or the other way around. They go back to her place. Her name is Jayla.

Her place turns out to be a long lost federation ship. Alone, she’s trying to defeat the perp who attacked the Enterprise earlier. Gad, it is confusing. She joins the good guys, when they finally, and somehow, get back together.

I didn’t mench that the captain who sought Federation help turned out to be traitorous. I think the Enterprise crashed on top of her. Her crew had been captured by Kraal, the same who attacked the Enterprise, and she was trying to save them, even while selling out the Enterprise crew. Oh well.

Kraal has been doggedly seeking a thing-a-ma-jig that I dunno who originally found. Turns out the thing is a key part to a super-destructive thing. Kraal wants that thing, so he can destroy everything, something like that.

After much battling, our heroes defeat Kraal’s forces. Kraal escapes, heading towards the space station whence the story began, bearing his Destructo-thing.

The gang manage to get the ancient ship into the air and back to the mondo space station. Kraal unleashes his remaining forces and his pokeballs at the station. By broadcasting the song “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys (redux from the first reboot), the good guys jam the ships and pokeballs. That leaves a last battle between Kirk and Kraal. I was thinking maybe Kirk would lose...

I never made out how the leap was made that Kraal, who I was thinking might be a Klingon, was actually the captain of the ancient ship. And he had the ability to change his appearance radically. Everything rushes by.

So narratively, I think the movie was messy. It doesn’t matter to me, really. I’m not much interested in the development of the canon. Some of the fight scenes are exaggerated but somehow don’t seem so woefully stupid as the Cruise vehicle. It’s Cruise’s self-satisfaction that annoys me. He likes the imagery too much. Kind of Donald Trumpish, don’t you know.

As a villain, this Kraal falls well below the level of those in the first two reboots. He’s just a crazy angry guy. The evocation of the space station, well, that’s what I’m here for. And the dialogue.

Jayla, who was a pretty good character, ends up a space cadet. Tho alien in appearance, she didn’t have to wear a football helmet to indicate her alien heritage. Likely she will appear in the next blockbuster. Better start worrying what the next one will be about.