Quentin Tarantino’s F!*#@ing Star Trek

One entertainment news item that came out of left field lately has been about a new Star Trek movie. What was unusual about the news is that famed director and writer Quentin Tarantino pitched an idea for a new Star Trek film and might direct it. Today, Deadline reported that Tarantino will be heavily involved and part of his deal with Paramount Pictures and J.J. Abrams, who runs the movie series, is that the film be rated R. The shocker is that the film studio and Abrams agreed to this.

OK this is really out there for Star Trek and reflects the state of the franchise. This development will certainly upset fans clamoring for a return to traditional Star Trek. Already, many of these purists are up in arms over the radical departure taken by Star Trek: Discovery such as featuring a black, female lead, a potentially evil starship captain, and an openly gay couple. There was a mini-meltdown in the Internet over one episode where F-bombs were dropped in one scene. As shocking as it was to hear on Star Trek, it certainly was an attention grabber. Now imagine countless F-bombs and other types of swearing from the stars of a new Star Trek film.

Aside from foul language, an R-rated Star Trek film will revel in violence and possibly sex or nudity. All this is fine for most of us who can handle it, but is this the right direction for Star Trek? The franchise is noted for pushing the envelope but by exploring themes and making observations about our current society. And Star Trek: Discovery has been pushing the envelope in showcasing more adult fare such as the cursing, brief nudity and it is violent. It’s no wonder that the show is behind the pay premium wall of the CBS All Access streaming service. Actually there are stronger reasons for this, namely wanting to milk Star Trek fans, but that is for another post.

But why go this route? The answer is that Star Trek has to experiment and try new things. The franchise has been showing its age lately and something needed to be done to shake things up. Of course, this runs the risk of alienating die-hard Trek fans, but it seems as if there are not enough of them to support the franchise. As proof of this notion, Paramount will point to the disappointing box office of Star Trek Beyond. That film, which was the best of the rebooted films, was more of a traditional Star Trek, but it did not have legs. Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery has created some buzz with its edgier stories even though the series, as a whole, wildly deviates from the Star Trek formula.

Already, the news of Quentin Tarantino’s involvement is generating a lot of needed attention for Star Trek and that has the potential to pay off. Tarantino is a top-tier director, who is often nominated for Oscars, plus, he is a big Star Trek fan, unlike J.J. Abrams. On top of that, the frontrunner to write the film’s script is Mark L. Smith, who penned the acclaimed film The Revenant. These are reasons to be optimistic. Other genre films have recently gone into the R-rated club to great success like Logan or Deadpool. So perhaps fans are ready for an edgier Star Trek.

But there is also cause for concern. Zack Snyder and others at Warner Bros. tried presenting a darker and edgier DC Cinematic Universe but that did not work out well for those films. Many fans outright rejected the gritter takes on Superman and others, while the latest effort, Justice League, has not turned out to be the blockbuster. Many critics complained about how dark and dreary the films were since they are used to bright colors and lighter themes from superhero films. This same problem could befall an R-rated Star Trek film.

No matter what, a Star Trek film by Quentin Tarantino will be controversial and bold and it will alienate many fans much worse than the Abrams reboots have done. However, they could be better received. Just remember that Tarantino is an avowed fan, so as Seth MacFarlane does with The Orville, he may show the proper reverence and respect to the material. At this point, the franchise (and Paramount) has to take a chance and boldly go where no Star Trek has gone before.

Lewis T. Grove

Star Trek Beyond: A Tale Of Two Trailers

new star trek beyond

Late last night Paramount Studios released the second trailer for this summer’s Star Trek Beyond. In short, what a difference a second trailer makes! Many will remember that this past December the film studio premiered the highly anticipated first trailer for Star Trek Beyond. Star Trek fans were anxious to see how the Star Trek reboot would look like without J.J. Abrams directing it, instead it is helmed by Justin Lin who directed one of the Fast and Furious films.

