What the world really needs is another Star Wars film.Read More
(Originally posted 5th October 2016)
Okay, buckle in kids, 'cause this is gonna get rough.
Hopes were tentatively high going into this film. The source material seemed to suit Burton well and the footage seen in trailers suggested a visually engaging action romp, albeit one apparently aimed at children. However, it was in fact not only a terrible film but it was one of the worst mainstream films I have ever seen (and that is not a statement I make lightly).
So let's try and deal with this piece by piece. Firstly, the story. I'm not familiar with the source material but I have to say that this felt like it would work better as a novel. There is a lot to be said for the power of the imagination and I think it covers a lot of cracks that really start to show when you try and actualise these things. The film is pitched at a tween audience and relies on the idea that they have no concept of relationships, love, physics, time, narrative structure, the history of fantasy adventure or really anything beyond the idea that it might be cool to be invisible.
The plot is so route one and cliched that I can sum it up in one facetious paraphrase: “Oh god, I'm such an angsty teen, nobody understands me and girls don't fancy me. I wish I could be whisked away to a magical land where my life has meaning and people respect me.”
You know when you were thirteen and you read Harry Potter and then you started writing that story about a kid who gets bullied but then finds out he's descended from ninjas and goes to secret ninja school and gets off with a girl ninja and then beats up the bullies? Yeah, that story was less derivative than this film.
The “peculiar” characters have no rhyme or reason and their mutations are either completely arbitrary or designed solely for how they can be used in a later fight sequence. There is no metaphor or deeper meaning behind any of it and this allows for no development (for a better example, take Rogue in X-Men, whose inability to touch people without harming them is an analogy for adolescent social anxiety). The main character, Jake, is about as bland a human as you can get (although that is the point) until he goes to magic land because of his twinkly-eyed magic granddad and finds out that he has exactly the special talent that everyone has been looking for.
I'm really struggling to write this review because my contempt for this film is so strong that it's annoying to me to break it down in a vain attempt to try and find something worth berating. This film is so bad, that by trying to justifiably analyse it, I'm already giving it greater validation than it deserves. It's like eating a shit sandwich and then describing the texture.
So let's get this over with. The plot doesn't make sense. It has no sense of direction, again because there is no greater point being aimed at. There isn't a reason that the creatures need to eat eyeballs, someone just thought that was a quirky thing to put in. There isn't a reason that the protectors turn into birds, it just makes for a cool visual. There isn't a reason for any of it, so it's just a stumbling mess that misses every opportunity to say anything of value. And there is potential for some philosophy here. We have a group of children and adolescents who have been stuck in a time loop of the same 24 hours for seventy years, but always conscious of their previous actions. What relationships must have been struck up and broken in that time? What betrayals? What emotional growth? What psychological torment to be stuck in the same day over and over, knowing you will never have the opportunity to actually live, and if that is the case, is life even worth living? Well, there is none of that stuff, so don't expect it. It's just a kid who can control bees or whatever because that's cool, right?
With an impressive effort, the film actually manages to get worse as it goes along, as all attempts to maintain any kind of logical reality or define any kind of rules of the story world are totally abandoned, to put in action a sequence of events that may very well have been the result of one of those writing exercises where you get three random phrases and have to build a story around them. In this case, those phrases would be 'Blackpool Tower', 'snowball fight', and 'the death knell of Tim Burton's career'.
So lets take a moment to talk about Tim Burton. We know he's a talented director; he has a body of work that can stand up next to any other. So what's going on here? This doesn't feel like a Tim Burton film; it feels like a film by a 19 year old who says that Tim Burton is their favourite director, even though they've only seen Beetlejuice and Big Fish. It doesn't feel like a film with thirty years of experience behind it. It feels like a studio hash job written by committee in an attempt to hit every stereotype that they think kids like without understanding the meaning behind any of it. And that is not what you expect from someone who has consistently been able to put their personality into studio driven projects. It's a sad low point of a career that has been spiralling downwards for some years now.
