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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Third time's the charm: My thoughts on what we saw tonight

Let's make one thing clear right away: Since we've all seen the third one by now, I feel that I may speak freely without fear of giving away any of the major surprises.

My basic reaction? Now this is more like it.

For the first time, I feel truly comfortable with the new actors playing these iconic roles. Although I'll never accept the Spock/Uhura romance -- and I question the scenes in which Spock lets his human side show -- the series has finally returned to form. This is a wine of the old vintage. And yet, paradoxically, this story seems new, with fresh characters, unusual situations and alien technology that seems truly alien. This story doesn't just rehash ideas lifted from older films in the franchise; for the first time in the rebooted Trek universe, we go where no previous film in the series has gone before.

Well -- perhaps not entirely. Early on, a Federation bigwig tells Kirk that there's only one ship in the fleet more sophisticated than the Enterprise. If you've ever seen a Star Trek movie before, you know what that means -- especially if you can recall how the fourth film ended.

(I was reminded of a moment from the first act of 1971's Waterloo, when Veronica De Laurentiis -- Giada's mom -- tells the Duke of Wellington to bring her fiance home safe and sound. The poor guy might as well have had a skull and crossbones superimposed over his head.)

Although most of us take CGI wizardry for granted these days, the visualization of Starbase Yorktown wowed even this jaded sensibility. For the first time, Trek explores the true possibilities of artificial gravity, introducing us to a planetary environment in which sideways is topways is bottomways, depending on where you happen to be standing and what you happen to be looking at. I loved it. If the film had spent two hours giving us cool shots of Yorktown, I'd have come away with a smile.

The new character, Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella), is a magnificently realized female warrior: Formidable, but still recognizably human -- or at least humane. She reminded me of Wonder Woman. Actually, Jahlah seemed more Wonder Woman-ish than did the Wonder Woman who showed up in the recent Superman/Batman film. One of the most charming things about both Diana Prince and Jaylah is their unfamiliarity with "normal" society: These godlike women have studied us, and they want to help us -- but they are not really one of us. They often stumble when they try to fit in, and when they do, it's kind of adorable.

I was also charmed by the decision to pair off the lead characters in separate-but-related storylines; structurally, the middle section of the film reminded me of The Two Towers. Scotty (who may be sweet on Jaylah) has more to do than ever before. No surprise there: Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, co-wrote the script.

For once, Kirk doesn't get all the action, although the most important character arc is his. This is a film about a team, not about the captain.

The film's greatest fault is one it shares with all modern action films: Fear of words, fear that too much talk will alienate an audience of Attention Deficit Disorder sufferers. Too often, the film-makers rely on presumption to do the work of explanation. For example, I was never clear on which "bee" ships were drones and which were piloted by the aliens. The film never bothers to explain how an earth man could become one of the aliens, or how he ascended to a leadership role, or why the Big Scary Alien Guy reverts to a more-or-less human look at the end.

The bee armada is defeated by a plot device borrowed -- I kid you not -- from Mars Attacks. This time, they play things seriously. But how, exactly, is this trick supposed to work? Why can't the bad guys simply shut off the radio or change the frequency?

The final battle is visually stunning but not as thrilling as it could be, because we often lack a clear notion of what is going on.

In short: The film's phobic reaction toward expository dialogue often does injury to basic comprehension. What this movie needs is an extra ten minutes -- ten minutes of talk. Sure, modern audiences might get the fidgets during those dialogue scenes, but what of it? Modern audiences should switch to decaf.

All in all, Beyond is the best Trek film since Wrath of Khan -- and perhaps the best ever. A welcome surprise.

By the way: As you might have guessed, my ladyfriend and I did not go out for a drive this evening. She caught a bug that's been going around. We decided to stay home and fire up a movie.

So tell me: What did YOU watch? Anything interesting? Did it feature a big, scary alien bad guy?
What heresy have you committed? Liking a JJ Trek movie is akin to being a Deplorable. I hated the first one for its science mistakes and its general plot stupidity, and the reimagined characters were too far out of the loop of Star Trek to work for me. I have not watched another one since then and have no plans to see any of them-- unless there's a scene where JJ's balls are eaten by a Tellarite.

Oh and Clinton kicked ass.

You evidently saw a different film of the same name as the "Star Trek Beyond [Redemption]" I saw. Actually, I can only assume so, as I remember almost nothing about it other than how godawful and inconsequential it was. I turned it off halfway through the first time I tried to watch it. A couple of nights later, it was being screened for a friend's birthday; I made it to the point where they turned off the cameras, but found I loved it none the more.

But thank goodness for Disqus. Here's my comment on the Atlantic's review from July:

[Reviewer David] Sims clearly saw a different film than the godawful piece of horseshit, to use a metaphor with which the writers and director are familiar, I switched off about halfway through. [Director Justin] Lin managed to elicit the antithesis of performance from his cast -- who, frankly, gave the material every drop of sincerity and professionalism it deserved. (It's not so much a screenplay as it is a two-hour flashcard review of ill-advised action film tropes -- much like the [Fast and Furious] franchise, now that I think of it. To describe it as 'pandering' makes it sound far more competent than it actually is.)

About the only positive comment I can dredge up is that after watching it I feel much friendlier towards 'Into Darkness.'

[added a few minutes later]

And, oh God -- that fucking score! It might as well have been just a random collection of orchestral hits clipped from [composer Michael] Giacchino's earlier works. There's no way anyone could possibly believe this was the composer's 120-somethingth score rather than a B+ senior project at an arts magnet high school.

All-in-all, the film is clearly the most soul-less, least engaging, and fundamentally unnecessary effort I've had the misfortune to witness in years.