To say the reaction was negative is the understatement of the year. The only film trailers that were more poorly received were the ones for Fant4stic and the Ghostbusters remake. “Sigh” We all knew the Star Trek Beyond trailer was garbage seconds into the trailer when the soundtrack started screeching out the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. One has to wonder what genius in the Paramount marketing department thought it was a good idea to insert such an annoying hip hop song into a Star Trek film. Just because J.J. Abrams is supposedly messed up crewa huge Beastie Boys fan does not mean that a beloved film franchise has to be polluted with the obnoxious music. This was an early indicator that the Star Trek reboot was not going to be well received. The atrocities did not end there with the Star Trek trailer. It over-emphasized big explosions, meaningless fights, motorcycle stunts, and the result was that Star Trek Beyond looked like just another empty action film.

Understandably, the people behind Star Trek Beyond were flabbergasted at the negative response. Many of them like Simon Pegg and the director Justin Lin pleaded with fans to keep an open mind and that the film would be true to the spirit of Star Trek. For many Star Trek fans who felt disrespected already by the attempts to make Star Trek more “mainstream” these pleas were seen as signs that something was wrong with the film. It is incredible how the reactions to  Star Trek trailer have tainted the perception of the film.

Fortunately, the second Star Trek trailer for Star Trek Beyond is much more in line of what we expect from Star Trek. It evokes a sense of wonder and danger. It still has many money shots of explosions and fights but they are well balanced and the trailer actually makes sense because it lays out the film’s plot without giving away too much. From what can be seen the Enterprise is assigned to deep space and attacked by a swarm-like alien species. Captain Kirk is forced to order an evacuation and he has to find a way to reunite his scattered crew and take on the alien baddie. For once, if this is the plot, the story seems original and is something that the Star Trek reboot sorely needs: the chance to explore new paths and do something different instead of regurgitating old story lines and villains. What’s more is that the trailer actually does its job of making us curious and respecting the spirit of Star Trek. Plus, the shot of a starship that looks like an NX starship from Star Trek: Enterprise icing on the cake.

Congratulations Paramount, this new Star Trek Beyond trailer may not have completely rid the bad taste left by the first trailer (the continued usage of motorcycle shots only serves to remind us of the film’s attempts to appeal to the empty-action crowd), but it may have reignited interest in the latest Star Trek film entry.

Lewis T. Grove

Some More Thoughts On Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars 7 montage

*NOTE: The following will contain spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet, should stop reading from this point on.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just become the biggest selling domestic movie of all time. The hype machine about the film isn’t letting up and probably won’t for some time. A lot of fans are drooling about the film like it’s the greatest thing ever made, George Lucas be damned. Others are not so enthusiastic and have a wide range of opinions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its lasting impact on the franchise. So here are some of my thoughts on the seventh Star Wars film.

hans last moments

As a sci-fi adventure, it does the job and is a good movie. I can enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens for what it is. A return to the style of the original films with updated special effects. However, it suffers from being too derivative of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It also suffers from a lack of imagination from director and co-screenwriter JJ Abrams with not only the recycled plot, but also the new tie fighterlook of the film. There are not any really amazing new designs of starships and aliens that were a staple of each new Star Wars film. Basically you see repainted X-wing and TIE fighters. Now, the special effects and camera work of the dogfights are quite good and is a definite positive for the film. It’s always nice to see the Millennium Falcon soaring through space again. It would just have been better to see maybe a new Letter fighter (such as a T-wing) and truly bizarre aliens and planets. Perhaps Episode VIII will rectify this.

wimpy ren

Another issue is the portrayal of new Sith villain Kylo-Ren (Adam Driver). His temper tantrums and such are not really good at showing him as a source of menace for the heroes of the film. The exceptions are his actions at the start of the film where he murders Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) and has his troops massacre an entire village and his brutal execution of his father Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The scene where this occurs had me on the edge of my seat and is an emotional highlight of the movie. But right after this happens, Kylo is shown beating his chest like a gorilla as he fights and loses against Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is a novice at using the Force. His screaming fits when he receives bad news from subordinates is more a source of humor rather than fear. One wonders why Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) went into hiding when, as a Jedi master, he should have had no problem against Ren.

