Star Trek Beyond

For F*** Magazine

STAR TREK BEYOND 

Director : Justin Lin
Cast : Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Genre : Action/Sci-Fi
Run Time : 123 mins
Opens : 21 July 2016
Rating : PG13 (Some Violence)

Star Trek Beyond poster          The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are marooned in the third instalment of the rebooted Star Trek movie series. It is three years into the Enterprise’s five-year deep space exploration mission, and Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) is beginning to feel fatigued. Kirk, Commander Spock (Quinto), Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Saldana), medical officer Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Urban), chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Pegg), helmsman Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu (Cho), navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov (Yelchin) and the rest of the ship’s crew arrive at the Federation’s new Yorktown space station for a well-deserved break. However, they are abruptly called into action again on a rescue mission, and are suddenly besieged by an unknown enemy. The ruthless alien Krall (Elba) is after an artefact held aboard the Enterprise, and stranded on the planet Altimid with no means of escape, the crew must fend for themselves. Luckily, they have the help of a warrior named Jaylah, who has a long-standing vendetta against Krall.

Star Trek Beyond Simon Pegg, Sofia Boutella and Chris Pine

The rebooted Star Trek films, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness in particular, have proven divisive amongst audiences. Stalwart fans of the originals 60s TV show decry the reboots as being too action-oriented and straying from the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi creation, while general audiences and the majority of critics have lauded the films for revitalising the franchise. Owing to his duties helming the seventh instalment of that other sci-fi juggernaut, J. J. Abrams passes the directorial baton on to Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame. Screenwriting duo Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who have not exactly been popular amongst fans, are replaced by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. Star Trek Beyond is very much a straightforward adventure, close enough to the spirit of the original series, while also showcasing the wham-bam action spectacle Lin has become known for.

Star Trek Beyond Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella and Karl Urban

Star Trek Beyond does feel a little scaled down from Into Darkness, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s still an epic sweep here: we’re treated to a jaw-dropping establishing shot of the gleaming, futuristic bauble that is the Yorktown space station, accompanied by a stirring, uplifting score from composer Michael Giacchino. The scene in which Kirk pulls off some rad motorcycle stunts did induce its share of eye-rolling when it was glimpsed in the trailer, but it doesn’t feel out of place in the movie itself. The climactic zero-g melee is reasonably inventive too. The destruction of the Enterprise is suitably intense and dramatic, but is marred by an overuse of shaky-cam, which affects most of the close quarters fights in the movie.

Star Trek Beyond Krall vs. Enterprise crew member

The biggest shortcoming here is the central villain Krall. One can’t help but feel that the layers of prosthetic makeup somewhat diminish Elba’s innately towering presence, and as a brutish baddie chasing a MacGuffin that our heroes have in their possession, he’s a somewhat generic action movie villain. Say what you will about the big twist in Into Darkness, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s performances was that film’s centre and was nothing short of electrifying. Yes, there is an element of mystery to Krall, but when his back-story is revealed, it can’t help but come off as underwhelming.

Star Trek Beyond Enterprise crew on the bridge

Fortunately, Star Trek Beyond makes excellent use of its returning characters. The cast for Star Trek ’09 remains one of the finest remake/reboot casts ever assembled, with each actor grasping the essence of those iconic figures without doing a mere impression. The camaraderie and banter amongst the crew continues to feel earnest. Urban’s cantankerous Bones has always been this reviewer’s favourite character in the rebooted films, and here, he gets to steal the show on multiple occasions, with Urban delivering several side-splitting lines. Pine is allotted multiple moments to be the dashing action hero, while Quinto masterfully parses the humour inherent in Spock’s obtuseness and the character’s dedication to the crew.

Star Trek Beyond Anton Yelchin, Chris Pine and John Cho

There has been considerable furore surrounding the decision to establish Sulu as gay in this continuity, with original Sulu actor George Takei himself being one of the biggest opposing voices. In the film, we see Sulu greeted by his husband and their young daughter as he arrives at Yorktown spaceport. It’s a sweet scene and is really no big deal. The passing of Leonard Nimoy, who originally played Spock and appeared in the first two reboot movies as Spock Prime, is handled with admirable sensitivity within the film. The ending credits include dedications to both Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, who recently died in a freak accident. We missed Spock Prime, and will definitely miss Chekov when the fourth film arrives.

Star Trek Beyond Sofia Boutella and Simon Pegg

Jaylah was apparently inspired by Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Winter’s Bone (say the name ‘Jaylah’ out loud). The character’s design is striking and Boutella, best known as Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service, possesses the requisite physicality to play the badass warrior. Unfortunately, the character can’t help but come off as a standard-issue tough, resourceful woman at times – a studio-mandated ‘strong female character’. That said, Jaylah feels like a natural addition to the Star Trek universe and allows Boutella to further exhibit the star quality which served her so well in Kingsman.