(Oooh... It's starting to come back to me, now.) Last summer, I couldn't understand the positive response this calamity was receiving. 'STB,' Donald J. Trump, and 'Luke Cage,' all beyond comprehension.
Alex Jones says Hillary Clinton is literally a demon.
This might be the most controversial thing you've ever posted.

I don't mind the Spock/Uhura romance, it's not entirely contradictory to the original. I don't like the portrayal of Spock, but I don't like the portrayal of almost any Vulcan. Too often they come across as petulant and passive-agressive, when they should come across and confident and aloof, maybe somewhat sardonic. Mark Lenard and Leonard Nimoy being the exceptions. Tim Russ had his moments, I suppose.

Of course in this version, none of the characters have any real connection to their originals, and the dialogue seems to have come from someone who has never seen any of the Original Series or the films. I cringed at almost every line.

The fourth film, like this one, ends with them getting a new ship. Not sure what that has to do with there being one more sophisticated ship, though. They didn't get destroyed by the Excelsior, or whatever its equivalent in this timeline would be (too early for Excelsior, probably something based ont he Vengeance).

I didn't like Starbase Snowglobe. CGI and artificial gravity shenanigans were interesting enough when Babylon 5 did them, but it's 2016 now. This one just seemed to be an excuse for stupidity. Saying Fed member worlds would get upset if the Enterprise landed on one of the others, Uhurock romance drama, gayifying Sulu, all this nonsense that shouldn't have been there in the first place. And the Nebula was silly too.

I didn't mind Jaylah. The middle of the film was the best part. the start was boring. The end was stupid.

The villain became an alien by using the alien life-extension technology, he reverted to looking human so the audience could find out he was the captain of the Franklin, and I think the drones all had pilots, who captain Alien-Face had captured and enslaved. I didn't actually get any of that from the movie, it's from other people talking about it and my own guess work. But plot, right, who cares? Look, Kirk's riding a motorbike!

About standard quality for the reboot films. Not as good as most of the previous films, but not as bad as The Final Frontier or maybe Nemesis.

Nowhere near as good as First Contact, let alone Wrath of Khan.

Listened on my way home from work and caught the end on TV. Hillary looked radiant. Donald reminded me of Pee Wee Herman in character when he spouted "you're the puppet!" He might have well as whined, "I know you are but what am I?!" I think his worst mistake was interrupting Hillary while she was simply stating a fact about him: "You're a nasty woman." I think that will become netlore.

The most amusing was how Donald would repeat "bad" whenever he said the word, as if doubling down on preschool lingo is the equivalent of coming up with more damning language. "They're bad, bad people. Really bad hombres."

Compare to Riverdaughter's eloquent put down, written when she was dog-tired: "It’s almost as if Donald and his antebellum retinue simply can’t wrap their heads around a self-actualized woman who is beating their asses and threatening to bring extinction on their party. Can a woman with that much experience, confidence and momentum really ignore the feckless attempts at yumiliation Donald and his boys are planning? Um, yeah."

I wish to make "antebellum retinue" a go-to.

Yep, see Skydancing and this :
When will the Star Trek writers acknowledge that in a starship there would be no "night" and "day." People would work in shifts without reference to Earth's rotation.
I love star trek

I have always thought of Trump/Pence as Kirk/Spock

Hillary/Kaine is really Spock/Scotty
When will Star Trek notice that shifts on a star ship will not be related to Earth's rotation period. People will not go to bed at "night;" there will be no "end" of the "day."
Well, I haven't seen the latest "Star Trek" movie yet, but if it's anything like the previous two, I don't see any pressing need to get to it any time soon. The previous two were pretty much like every hollywood film these days......tons of unconvincing CGI, paper thin dialog that make soap operas read like Shakespeare, and plenty of big explosions (also CGI) to distract you from the fact that there is hardly any story and that the actors are all second rate hacks.

No, I don't care for these new Star Trek films that have no relation to the previous incarnations. I'd say Star Trek VI and Nemesis were far superior movies in most ways, and I didn't really think those were very good at all.

As to the debate, my significant other had it on but I couldn't stand to hear either of their voices or their complete avoidance of anything of substance, yet again. God help us if either of these two becomes President ;-)
Humans are evolved for 24-hourish cycles and will therefore still need sleep and shifts.

I'm watching Adam Curtis' new documentary, HyperNormalisation.
@Stephen Morgan - Does 24-hourish cover the lunar day of 24 hours and 50 minutes? I heard someone opine that we are attuned to that period and that's why some people have to make a big effort to get up in the morning. Wasn't convinced, though.

As for the US election, one big question is whether the Trump team, especially Roger Stone, will conduct fire attacks or even bombings to assist their candidate. It is possible. This is way beyond the Tea Party.

There may be a question mark as to what level of violence Trump will want to make use of, or spark off, if he loses. But although I think Russian intelligence own a big share of the man and that they would welcome doing an "Arab Spring" - or a "Balkanisation"? probably a new word or phrase is needed - on the US after a Clinton victory, I still think Trump would rather win than lose, if for no other reason than the prospect that losing the contest will probably smash his brand. He needs a stunt.

b, Trump has a 'movement' happening and he won't be getting off it. Should he lose the election he'll just morph it into something else, a kind of ostensible 'government in exile'. He can call for street protests and other civil disorder and if the authorities clamp down then that's just grist for the mill -- 'proof' that the authorities are in the pocket of the evil Clinton. It's a very difficult thing for most ordinary people to get their heads around the operating mechanisms of a narcissistic personality. So much of their rude behavior appears as an otherwise disarming excess of self-confidence (witness media heads falling prey to this one, bending over themselves to explain away his boorish behavior). His fans and excusers fail to register on the critical psychopathology -- that the narcissist lives by an internal ego script that insists that others are worthless and must be subjugated. Only when it is too late will his followers and excusers discover that this guy is just plain dangerous.
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