Before I give in completely; the cast. Eva Green actually manages to bring a bit of character into the titular Miss Peregrine, although it is not given any room to develop. She is kooky for kooky's sake, but gets away with it by putting in a solid performance (like Johnny Depp would). Samuel L. Jackson is the only one who looks like he's having any fun and the rest of the cast range from bland to awful, including the lead Asa Butterfield, who is mostly awful. But this doesn't feel like a cast that is lacking direction, it feels like a cast that is being badly directed; and that is perhaps more worrying.
If you're twelve years old, it's a bank holiday and it's raining, this might be watchable. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.
For a look at some more pleasant Tim Burton discussion, check out our episode here:
(Originally posted 22nd September 2016 - spoilers)
It's probably fair to say I didn't go into this film with the best attitude. The first two of the trilogy, while entertaining, seemed to me to be remnants of a world that we are trying to leave behind. So what does fifteen years of progress look like? It actually looks... very good. Rather than dwelling in an outdated set of ideas, Bridget Jones's Baby feels more like a forward thinking film that is nonetheless held back by the past, which is a much more accurate portrayal of the plight of the modern woman.
The plot set up is that Bridget is now in her early forties and still single. Now, though, this is exacerbated by the fact that all her friends have gone off to have kids and no longer want to play with her and her biological clock is ticking. She's managed to stumble her way up the career ladder to become some sort of line producer on a news show and she's basically pretty comfortable. So far, so realistic, and this is where we start to feel the benefit of not having Richard Curtis on the writing team. Curtis doesn't seem to have ever met real, nuanced, complicated people, and only sees life in archetypes and stock rom-com situations.
In a last ditch attempt to relive her youth, Bridget is encouraged by her new younger friend Miranda (brilliantly played by Sarah Solemani and a shame that the character basically gets jettisoned in the second half to make way for Bridget's story) to get out and have some fun, which culminates in her having a one night stand with Jack. In the tradition of Bridget Jones's love interests, he's ten years older than her but devilishly handsome (although if you ask me he looks more like a well-tanned Chuckle brother).
Unfortunately, this whole character is one of the weakest elements of the story. Patrick Dempsey plays him with just the right amount of charm and empathy and in other circumstances it would work fine; the problem is that here he's going up against the long standing love interest of Mr. Darcy, so there is never any real sense of suspense about who she's going to end up with; the person with a fifteen year history or some guy she barely knows. Of course, if it had been Daniel Cleaver it might have worked but Hugh Grant was not prepared to give us that pleasure, the lovable bastard.
So, to get on with the plot, Bridget finds herself pregnant to one of these two delightful chaps and hilarity ensues as she at first tries to hide from this confusion and then has to confront it head on. The important part of this journey, however, is the bit where it looks like she's lost both of them and she concludes, fuck it, I'll just do it on my own. It's not overplayed, it's not some huge life lesson, she's just a strong independent woman and this is one more thing she might have to tackle in a strong and independent way. This is the growth of Bridget Jones that was missing in the previous films; a realistic sense of a woman who can take the hard knocks and keep going. Even the idea of having a child is done wonderfully subtly. She's not a baby mad spinster down to her last few eggs, it happens by accident and she rolls with it. The decision to keep the baby is similarly underplayed; it's probably her last chance so she's going to take it. I'd like to assume this was deliberate writing of a strong character rather than glossing over an important part of the process so we could get back to doing stupid gags.
The film also handles layers and irony rather better than its predecessors, with Bridget's mother being the prime example of this. The parents are not strongly related to the story, but her mother's change from an old-fashioned sense of family values to actually expressing genuine care is an obvious demonstration of the societal changes that I felt were missing from the original film. On the same note, it should probably go without saying that Emma Thompson's OB/GYN doctor is the best thing in the whole film, both in terms of character and performance.
The film still maintains the comedic and occasionally even slapstick tone of the previous films and this works better some times than others. The best example probably being when Darcy has to carry the in-labour Bridget to the hospital. Picking her up dramatically as the score kicks in only to find that she's a lot heavier than he'd anticipated. This is what Bridget Jones is about; overblown ideas of romance undermined by reality. It's holding up a mirror so we can watch and say, “Oh god, I've done that; how silly that seems in hindsight”. The difference in this instalment is that Bridget and by extension the audience actually learns and grows from these experiences, rather than just constantly falling back to imaginary 'perfect' scenarios.