captain phasmaCaptain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was another villain that was somewhat misused. She is the commander of the First Order’s stormtroopers and was described as being somewhat like Boba Fett. But in the movie she is captured by Han, Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and Finn (John Boyega) and forced to lower the shields of the Starkiller Base and is then thrown in the garbage compactor. Not exactly a great way to start her off. Again, I think the next film should fix this by showing her to be as a dangerous foe and top level leader out to destroy the Resistance.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Basically, I see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a somewhat missed opportunity. The basic story is an interesting take on what happens after the fall of the Galactic Empire, and I do like the way the First Order is portrayed with their Nazi-like rallies and efforts to destroy entire star systems, thereby showing them to be a big threat to the New Republic. han and reyIt’s just that J.J Abrams and Disney were so keen to play it safe that it detracts from the final product. Hopefully the next film will be willing to take at least a few more chances and truly take the franchise to new and interesting places. This is what I think creator George Lucas was trying to do with the prequels and while the results were mixed, I can appreciate his vision for his universe and his ability to world build. The emphasis on practical effects and a simplified story are somewhat understandable given the backlash against the prequels, but they should be able to do this and still expand the Star Wars universe and really push the boundaries of the genre. This is just what the original trilogy did and is a reason why it is so revered to this day.

C.S. Link

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Revives The Star Wars Saga

episode 7 poster

After a decade-long sabbatical the Star Wars saga returns to theaters with Star Wars: The Force Awakens or more accurately Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Fans will rejoice as if they are seeing an old friend who was away for too long. The film is a direct continuation of the original Star Wars films being that it takes place years after Return of the Jedi. While it is a sequel to the original trilogy and pays tribute to those classics, Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks a new path for new fans as it introduces new players to the universe that George Lucas created nearly forty years ago.

Alright, many of you reading this are asking the nagging question: How does it compare to the other films? More importantly, is it any good?

On the whole, yes, this is a fun film that is worthy of the Star Wars title. But there is something lacking in the film. Perhaps it needs George Lucas’ direct touch. His influence is felt in the film, but it doesn’t feel like a George Lucas Star Wars film. There isn’t any way it could top the first two Star Wars films, but it’s a better made film than Return of the Jedi. As to the prequels, it’s better than the first couple of prequels, but Episode III was a better made film. The reason probably has to be that it doesn’t gel quite as smoothly with the other films. Being that it lacks Lucas’ input it feels apart from the traditional Star Wars film, but it does try its best. Thanks for that is due to director J.J. Abrams.

As a major Star Wars fan, J.J. Abrams pays proper homage to the original films and sets the saga’s course in a new trajectory with eye-popping special effects, detailed sets and thrilling sequences. It should be mentioned that although the film uses practical effects, there are times in the second half that its usage of CG sets is quite obvious, which is distracting.

old han and chewy

What truly helps the film are the new characters and the actors playing them. They are intriguing, well acted, full of fire and it’s easy to see that the actors are thrilled to be playing in the Star Wars universe. Even actors who returned to their old roles shine in the film, particularly Harrison Ford as the iconic space pirate Han Solo. Unlike Return of the Jedi where he seemed bored, here Ford plays Han as if he’s glad to put on an old pair of comfortable shoes. Han still has spunk and verve and he is one of the greatest highlights.

rey and finnAs for the new characters, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) pop out and instantly become worthy Star Wars characters. Clearly, Abrams outdid Lucas when it came to casting when comparing this film to the prequels (Ewan McGregor aside). The only weak character was regrettably the villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The actor does what he can with the role, but as a bad guy Kylo just can’t compare to Darth Vader or even many of the prequel villains. He lacks the gravitas, the poise, and even the power. Instead he’s too emotional, it’s as if young Anakin Skywalker has been outfitted with a Vader knockoff suit and told to let loose.

