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Entries in star trek (7)


In Which J.J. Abrams Tries To Murder Other Peripheral Franchises



Star Trek Beyond
dir. Justin Lim
122 minutes

What kind of interest do you have in hearing Idris Elba perform a distinctly racist version of his own voice as a pseudo-alien named Krall as Zoe Saldana, looking like the mom of everyone involved, screams, "You already got what you wanted! Let her go!" I hope the answer is none.

At the beginning of the interminable Star Trek Beyond, Saldana's character Lieutenant Uhura politely informs her boyfriend Spock (Zachary Quinto) that she no longer feels attracted to him and she would like to part ways. She offers back a necklace he gave to her, but he allows her to keep it because it tracks her location. He will always know where she is.

This is the most entertaining scene in the entire movie.

Shortly thereafter screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg entertain us with the worst fucking cliche in all of Star Trek: the destruction of the Enterprise. Director Justin Lim has Idris Elba's ships swarm and destroy the larger the vessel, and what feels like it should take only moments lasts a good half hour. Pretty much everyone survives, and the artifact Elba pursues is luckily safe. It easily might have been destroyed, rendering his tactics somewhat questionable at best and jawdroppingly nonsensical at worst.

But I mean you won't want to be focusing on the plot here, since there really isn't any. The entire crew is marooned on an alien planet, which would be exciting except there is literally nothing to distinguish this world from any other random place the original Star Trek cast set down upon.

The original Star Trek was always shit and the only reason that these movies even exist for J.J. Abrams to torture us with was the tremendous critical and commercial success of the follow-up television serial, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart singlehandedly carried the entire cast, but the writing was also very good at times and LeVar Burton wasn't terrible either. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation realizes a key lesson about the vast boredom of space intoned by Kirk at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond: if you don't have someone to ejaculate inside of, it can get super lonely out there. Kirk is so completely done with space that he applies to become the vice admiral of an orbital installation named Yorktown. I guess if Chris Pine's career gets bad enough, they can spin that off to series.

Pine's enthusiasm is usually his strongest selling point, along with his comedic timing. In Star Trek Beyond you can tell that he was ill during some of the shooting, because many of his line readings are completely off and he sounds like he has a frog in his throat. The end result is the most unprofessional final cut of an actor I have seen in awhile.

In order to compensate, most of the attention is thrown to the Enterprise's engineer, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). Pegg makes himself basically the star of this movie the exact same way he did in the last horrid Mission: Impossible jaunt. In that movie he at least had lots of great lines and a decent foil in the playful wiles of tiny Tom Cruise, but here his partner in crime is a bit more serious: an alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

The thing Star Trek Beyond misses the most is any sense of wonder at all. Even encountering this strange woman on an alien planet who lives in the desiccated shell of a Starfleet ship should be a moment of astonishing vitality and novelty. Instead two seconds later Montgomery Scott is being called a cute nickname by the alien and they are bickering like old friends. In every conceivable way it can, Star Trek Beyond skips the B that comes between A and C.

The rest of the cast is given very little. The supposedly southern accent of Bones (Karl Urban) waves completely from scene-to-scene, and he is paired with Spock for most of the film for in-depth conversations about serious and important topics like fear of death and their respective futures in Starfleet. Elba's Krall is not particularly calculating or fearsome villain, and the reveal of his true identity later on both repeats notes from the previous film and makes you wonder why they waited that long.

At the box office, early returns on Star Trek Beyond were that it was down fourteen percent from the previous film. That isn't so bad, but the previous movie really struggled with its tone as well and it had the benefit of a far better villain and story. At least with Star Wars, Abrams can just remake The Empire Strikes Back like he did A New Hope and at least the story itself won't be absolutely terrible. He seems to have no idea what to do with these characters; or maybe he has just realized they don't have very much potential anyway. 

The real answer is war. Star Trek was at its best when it turned space diplomacy into a canvas for the intersections of different ethics and views. A larger, powerful alien enemy is likely to be the focus of the next film, and there is a way to completely revamp this story into something compelling for a modern audience. First contact always has tremendous potential to make us reimagine our own ideas about what meeting other intelligent species in the universe would be like.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Are On The Fringe Of Things

The Edge of Good


Occasionally a television show gets everything right but botches all one or two large decisions. This happened with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman's show Fox show Fringe. They made a litany of awesome title sequences; they reminded one of a return to one of the great series of the last decade, The X-Files, they have solid writing when it doesn't verge on melodrama, but the casting is awful.

why is plaxico in jail while josh jackson walks free?Heterosexual man's hatred of Joshua Jackson goes back to his days as Pacey. Do you even understand how much less action I got in high school because of that? Pacey was a dick. All you needed was a mop of blonde hair. Paceys were fucked. Now Jackson enunciates every dreadful line of dialogue and sounds like a foggy horn. He doesn't look all that great either, kind of what a poppy bagel might look like as a person. Let's deport him back to Canada where he and Michael Moore can increase in size quietly together.