The film certainly has its flaws. For example, there is a whole subplot that never really works about Bridget being worried about getting fired from her job. Also, I would have preferred a more ambiguous ending because there isn't any real suspense where they're trying to make us think there is. But even though on paper it seems like the ultimate Hollywood happy ending, it gets away with it because I believe the journey that took us there. It all gets wrapped up a little too neatly but I don't feel like that is at the expense of letting the character develop.
Overall then, the same humour and charm of the originals but with a much more healthy and forward thinking outlook.
Listen to our highly entertaining discussion of Bridget Jones here:
(Originally posted 14th September 2016)
What is the purpose of a remake? Is it to update the story for a modern audience? Take advantage of improved technology to create a greater spectacle? Take an imperfect piece and try and improve it?
Ben-Hur (2016) does none of these things. It is a direct remake of the 1959 film of the same name and the only real advantage it has is that it's taken a couple of hours out of the run time.
The story follows Judah Ben-Hur, a well-off middle class Jew in Jerusalem who is betrayed by his adopted brother Messala, who is part of the Roman occupying force. His whole family is murdered or imprisoned and he is sent to the galley to serve as a slave until he is dead. He manages to escape (by luck more than design) and comes back to wreak revenge. When he achieves his vengeance, he comes to realise that it has given him no solace and the true path to spiritual peace is forgiveness.
There's a lot of potential in that plot and, unfortunately, it is not well examined. There are some hints of a good story near the beginning, dealing with the conflicting sides of a hostile occupation; the moral questions of pacifism and civil unrest; what is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom-fighter? But this early development never gets the chance to breathe and it just ends up feeling like lip service to a more worthy story possibility.
Also unexplored is the journey of Ben-Hur as a slave, which is summed up for us with a simple title card of “5 years later”. We see nothing of the mental trauma and angst that one must suffer in such a situation, and would obviously be fuel for his later actions and help us understand the character's journey. For a better example of this, see 12 Years a Slave, which shares a writer with Ben-Hur, but is a far superior film.
Visually, the film is also no improvement on its 57 year old predecessor, which probably speaks more to the quality of the William Wyler version than any distinct deficiency with the new incarnation. The director Timur Bekmambetov is known for a physics defying CG rich style of filmmaking and I must admit I was looking forward to how that would translate to a much more grounded swords and sandals type film. The answer is, he simply reined it in, making instead a rather standard bit of action nonsense. The chariot race scene, the tentpole piece of the 1959 version, is repeated almost shot for shot and really takes no advantage of the visual possibilities that modern filmmaking could have rendered.
A quick word on the acting. Jack Huston actually really stood out as an engaging lead. Very bright-eyed and full of spunk, as they say. Played the part about as well as one could have hoped and being new to me, was a welcome surprise. Although he did look a bit too much like Peter Serafinowicz for me to take him seriously. Toby Kebbell, who I've always really liked, gave a solid performance but felt somehow out of place with this more dramatic style of film and he always seemed a little out of place. Morgan Freeman pops in as a sage old man who guides our hero, of course, but the rest of the cast are basically anonymous, ranging from poor to average.
And now, I'd like to talk to you about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus finds himself shoe-horned into the story and, just like in the 1959 film, his presence and resulting effect undermines the actions of the characters and the message of the film. To see a film in the 50s legitimately preaching christianity seems quite quaint to modern eyes; to see it in 2016 is actually quite embarrassing to watch. I'm well aware that I live in a very middle class liberal bubble that is deliberately insulated from the horrors of the real world, and when something like this sneaks in and reminds me of just how backwards-thinking some people are, I really find it very depressing. So not the heart-warming ending for me that it was meant to be. Speaking of which, one significant change was the very end, when Messala survives the chariot race and the two brothers find forgiveness in each other rather than Charlton Heston just ruing the death of a former friend/lover. This did actually feel like a better ending and a more sensible message in keeping with the theme of forgiveness. However, it was just kind of tacked on to the last five minutes with no real development and so instead felt like a Hollywood happy ending.
