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

Advertisements

Star Trek Beyond Pushes Past Other Treks In A Thrilling Ride

Star Trek Beyond poster

The latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, is unlike other Star Trek films, but shares many qualities of the best of them. It is a fun thrill ride that has heart and character development and takes audiences along into a grand adventure.

The way this film is different than other Trek films is that it takes place in deep space, nowhere near Earth and all the trappings of the Federation and nearby space. No Klingons, Romulans or other familiar trappings that have started to stifle Star Trek, even the reboot films. Star Trek Beyond feels completely original because it doesn’t try to ape lines and scenes from other films and in doing this the film feels very fresh and is the jolt that the franchise needs.

kirkAt the same time, this film pays respectful homage to the original Star Trek and especially Star Trek: Enterprise. To explain how would spoil too much of the film’s plot.  Star Trek Beyond takes place in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling burned out in his job and is thinking of taking on a new challenge. Soon after, the Enterprise arrives at this magnificent Starbase called Yorktown, which is more like a floating city or colony unbound by gravity. The scenes that show off the splendor of the Yorktown base are jaw dropping and is unlike anything seen in most films and bring to mind many literary sci-fi orbital cities.

Enterprise attacked by swarm

An alien woman in a spaceship arrives and asks for help rescuing her crew past a nearby nebula. The Enterprise is sent through the nebula and on the other side is attacked by swarm-like ships. Quickly, the small ships overwhelm the Enterprise and actually rip it apart. This forces Kirk to evacuate the ship and this splits up the main cast, who take refuge in a nearby planet. Separately, the bridge crew struggle to survive and stay one step ahead of the alien swarm. With most of the ship’s crew captured by the aliens on the planet, Kirk has to find a way to marshal his resources to free his people and defeat the aliens. Splitting up the main characters is a good move since they’re given their standout moments. An interesting thing to note is that the cast looks noticeably older now but fit the iconic roles better because of this factor. It is much easier to buy these actors as the characters they’re interpreting.

As usual, Karl Urban steals the film with his dead-on Jayla, Spock and McCoyimpersonation of the late DeForest Kelley doing Dr. McCoy. He gets most of the funniest lines and his scenes with Spock (Zachary Quinto) allow the two characters to bond and echo the classic banter between Kelley and Leonard Nimoy. Other stand out characters are Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his alien ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who rescues Scotty on the planet. Jayla is full of fire and is a breakout character in the Star Trek films. The villain in this film, the aliens’ leader Krall (Idris Elba), is one tough foe who is after an alien artifact that was on the Enterprise. But what makes him stand out is his backstory, which makes him one of the most unique Star Trek villains on film or TV.

On the whole, Star Trek Beyond is consistently fun to watch and goes a long way to validate the reboot in ways that the past two attempts did not.

kirk trio

At the same time, the film took time out to have some quiet character related moments that add heart and nuance. It was very welcome and overall strikes a good balance with the flow of the film. Do not be put off by the first trailer which did not represent the film’s tone at all. Anyone involved with that trailer should not be allowed near another Trek film because of the way it gave the wrong impression about Star Trek Beyond. It needs repeat viewings to confirm that this is the best of the three reboot films and one of the better entries on the whole. After some shaky summer releases Star Trek Beyond is just what was needed. It’s a terrific and reverential way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary thanks to its characters, their interactions, and a non-stop sense of adventure.

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.

enterprise viewscreen Continue reading

The Star Trek Movies Ranked, Part II

Continuing this ranking of Star Trek films, we go from the undeniable classics to the lesser entries in the Star Trek film series. They range from being just okay to junk best seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As explained in the previous article, tier three films have their flaws but also boast some admirable qualities about them. Meanwhile, the tier four flicks are absolute junk that should only be seen by hardcore fans or the morbidly curious who want sleep aids.

Tier Three

7. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984): The second Star Trek sequel has so many elements going for it, but for some reason it doesn’t search for spocktake off. After the triumph of Star Trek II, this direct sequel is a huge letdown. Trying to follow up Star Trek II is a difficult task and try as it did, Star Trek III couldn’t equal it, much less top it. For me, it’s hard to pinpoint why this film is a misfire, but for all the important plot developments it doesn’t have much passion.

