My take on…Star Trek Beyond (and the three-screen Barco Escape system)
This is the fiftieth anniversary year of Star Trek. It has been a big part of my life: Spock is one of my fictional heroes (along with Doc Savage and Kwai Chang Caine). There are several Star Trek related events in The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project.
So, naturally, my Significant Other and I watched Star Trek Beyond this weekend.
Before I talk about the movie, I want to talk about the way we saw it.
We saw it in “Barco Escape”.
It was one of the choices at our local movie theatre. We could have seen it in 3D, or in another digital format…but we chose to pay $3 extra per ticket to try out a new option.
In the theatre, there was the regular screen (a bit smaller than the largest screen, I think…and two more screens, angled at something like 30 to 45 degrees. You had the screen in front of you, and then two “wings”…sort of like giant goggles.
You can see it here:
The idea reminded me a great deal of the old Cinema 150 concept. I saw a movie in a Cinema 150 once (The Rocky Horror Picture Show): they took a 70 mm print and magnified it to make it cover the 150 degree curved screen…and it was a tad fuzzy at the edges.
Why 150 degrees?
I remember that it was supposed to cover all of your peripheral vision.
For the Cinema 150, it was effective, even though I still ended up turning my head from side to side some time, and seeing the edges. It was pretty immersive, though…sort of like primitive and “practical effect” VR (Virtual Reality).😉
Not as good.
The first issue is that the screens had very distinct edges where they met…there was no seam, like standing three decks of cards in their cases up on their long edges next to each other. That meant you were constantly aware of it…and that it interfered with the suspension of disbelief.
This may be a temporary installation, but it wouldn’t have been hard to have cloth cover those seams, so you didn’t see the shadows.
The other thing was that the additional screens were used intermittently, not all the time. It might be in a scene where a lot was happening…imagine a meteor storm. The two screens would have additional meteors…and then they would go dark again.
That was very distracting…and the people next to us felt the same way (we talked about it a bit afterwards). My SO, when I asked, also used the word “distracting”…and pointed out that there was no added value. You didn’t see something creep along the extra screen…you kind of can’t do that, since most people who watch the movie don’t have those screens…you can’t have that different an experience.
Bottom line: we wouldn’t pay extra for Escape again.
Now, the movie itself:
While I’m not going to spoil specific plot turns, I am going to say some things which you might prefer to wait to read until after you’ve seen the movie, so
MILD SPOILER ALERT
Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty in the new continuity) co-wrote this movie (along with Doug Jung). Pegg has done brilliant work in the past (I’m especially fond of Shaun of the Dead and Spaced), and clearly knows Star Trek inside out (it’s worth noting, Pegg also appeared in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie…and was given special thanks).
That had given me hope for a strong entry, and I had been hearing it was like the original series (still my favorite).
While there aren’t false notes, it didn’t feel much like TOS at all.
The key thing is that this is pretty much non-stop action…we are in crisis mode virtually the entire movie.
That means that there is really very little strategic thinking, or philosophizing…yes, there are tactical decisions, but what might have been ten minutes of a TOS episode was basically the entire movie.
Also, people are clearly good or bad. No one seems at all unsure about their motivations…there is some mulling about future actions, but no consideration about what current actions might mean.
I miss that.
I also miss them having conversations…or there being a real mystery.
That’s why we thought of TOS as being like literary science fiction…it wasn’t just visual with snappy repartee, it got you thinking.
There was one bizarre scene…I’m still not sure what they were trying to do. Early in the movie, there is a scene between McCoy and Kirk. It clearly appeared to me that this was after the death of Chekov. I appreciated that…a way to pay respects to the current actor who played Chekov, Anton Yelchin, who recently died tragically.
Dr. McCoy has a bottle of alcohol, which he says he “found” in Chekov’s locker. If a crewmember had died, naturally, the locker would be cleaned out…and items would be found. Otherwise, why would McCoy be in Chekov’s locker…and take something?
When they drink they pour into an “absent friend’s” glass…another way to pay respect to a colleague who has died.
However, Chekov is in the rest of the movie.
Ambassador Spock (not Mr. Spock), played by Leonard Nimoy in this continuity, has died (reflecting the heart-rending loss of Leonard Nimoy recently)…but that doesn’t appear to be known to them at this point in the story, from what I recall.
Why the absent friends toast? Why steal from Chekov? I don’t know.
In terms of the acting and the characterizations generally…Karl Urban nails McCoy again, and that’s not an easy character. I like Zachary Quinto, I like his performance as Spock…but I’m not crazy about this version of Spock, who is a lot more emotional and isn’t struggling with two halves. It makes him as confident as the rest of the world (with the possible exception of some of the Bridge crew) thought the TOS Spock was…but we knew better.
Chris Pine, who I also like, is having a lot of fun as Kirk…Shatner would, I think, of loved playing an early scene. That does work, even if it isn’t quite like what we saw on TOS most of the time (it’s like every episode was A Piece of the Action). That’s fine, though…it is an alternative timeline.
I like Uhura in TOS a lot better…in this series, she seems to be largely defined by her relationship with Spock, where in the original series she was a powerful, independent person.
Sofia Boutella, as new character Jaylah, is charismatic. However, the character will seem quite a bit like Rey in The Force Awakens to many…she’s been on her own, scavenging from a crashed ship, and is a powerful warrior. Obviously, that’s not enough to say it is a derivative character, and I could certainly believe that it was conceived before the release of The Force Awakens…but some people will see similarities.
Idris Elba is already at the top of our
list (with roles in Zootopia, The Jungle Book, and Finding Dory, to mention three), and this will only cement that position.
I wouldn’t say that there was much that especially stood out about Elba’s big bad role of Krall, though. It was also quite jarring to hear him refer to Kirk as “my old friend”…when it appears they have just met. I’m guessing that’s an homage to Khan in the Wrath of Khan, who says the same thing, but it made sense there: they had a history.
END SPOILER ALERT
I enjoyed seeing the movie, but it was really one long CGI fest, where combat scenes vastly dominate over character scenes. For that reason, it didn’t feel much like a 1960s Star Trek episode, but it wasn’t an affront to that legacy, either.
Generally, I think most people will enjoy it…I just suspect we haven’t seen the best of this new crew yet, and I hope people also watch TOS (although, you know, don’t start with the third season…that’s another whole story).😉
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