His would-be paramour (in one episode they went undercover together!) is the officious Anna Torv. She's probably the best actress on the show, but she's cold and icy and frankly, boring. Gillian Anderson is turning over in the grave she occupies with the career David Duchovny took from her. (Amazingly, Gillian Anderson is 64 years old and David Duchovy is 26. Who knew?) Torv's seriousness is ungainly and her hair looks as bad as her boss's.

Why do I feel like J.J. Abrams had a steamy night on the set of Lost with the bald former Dharma drone who ruins every single scene he's in? Lance Reddick is the worst actor on television besides Reba McEntire and Tyler Perry. Every single sentence is conveyed in this cold, unnerving grizzle. It's off-putting, and it gives his co-stars nothing to play off of.

trusting your career to j.j. didn't work for matthew foxThe only thing the show can find for a young black FBI agent (Jasika Nicole) to do is babysit criminally insane former human engineer. Torv whirls about radiantly, doing "work" when it suits her, double-timing the agency which she purports to represent. At the end of last season's finale, she met William Bell, the show's central MacGuffin. It was Leonard Nimoy, and I was not amused. The finale showed Bell in another universe where the World Trade Center didn't exist and Kanye stayed in college and was still interning for Louis Vuitton.

As intellectual or visual fodder, the concept of parallel universes doesn't really make any sense. Unlike serious science fiction, another universe draws no basis in reality from human experience. If there's more than one universe, then there are billions, and none of us mean very much. This isn't a very enlightening way to believe in the world.

Lost had the good fortune to become a jovial comedy, and Fringe seems to be aping this goal so far in season two. Here messy science fiction clichés combine with Pacey to create the show's only relief from the drudgery of weird science. What's missing is the wonder of discovery; the pattern that was created by universe splitting need not be an awful fate for those who must investigate it. Properly done, such a happening should free us from ourselves.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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In Which It Was Another Generation

After the Cold War, A Long Trek


In difficult times we harken back to that which brings us life. The success of America's aims abroad had peaked when we sent the monstrosity known as the Soviet Union packing. The Russia people were beginning would eventually be ruled by Vladimir Putin and the mob. America triumphed in a new age of interstellar peace and happiness. Basically we were these guys.

A lot of us were discovering things about ourselves. The decade of the 1990s would spawn a number of such well-intentioned malcontents, Pauly Shore and Bob Saget to name a few. But the good people were the space people.

The generation before had been marked by the constant monotone of war which found a perilous future in time and space, along with profound moments (like those in the songs of whales) that allowed us to remember what we'd lost. Captain Picard didn't want to blow anyone's face off. He wasn't quick to the gun. He was never even kind of a dick.

The technology that surrounded these peaceful warriors had a relatively negligible effect on its denizens, whose mental processes largely weren't different from 20th century norms. In the character of Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation made an artificial human into humanity and went in depth to prove a machine was, in fact, still a man.

Although men could find whatever drink or food they desired transported to their room, this did not dim their enthusiasm for conquest. Relationships were short-lived, they were as real as they had been before: only more fleeting in their duration. The quickening of life did not quicken the souls of these peacefaring folk.

It can be said that the point of this exercise was to chronicle the fate of man as he adapted himself to the stars, but whatever development would have been made along those lines, Wesley Crusher was a weak-minded syphocant, the symbolic lovechild of a mentally ill Picard. Others failed to adapt as poorly as Wesley — Troi nearly went insane once per season, and Riker always had a little Stephon Marbury in him.

In the Emmy-winning episode "The Inner Light" a probe broadcasting the dying wish of a destroyed civilization attached itself to the handsome Picard. Jean-Luc Picard's dream was of a pretechnological civilization, and he himself adheres to the aims of the age — a promised benign future for him and his family, and obedience to whatever God he chose. In contrast, Data was the far more complex thinker.

Man and machine are destined to become entwined together in bondage, and Star Trek: TNG's plan was to bring that out of hiding, see how the old values held up in a world where you could beam down to a planet full of evil dwarves. This was how we could decide whether technology would overwhelm us entirely.

Among the alien landscape, these figures embodied the older perspective, the West as it was in the world. The Borg became Picard's biggest enemy, the perversity of technological advancement, the hive mind that will abide no other. We were always in greater danger from some casual vicissitude of modernity, like sacrificing whales or changing the timeline. Man's environmental indulgence slowly became the larger symptom of his fate.

Before this period, we imagining ourselves living on the moon, exploring Mars. Then Star Trek came and reminded us that despite this, we were very much alone in the universe.

Is this a future we would want? A lifetime of policing galaxies may be too much to ask from any starfaring race. In the real world, America would of course have her own foreign policy adventures against Communist enemies both real and imagined. The Klingons and the rest disappeared, they were pacified by the entreaties of the Federation. If mankind (America) had to stand atop the galaxies, would he have to also lose his mind and sense of purpose?

Star Trek: TNG was a phenomenon on its debut. After a clumsy first season they soon got to Data and what the rest of it meant by the second season. In the middle seasons the show would abandon the alien-of-the-week concept and expand the purview of the show.

By the seventh season it had been one time travel episode too many and Data had a ho in every city so things were backtracking fast. Picard was looking extremely fatigued, and the lines under Riker's eyes made viewers sad and nostalgic for the last of the exultants.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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