In this sequel, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his core Enterprise crew risk everything, including their careers, to retrieve Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) body from the Genesis Planet. Once there, they discover that he’s resurrected and now have to save him. There are many pivotal events in this movie; the Enterprise is destroyed, someone close to Kirk is killed, while his best friend comes back to life, and careers are jeopardized. Yet, most of these events feel ho-hum. One thing will happen, the characters reflect about it, then it’s on to the next development.

enterprise blows up

On the other hand, Star Trek III is not to be missed, not just because of what happens in the movie, but for its merits. The character interactions are fantastic and the actors all turn in solid performances. The villain of Star Trek III, a Klingon commander (Christopher Lloyd) is quite menacing and Lloyd plays him more nuanced than your typical Klingon, which was refreshing. The final battle between him and Kirk was also satisfying to watch. Production wise, Star Trek III hits the right marks and this is the movie that introduces the ubiquitous and iconic Klingon bird-of-prey ship and the Excelsior-class starship. Compared to the other films, Star Trek III is a good, but not an outstanding entry in this series.

crew8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979): I’ll be frank and say this movie is boring in many parts. Yet, there is so much that I like about it. It is the one film that stays truest to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek and humanity in the future. Out of all the films, this one is the most cerebral and takes its influence from pre-Star Wars films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it does so to a fault.

In the first Star Trek movie, an enormous, destructive energy cloud is headed towards Earth and a newly refitted Enterprise is dispatched to confront it. The lead up to encountering the cloud was pretty good. Remember, when the film came out, we hadn’t seen the original crew in anything since the series ended in 1969. So, the film reveled in re-introducing Star Trek’s many iconic characters like James T. Kirk, Spock and McCoy (DeForest Kelley). That reunion aspect worked very well thanks to Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic and triumphant score, special effects that still hold up today and the cast’s acting prowess–they’re clearly comfortable in their familiar roles.

Well, we’re building up to when the Enterprise confronts the energy cloud. The movie is self-indulgent at parts, enterprise refitbut it’s moving along. Then midway through it, the film comes to a snoozing halt after the first encounter reveals that the cloud is hiding an immense artificial entity that is seeking its creator. Overly long scenes of people staring at special effects plague the movie. They’re pretty to look at, but after a few minutes, it becomes overkill and enough is enough! There is a lot of pondering throughout, in fact, there’s too much of it. But in spite of its faults, Star Trek: The Motion Picture has an ethereal, contemplative quality that is hard to dismiss.

9. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002): This is probably the most underrated Star Trek film in the batch, which is unfortunate. Due to its dismal reception at the box office and with fans, this would turn out to be the last film to feature The Next Generation crew. It does have major faults, such as its by-the-numbers execution and that it outright cannibalizes plot elements from the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek II. At one point, it was the best ripoff of the first Star Trek sequel until Star Trek Into Darkness came along.

s3Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is ordered to take the Enterprise-E to the enemy Romulan homeworld and meet that empire’s new leader in a peace initiative. This leader turns out to be Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a young clone of Picard and he has a major beef with Picard and the Federation. Shinzon’s unclear motives are one of the weakest elements about Star Trek: Nemesis and that is vital since this film’s premise hangs on the villain. He just lacks the gravitas to be an effective foil for Picard. What’s worse is his lack of reason for wanting to attack the Federation. All Shinzon does is spout corny lines about being Picard’s opposite. It’s probably the film’s clumsy attempt at addressing the theme of duality. Adding to that theme is a redundant sub plot involving the android Data (Brent Spiner) and his duplicate, which already happened n the TV series. The action is unexpectedly flaccid considering that the director (Stuart Baird) was known for helming action films.

Still, this film has some merits. It features interesting character scenes and it exudes an atmosphere of impending change. The scene where the Enterprise-E is rammed enterprise fightsagainst Shinzon’s warship is pretty cool though, but a major character’s death doesn’t generate much of a reaction from me. It felt forced and trite since it tried to evoke Spock’s death in Star Trek II. With all that, somehow, it serves as a decent wrap up for films featuring The Next Generation crew.  At the very least, the film isn’t dull and has superb special effects and the last score done by composer Jerry Goldsmith. Continue reading

The Star Trek Movies Ranked, Part I

Star Trek movies have been with us since the late ’70s and have received very mixed reactions. Some are revered as the very best of sci-fi films, while others received vicious barbs from fans and critics alike. Now that there is an even dozen films, it’s time to rank them in order.

The way my rankings work are basically four tiers. The first tier includes genuine classics that still hold up today and are iconic; the second tier features films that are undeniably enjoyable and worth watching, though they have their faults; the third tier is filled with flawed but noteworthy movies that have some good qualities and are sometimes underrated; the fourth tier, naturally is littered with the bottom-dwelling movies that are just terrible with little to recommend about them.