Left to right: Zoe Saldana plays Uhura and John Cho plays Sulu in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Star Trek Beyond is generally entertaining and thrives on the excellent chemistry this particular cast has fostered, but it does tend towards the generic. There aren’t too many surprises in store, but Lin’s valuing of the emotional beats in addition to the action does benefit the tone. It’s also reasonably self-contained, and newcomers unfamiliar with volumes of Trek lore won’t feel left out.

Star Trek Beyond Anton Yelchin and Chris Pine escaping explosion

Summary: Star Trek Beyond strives to reach a compromise between the feel of the original series and the rebooted films, generally succeeding in this regard. A lack of surprises and an uninteresting villain are made up for with entertaining character dynamics and well-executed action.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

TV Review – Scorpion

This Fall, CBS is debuting its new action drama series Scorpion (or, as the title card has it, ). The show will air in Singapore on RTL CBS Entertainment and I attended a screening of the pilot tonight.

Scorpion is created by Nick Santora, whose TV credits include The Sopranos, The Guardian, Law & Order, Prison Break and Lie To Me. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the screenwriters behind Star Trek (2009) who are showrunners on Sleepy Hollow, are executive producing. Also executive producing is Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame; he directed the pilot. Touted as being based on a true story, Scorpion is inspired by the life of self-proclaimed Irish genius Walter O’Brien. O’Brien hacked into the NASA computer system at age 13 and made an extradition deal with the Americans. This is dramatised in the opening scene of the pilot, which also features ineffective, creepy-looking de-aging makeup on Robert Patrick. Anyway, O’Brien went on to establish the Scorpion Computer Services company, using his expertise to solve cybercrimes. 

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the premise. It’s a team of high-functioning misfit super-geniuses whom the government calls on for help because nobody else is smart enough. It’s been described as The Big Bang Theory meets CSI. A tad late on the “nerds are cool” bandwagon there. O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) states in the opening voiceover that Einstein had an IQ of 165 and he has an IQ of 197. Most of us don’t run into “eccentric geniuses” on a daily basis, but they’re all over TV. Everything from Numb3rs to Sherlock has amply proven that audiences love a protagonist who’s that many steps ahead of everybody else. And then there’s the team: Trilby-wearing behaviourist Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas), mathematician and programmer Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham) and mechanical whiz Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong). They answer to stern Federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick), with whom O’Brien has a sour history. These are character types we’ve seen plenty of times before and character traits like Sylvester’s OCD are annoying rather than amusing. Of course, this being just the pilot, there’s probably room for meaningful character development and perhaps the bunch will grow beyond the caricatures they’re presented as in the pilot. 
Something I didn’t expect was how the show touches on the difficulties of raising a high-functioning kid. There’s a subplot involving diner waitress Paige Dineen (Katherine McPhee), a single mother who struggles with understanding and nurturing her extraordinarily gifted son. By the end of the episode, she joins the Scorpion crew as the “one normal member”, the de-facto heart of the team, if you will. There are moments in the pilot that are kinda sappy, but the connection that Walter shares with Paige’s son adds some warmth to the fast-paced techno-babble-driven proceedings. Of course, a romance between Walter and Paige is teased. It’s a fun cast and they seem to have decent chemistry together, but I need to see more to make a proper judgement. What is noteworthy is that Elyes Gabel’s portrayal of Walter O’Brien does not come off as arrogant and obnoxious, as “insufferable genius” types in TV shows are wont to, and that is to his credit. I’m calling Eddie Kaye Thomas’ Toby as the fan-favourite breakout character. 
In the pilot, the Scorpion Computer Services team is called upon to solve an emergency bug in the software at the LAX airport control tower, with the lives of hundreds of airline crew and passengers at stake. The series creators have promised a more realistic portrayal of hacking and computer systems than audiences are used to. I’m no expert, so I can’t vouch for the veracity of any of it, but at least there aren’t the floating, spinning graphics of Hackers and Swordfish. Any realism and grounding the show has flies out the window by the time the pilot’s denouement rolls around, but it flies out the window in a most entertaining fashion. Justin Lin is at the helm, so there are really fast cars involved. It’s one of the most gleefully ridiculous, over the top action climaxes I’ve seen in a TV show and it does rival something that might appear in Lin’s Fast and Furious movies. I’m not going to give too much away but the pilot is definitely worth a watch for that rather ambitious sequence. If the show continues to deliver set pieces akin to the one in the pilot, it’ll be quite the hoot. 
Scorpion premieres on Tuesday 23rd September on RTL CBS Entertainment, Mio TV Ch. 318/StarHub TV Ch. 509