A pointless, valueless remake that does nothing and adds nothing.
To hear some sexier ideas for a Ben-Hur film, listen to our episode here:
(Originally posted 25th August 2016)
There were concerns about this film as a concept, no doubt about that. Had too much time passed? Would Brent work as a stand alone character? Can Gervais write this stuff on his own? But all that quickly disappears when you sit down to watch because this film works very well and gives you pretty much everything you want as an Office fan. I'd forgotten just how much of a frustrated pop star Gervais is, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how many original songs were included, carefully formulated to be amusingly bad without being self-consciously funny.
Sure, it's not perfect. The happy ending feels rushed and it would have been nice if some of the supporting characters were a bit more fleshed out. I would also have preferred it to make more of the documentary nature and use the limitations that come with that to its advantage (like The Office) instead of just shooting it handheld and having people talk to camera and then say it's documentary style (like the US Office).
But what matters most is that it's funny. It's very funny from beginning to end. That is its raison d'etre and it achieves it comfortably. Gervais is so comfortable in his character that it's hard to believe it's taken him this long to try and do something substantial with him.
As for the plot, well, it gets the job done. Essentially it is playing out the ultimate 21st Century tragedy; a man over forty who still has hope. It is this hope that differentiates Brent from his salesman colleagues – whereas they have blindly accepted their lives of dead end drudgery, Brent still aspires to something different, something creative and passionate. This is where we empathise with him, it's where we aspire to be like him. However, the pathos of the story comes from realising that it's not about becoming a famous or respected singer, it's just about being liked. It's about being wanted.
This is why the slightly slipshod ending of “all you need is love” just about worked. I think I've made it pretty clear by now how I feel about the “love conquers all” mentality but I'm willing to let it go here because it demonstrates that Brent as a musical failure doesn't matter as long as somebody likes him. The more obvious satisfying ending would have been for him to find a place in the music industry – for him to accept his own limitations as a performer but use his actual skills towards working in management. It even looked like we were heading this way when we see the burgeoning success of his protege Dom Johnson. But perhaps that would have been too easy. Brent is a tragic figure after all and he must remain in his cage to represent all of us who find ourselves with dreams that will only ever be dreams and real lives that will bring us nothing but misery.
Coming soon, David Brent 2: Eurovision.
Probably my favourite film so far this year, 9/10.
Listen to our ideas for continuing The Office here:
As you heard in our recent The Office episode, I was hugely impressed with the concept this film had hit on for continuing the story of David Brent. Did it live up to my own personal hype? I suppose it kind of did and it didn't.Read More
(Originally posted 18th August 2016)
It should be pretty clear by now that I'm not the biggest fan of superhero nonsense so I must admit I went into Suicide Squad with pretty low expectations. Maybe that helped, because I came out being entertained by a solid if flawed film.
The problems mostly arise from them trying to do too much in one film. There are too many characters and with next to no previous backstory for them, it gets a little exposition heavy at the beginning. They handle this about as well as possible and do it as a roll call style intro to all the main players. It gets away with it by charging the flashback cutaway scenes with some flashy visuals, which frankly, was a nice change after the staid darkness of recent Batman offerings.
The whole concept is, of course, fatally flawed, just like The Avengers, in that this team of people are completely imbalanced and really shouldn't be existing in the same story world. How can you have a demi-god that is capable of pretty much anything and a hell-spawned fire demon working alongside a girl whose only superpower is being a bit kooky and hitting people with a baseball bat? It's like having a raging green beast who can jump over buildings working alongside someone whose special skill is running in heels.
And yes, it is the female characters who are mainly hamstrung by this. But that's what comes from adapting 30 year old material that is mainly aimed at 14 year old boys, I suppose.
It was, of course, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn that was getting a lot of attention pre-release. Unfortunately, both the character and the performance felt a little desperate, with not quite enough substance to offer. There were a few flashes of what will be a much more interesting (and fucked up) story dealing with Quinn's and the Joker's relationship. As Sol alluded to in our podcast, that's a really damaged relationship and could either give us a very deep and moving story or be exploited for horrific titillation. I'm not holding my breath.