Kylo Ren

As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to pinpoint why this film, despite its merits, feels off. It probably has to do with its pacing and story. Characters come and go without explanation, sometimes they’re missed, sometimes not, which is a problem. There are times when Abrams is in too much of a hurry with the characters and just wants them to go from point A to point B without any nuance or proper buildup. Worst of all, the bare bones of the story strongly echo the very first Star Wars film. Some may call it an homage, but others will rightfully call it for what it is: lack of originality.

Spoilers: The film centers around the pursuit rey and bb8of a droid called BB-8. At the start of the film, Luke Skywalker has been missing for many years and the Republic and its Resistance force along with the First Order (the remnants of the old Empire) want to locate the last Jedi for opposing reasons. On the planet Jakku, BB-8 is given a map by his owner Poe, an ace X-wing pilot, before he’s captured by Kylo Ren. The map happens to details how to locate Luke. Rey, a lonely scavenger on Jakku, finds the droid and feels compelled to return BB-8 to its owner. The Resistance pilot is able to escape thanks to Finn, a stormtrooper who develops a heart and turns against the First Order. Finn is separated from Poe, but eventually meets Rey and the droid. With the droid a hot commodity, the three escape the planet on an old junk ship the Millennium Falcon with the aim of returning the droid to the Resistance. Pursuing them are Kylo Ren and the First Order, who have constructed a massive planet-killing weapon out of a planet. Along the way, the trio encounter ship’s previous owner, Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and at this point Rey and Finn become more embroiled in the galactic conflict as they play pivotal roles in it.

xwing fight

There are many questions the film leaves unanswered by the time the lights come back. However, the fact that the film builds up enough interest about the makeup of this universe is a good sign. Hopefully, the next episodes will satisfactorily answer the questions.

Thankfully, as the first of a trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t an embarrassment like Episode I even though stalwart fans of the original films will have their complaints. Nevertheless, it’s great that Star Wars is back and this film offers enough thrills and joy for old and new fans.

José Soto

Star Trek At 48

trek trioThis weekend marks the 48th anniversary of the premiere of the very first Star Trek episode on TV. The celebrations are unquestionably low key; I couldn’t even find any acknowledgement of this on the startrek.com website. But I expect things will be very different in two years time. At least, that is what we Trek fans hope. By then, it will be the fiftieth anniversary and we know for certain that at the very least a Star Trek film will be out in two years.

That is much better than what happened during the iconic show’s fortieth anniversary. Nothing happened then. Paramount Pictures didn’t put out a film because of the failure of Star Trek Nemesis, while CBS Television Studios also followed suit since Star Trek: Enterprise was just canceled a year before on UPN.

Cinematic Rebooting

During that time period both companies felt that the Star Trek franchise needed a rest from the public eye. As we all know, Paramount rebooted the film franchise in 2009 with Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness was released last year. While both films were successful, there is a feeling of unease among a large segment of the fanbase. Under director J.J. Abrams’ guidance, they feel as if Star Trek has strayed far from what it’s meant to be; a story of space exploration and encountering the unknown. Instead, they say that the past two films were just modified Star Wars films. That is a hard viewpoint to argue against, since the films emphasized action and thrills over the more cerebral fare that creator Gene Roddenberry championed when he created the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).

 

The Star Trek reboot was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise and raise public awareness, but how successful was that goal? How much in the public eye is Star Trek? It’s there for sure but a lot of attention is being paid these days to the latest superhero film or the return of Star Wars, while any news of the upcoming Star Trek sequel gets shrugs. This was really clear when Paramount announced this year that the screenwriter for the past two Star Trek films, Roberto Orci, was tapped to direct the next sequel. He isn’t a big-name director, actually he hasn’t directed anything at all. Yet, he is being entrusted by Paramount to guide the next Star Trek film, which is coming out in the fiftieth anniversary of the original series. You would think that with that much attention the franchise will receive then, that the film studio will want to ensure that a topnotch director will handle the reins. But who knows? Maybe Orci will deliver the kind of Star Trek film its fans have been clamoring for.

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