Tier One

1. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986): I know this may shock most fans who expected Star Trek II to be the number pick. Choosing the trek 4 sfvery best Star Trek film was quite difficult and honestly, it’s more of a tie between the two films. To those that would argue that Star Trek II is the best one, you won’t get an argument from me, but time and time again I keep going to the fourth film in the franchise.

Why? To me this one showed the original cast and filmmakers at the top of their game. Everything was top notch with this film: production values, special effects, acting, and the story. The movie which was about the original Enterprise crew time traveling to San Francisco in the late 20th century to find whales was a great example of a fish-out-of-water yarn. We got to see the crew out of their element, yet persevering in the strange environment of the past. The movie presented a lighter, more comedic side but it was still exciting and engaging. It also showed that a Star Trek film didn’t need a scene-chewing villain to carry a film.

klingon ship

Finally, this film allowed all of the cast members to have their moment in the sun. They contributed to the story and had many outstanding scenes. Still, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley were the highlights, especially Shatner. His James T. Kirk wasn’t morose as in previous films, he was more confident, surprisingly funny and showed off his famous romantic, charming demeanor. By the film’s end, you feel completely satisfied. The crew had a new ship, Kirk was doing what he was meant to do and there was the promise of new beginnings as the Enterprise-A headed out to the unknown.

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982): On a different day I might’ve ranked this as so many do, as the best Star Trek film ever made. trek 2This is still the most important film in the franchise because it’s the one that saved it in its infancy. After the wooden and pedestrian debut film, there was doubt another expensive Star Trek film would ever be made. The filmmakers’ challenge was to put out an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thriller that would leave people talking about it for a long time to come. And they succeeded.

One of Kirk’s enemies from the original show, Khan (Ricardo Montalban), commandeers a Starfleet ship and goes on a warpath against Kirk. He blames our hero for marooning him on a desolate planet and wants Kirk to suffer as he did. And boy khandoes he give it to Kirk. The battle of wits between the two adversaries became famous thanks in part to the performances from both actors. This is Shatner’s best performance as a Kirk, who finally faces middle age, while Montalban clearly relishes his role as the battered but regal Khan. His character is undeniably one of the best movie villains of all time.

Even though the special effects and Nicholas Meyer’s direction are exemplary, what makes the film endure is its focus on the characters and its themes about dealing with your past, the destructiveness of vengeance and facing the future with dignity. So why isn’t this my favorite Star Trek film? Well, it nearly is and on some days I’ll admit it. But the film feels a bit ponderous and pompous at times. The script tends to go overboard with its constant quoting from classic literature. Then there’s Spock’s (Nimoy) death, while it’s eloquent and heartfelt, given that the character returns in later films, the death feels a bit empty. Those are just minor quibbles though and this movie is a must-see classic for everyone.

picard borg queen3. Star Trek: First Contact (1996): It’s not only the best Star Trek film that features The Next Generation cast but one of the franchise’s very best efforts. Director Jonathan Frakes (who also plays Riker) and the production team hit all the right marks in this great Star Trek film. Its success started with this well-written time travel/alien invasion saga.

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his Enterprise-E crew time travel to Earth’s mid-21st century to prevent the evil cybernetic Borg from conquering the planet. Successfully incorporating action and horror elements, Star Trek: First Contact was both exciting and suspenseful with a morality tale about obsession and dealing with destiny. This film is full of so many cool moments. One of the best was when the experimental warp ship the Phoenix launches from a missile silo as its pilot, Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) blasts Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”. Another was Picard’s histrionic ranting about the Borg, which forced him to look within himself. The Borg themselves are presented as the fearful, unrelenting force they were meant to be. The movie’s main villain, the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), is one of the more interesting and unique foes. She isn’t some revenge-minded madwoman but is cold, calculating, and with a strange allure.

borg battle

As with the better films, this one showcased many of the supporting characters and featured smile-inducing nods and cameos from the other Star Trek shows. The best one had to be the cameo of Star Trek: Voyager’s EMH (Robert Picardo) who appears as the Enterprise-E’s own EMH. One of his lines is also a nice tribute to Dr. McCoy. After falling short with the previous entry Star Trek Generations, the filmmakers had to get the franchise back on track and succeeded with this one. Everyone involved is to be lauded, from the actors, to the composer, to the production team and, of course, the director, who like Nimoy understood Star Trek. Continue reading