Incidentally, Jared Leto's Joker seemed completely on point. Used sparingly in this film and only there to serve Quinn's character arc, the shorter screen time probably works to his advantage as such an extreme character. A different enough take on a well established villain to give us something different while staying true to the source. I have hopes for the future here.
As for the rest of the Squad, Will Smith stands tall as the leader and does his Will Smith thing. He is in fact a much larger role than the Harley-heavy trailer suggested. Jai Courtney I think was supposed to be the comic relief; that didn't work. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is completely unrecognisable as Killer Croc and unfortunately the character is completely irrelevant to the entire story and you can't understand what he's saying (but he only has three lines so never mind). Cara Delevingne just looks way too young and her character strays too far into the supernatural for my tastes, which derails the whole film. As I've already said, bringing characters together from vastly different story worlds just doesn't tessellate comfortably. Joel Kinnaman is completely forgettable but Viola Davis puts in a perfectly pitched performance as the government overseer of the Squad. If you're going to make the bad guys into anti-heroes, you need a real cunt pushing them around and she does it beautifully.
The plot gets a little messed up and spends so much time setting up the team that the actual story feels unexplored and forced and never quite adds up. The supernatural stuff makes it seem too silly and it's also limited by the fact that this team of terrible bad guys can never do anything really bad because they have to become sympathetic for the audience. Deadshot is a ruthless assassin but has a rule of no women, no kids. Fire Boy can burn a prison to the ground but he just wants to be back home with his wife and kids. All that kind of bullshit. They don't even swear for fuck's sake. Even all the henchmen who have to be brutally killed to give us a significant bodycount are faceless goons so it doesn't feel like real murder. Harley Quinn and The Joker are the only ones who seem like truly bad guys, and again that sets up their future film as one to watch.
All that sounds like quite a lot of negativity so what kept me going? The film was visually entertaining, the action stuff didn't drag out too long. The characters, imperfect as they were, had chemistry and the actors were generally charming and likeable. I think I've got to put this one on the director. David Ayer has taken an impossible proposition and made it greater than the sum of its parts. He's got the heritage in his back catalogue that suggests he knows how to make engaging character driven action and he was a great choice for this kind of film. And it's to the benefit of us all. God only knows what sort of stinking mess Zack Snyder would have made of this.
I'm still not converted to overblown action films but this is an entertaining watch.
Okay, upon second viewing, unfettered by the allure of the cinematic experience and in the cold light of day, I really can't hold on to my positive feelings here. I don't need to go against anything I said in my original review about the individual parts, it's just that it doesn't come together as a whole in the way that I previously saw it. The chopped up edit and nonsensical plot is too much of a drain on the few elements that did work and ultimately kept me going throughout. It was entertaining but needed more focus and an actual sense of what it was trying to achieve.
We discuss all this in our Batman episode that can be heard here:
(Originally posted 9th August 2016)
Have you seen any of the previous Jason Bourne films? If yes, then you've already seen this one too. It is exactly the same as the second and third films in that it makes no attempt to do anything original or interesting with the story.
It also brings together all the worst elements of those earlier pointless films. Overly long car chases? Check. Computers are magic and can do anything? Check. Credulity stretching personal connection with the bad guy? Check.
For what it's worth, the plot involves Jason Bourne getting dragged back into the world of international espionage after his old buddy Nicky Parsons (Julie Stiles) involves him in a plot to bring down the C.I.A. Then something involving a motorbike goes on for about forty minutes but the camera was shaking too much to really know what. So the C.I.A. are after him but they've got their own problems as well because the different members are stabbing each other in the back. And then at the end he walks into the sunset to a Moby song or whatever.
Tommy Lee Jones plays C.I.A. Director Tommy Lee Jones, who you might recognise as the same character that Tommy Lee Jones plays in every film he's ever been in (apart from Batman Forever). And let's be fair, he knows how to play that character. The filmmakers obviously took on my suggestion of putting in a primary bad guy for Bourne to repeatedly tussle with and Vincent Cassel is wasted in this two-dimensional role. And of course they had to take it way too far and have it that he killed Bourne's father. Bourne's father, incidentally, who it turns out is a crucial element in every aspect of the Bourne story even though I'm pretty sure he's never even been mentioned before.
Alicia Vikander does what she can with another characterless role that is just there to buffer the magical computers that solve everything. Did you know that you can wipe the memory of a USB stick 8000 miles away as long as there's a Nokia 3210 in the room?
The only highlight is Riz Ahmed as a young Zuckerberg style tech entrepreneur who has found himself in a deal with the devil. It's a great performance and feels very real in a film that specialises in the incredulous. It is this element of the story, dealing with concerns of the government spying on our internet activity that was obviously the starting point for the plot. It's topical, it's in the collected consciousness of the target audience, it's a genuine concern. They could have developed that into a suspenseful espionage/corrupt government story, but nah, fuck it, let's drive a tank into a casino.
A waste of time and money that has no validation as either art or entertainment. The final nail in the Bourne coffin that should have been left buried nine years ago.
You can hear some better ideas for Bourne films here:
(Originally posted 3rd August 2016)
Finding Dory is pretty much what you'd expect from a cash-in sequel. The plot is fairly thin and obviously is centred around Dory. There is not much effort to flesh out any new supporting characters and Marlin and Nemo are similarly marginalised. That being said, Dory herself is a charismatic enough character to carry the film. She is not exactly developed any further from the original film, but at least is given some history and more purpose. The scenes of her as a child are suitably adorable and there is an emotional pay off at the end that is about as basic as you can get.
At many points, it feels like you're watching a cartoon. It may be ridiculous to criticise this about an animated film but it's an important and negative step away from the tone of Finding Nemo. Pixar has never been about strict realism, of course, but it at least strove to obey the laws of (Hollywood) physics. There's exaggeration and then there's pure fantasy and Finding Dory strays far too close to the latter.
The most egregious example of this is the magical mcguffin character of Hank the octopus, who arrives on the scene at any point where the characters are in a situation they can't get out of. Hank has supernatural powers that allow him to turn invisible; he has super strength; and he can live out of water for extended periods of time. Put it this way, at one point he drives a truck for about ten minutes and we're supposed to take that completely seriously. Then there's a beluga whale who serves no purpose in the plot other than to provide echolocation, which apparently is being able to see anything anywhere, even when not in water. The filmmakers' abandonment of any kind of grip on reality, even in a kid's film, is pretty laughable at times.
And that is part of the problem overall. This is very much a kid's film. Pixar have built a brand on creating child-friendly stories that are complex enough for adults to appreciate too. Finding Dory is aimed at six year olds, but is complex enough for a twelve year old to appreciate. This may be my own prejudices talking, but if Finding Nemo was Pixar, then perhaps Finding Dory is Disney Pixar. Soulless Corporate Pixar.
Oh, and a side-note. There are a couple of minor characters in Finding Dory who are seemingly cognitively disabled. Over the course of the film, other characters manipulate, bully and harass them. There's no pay-off where they get their comeuppance or anything – just disability played for laughs. Very surprising to see that in a kid's film in 2016.
So finally, what is the message of Finding Dory? Kid's films have to have some kind of moral, right? There's definitely something about family being important but also that family is who you choose it to be. That's okay. There's also some bits to do with trust and letting people make their own decisions, which felt like a bit of a hangover from the first film because it was all centred around Marlin being a worrier. But I think what the major message is, comes down to, “do whatever you want, it'll turn out alright because magic.”
Shallow and uninspired – 6/10
Listen to our Finding Nemo episode here:
In many ways, Star Trek Beyond is exactly what I asked for in our Star Trek episode. Unlike the previous two efforts, it really feels very much like a feature-length episode of the original series (albeit produced with a massive budget). That said, if this had been an episode of the original series, it certainly wouldn't be remembered as one of the classics.Read More
(Originally posted 22nd July 2016 - complete and total spoilers)
In a long tradition of Hollywood blockbusters, Star Trek Beyond gives you exactly what you expect, but it does at least do it competently and with some personality. It also lives up to the long lineage of Star Trek by successfully combining action fare with some long-standing character development. It's only really the bare minimum you could expect from a film series that relies on maintaining the status quo, but it is there.
The general theme of the film is that together we are stronger; “Ye cannae break a stick in a bundle” - primarily based on the fact that the villain of the piece is trying to bring down the Federation. Unfortunately, this doesn't come across very clearly because the antagonist's back story and motivation is kept secret for a dramatic “reveal” in the final act (which you will have figured out at least 45 minutes earlier). It's also rather undermined by the nature of the enemy, who are presented as a Star Wars-type army of Stormtroopers; faceless and plodding and can't shoot for shit. These drones are the ultimate in unity in that they mindlessly follow the orders and indeed it is this element that is exposed as a weakness when it comes to destroying them. So the message is unity but with individuality? We work together but we're not drones? I feel like it may have been slightly muddied along the way but there is definitely an aspirational message there somewhere.
The spaceships of the villains are a great concept; referred to as bees by the characters, they are more like locusts, overcoming their enemies with sheer numbers and literally ripping apart enemy ships. I'm not familiar enough with the world of sci-fi to know if this is an original concept but it felt very fresh and different and works in the tradition of Star Trek bringing in new and interesting technologies to keep their alien races on point (like The Borg for example). Similarly, the massive Space Station colony of Yorktown is gloriously realised and in terms of visual effects in general, it feels like the film never puts a foot wrong.
The main cast is as you were, and it's only the ones who have personality (Scotty and McCoy) who ever really catch your interest. The weight of the emotional story is placed on Spock, which never really works. There is only so many times you can play the “logical guy has emotions” card before it stops being a character arc and we just accept that the guy has emotions. Idris Elba is excellently menacing as the main villain but sadly is rather less convincing when he tries to play a human. Sofia Boutella is the other stand-out in the guest cast and her relationship with Scotty is played just about perfectly.
I do think this new incarnation is being slightly hamstrung by having to tie in to long-established characters and they need to make more of bringing in new regular personalities. The death of Anton Yelchin has gifted them a perfect opportunity to do this, as a respectful end for Chekov can be written in and that slot can be taken up by an entirely new character. Make it an arse-kicking woman who doesn't have to wear a tiny skirt as standard issue uniform. Someone very much like, if not actually, Boutella's character of Jaylah (the ending does open the door for her to become a regular).
Plot-wise, don't expect any surprises. It's pretty by the numbers stuff, but it does the job. The one thing that really always annoys me with these kinds of films is when they put people into positions of danger as if we're supposed to feel any real suspense about their fate. We know that Kirk isn't going to get sucked out into space and he'll manage to press that button just in time. We know that the villain isn't going to shoot magic death smoke into the atmosphere and kill millions of people. Stop building suspense into your plots if you never have the courage to do anything out of the norm. It doesn't work.
One last moan about Star Trek in general. As stated in this very film, Starfleet is not a military operation. They are a scientific expedition. An incredibly well-armed and combat-trained scientific expedition. I know you have to make action films, but could you just for once not have the whole plot centred around the killing of another species? This film had the set-up to do it, too, because the main villain is an ex-Starfleet member who is wreaking misplaced revenge after spending centuries losing his humanity. Wouldn't it have been more satisfying if he had reconnected with his fellow man and stopped his fiendish plot because he saw the error of his ways? No? Beat him up and then blast him into the deathly ice grip of space? Okay then.
A solid if unsurprising addition to the canon – 7/10
I was probably the most optimistic member of Diminishing Returns when it came to the new Ghostbusters film. I remained optimistic that the talent involved would deliver, at worst, a solid, fun comedy. It’s with a heavy heart, then, that I report that the film is, in fact, not a solid, fun comedy at all. It's a strangely messy and laughless affair.Read More
The film suffers from various shortcomings that largely seem to stem from the decision to use a veteran director of the show rather than someone who makes, you know... films. It's tonally schizophrenic, with sections that are poorly conveyed and general issues with the pacing and translation of the show into the language of cinema.Read More