Star Trek Beyond: The Bradscribe Review

Going Where Most Sequels Go, But Sadly Not So Boldly Either…

And… Beyond What, Exactly?!

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“We got no ship, no crew – how’re we going to get out of this one?” – Captain James T. Kirk. 

In the 50th Anniversary year of Star Trek, insurmountable pressure gnawed at the thirteenth film in one of the all-time revered franchises. 

Luckily, Star Trek: Beyond certainly turns out to be an enjoyable outing. It’s bright, energetic and – dare one say it – fast and furious. Yes, it IS quite good, and whenever it appears on TV, a second viewing won’t hurt. But in honouring this franchise’s half-century, it falls well short. 

Stardate 2263.2. On their 966th day in deep space – a little under three years into that five year mission – and an alien threat never encountered before attacks the USS Enterprise and splinters it in  spectacular fashion. Yeah, this starship is the most ridiculous and LEAST aerodynamic design in SF history, but watching it destroyed in increasingly diverse and dramatic ways is quickly becoming tedious. 

Actually, Beyond’s strongest aspect has to be the visuals, and the conceptualization and realization of Starbase Yorktown is especially mesmerising. A few more gliding and panning shots of that would have sufficed, thank you very much. 

Sure, the sfx is top notch, but in SF cinema these days, ironically, complicated visuals seem to be the simplest feat to achieve

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“Unity is not your strength. It is a weakness” – Krall. 

Star Trek: Beyond… what, exactly?

Not only does this title not signify anything specific, but this whole exercise (released now to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the franchise) does not really recapture the rather sedate – and not too furious – spirit of the original series.  

The villain: Krall is your typical ho-hum nasty Trek alien: prosthetically-challenged? Trek! Glowers at all the good guys (and gals)? Trek! And spouts incomprehensible, yet coolly sinister, galactic lingo in his deepest and most menacing voice (this time by Idris Elba)? Trek! Great entrance, but subsequently doesn’t do anything dastardly distinctive. 

Let’s face it – “Damn it Jim!” – if this was the 60’s, Idris would have to parade around in a loincloth and sport a pink candy-floss wig (to accentuate his extra-terrestrialness, you see…)

Sure, the cast do recreate (re-energize?) the original characters with gusto, particularly Chris Pine (as Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (as Spock) who fit better than ever into their iconic characters. After all the kerfuffle over “outing” Sulu, his relationship is merely implied – nothing sordidly frightful enough to vex the Chinese censors.

Of course, it’s a shame to watch Anton Yelchin knowing that it is his final appearance as Chekov…

My personal fave is Karl Urban as “Bones” McCoy. The interaction between him and Spock is particularly commendable (the closest you can get to recapturing the essence of the original show).

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“Ah, he likes that chair…” – Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.

Now – more than any time before: “Damn it Jim!” – my heart BLEEDS for Zoe Saldana, poor girl, underused YET AGAIN. At least she didn’t have to get her face painted for nothing…

But really…

What’s the point of her showing up on set at all if she is not going to get to do anything of any consequence?!

Lt. Uhura was one of the ground-breaking, progressive womens’ roles in early TV SF, so – with this Anniversary strongly in mind Saldana should at least have got the opp to turn in what most people call: “a career-defining performance,” with the main crux of the plot hinging on her, but… no…

And, talking of significant females in Star Trek, the grooviest intro to the ranks here is Jaylah (bold and boisterously portrayed by Sofia Boutella) but, there again, as is increasingly frustrating in modern SF cinema, she gets all made-up to do precious little…

So what? Tough gal with a staff = cue obvious favourable comparisons with Rey, from that other legendary franchise beginning with ‘Star’…

Well, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott had more to do this time, but – no surprise – he is played by the co-writer: Simon Pegg. Amazed he didn’t add a little romance between the engineer and the staff-wielder…

Oh, by the way: why the blazes did THAT BLOODY BIKE have to be on the Franklin, apart from allowing Kirk to look cool (and feel-young-again-annoying-cliche-alert)?

Not so much Starfleet but Speedway…

Beam me up NOW, Scotty, if you please… 

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” You spent all this time trying to be your father, and now you’re wondering just what it means to be you” – Dr. “Bones” McCoy.  

Personally, my extortionate popcorn parlour ticket would have been better spent had Jaylah been the main figure (character woud be preferable but that would mean the writers having to flesh her out more), trying to save her people from the fiendish Krall. 

Replace the crew of the Enterprise with a bunch of anonymous Starfleet expendables (remember to order the RED uniforms, darling) and you might get to learn more about Krall as well.

Hey, ditch the Star Trek tag while we’re at it(!)

 It would still be visually stunning, but… deprived of all formulaic familarity, it would NOT – “Damn it Jim!” – be financially viable… 

The problem is: after 13 movies, where else can this franchise hypothetically (okay, if you will, boldly) go now?

And just as one suspected: this movie – along with the last ten – fail in comparison when placed alongside the great Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. 

This 21st century version of a 20th century vision of the 23rd century may divide critics and Trekkies alike, but it provides decent enough entertainment, and still managed to silence that gang of obstreperous younglings in the back row who kept jabbering throughout the Trailers.

On a last – and most tender – note: really appreciated the affectionate dedication to Leonard Nimoyalthough even he would have found that vague title highly illogical…  

BRADSCRIBE VERDICT:

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“I fail to see how excrement of any kind plays a part…” – Spock. 

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“Let Them Eat Static!”: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Revisited

What Better Way To Celebrate 50 Years Since The Starship Enterprise First Set Out On Its Mission To Explore Strange New Worlds?

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“This is damned peculiar…” – Admiral James T. Kirk.  

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

While on a school holiday camp in 1983, me, and me room-mate, both HUGE Star Wars fans, thought it might be a good laff to go and watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. After all, the laughably-monickered: Star Trek: The Motion(?!) Picture had famously failed to resonate with fans and critics alike;  this would be just something to “pass the time.” 

BLIMEY! HOW WRONG WE WERE…

Back in the day, the original TV series went out at 6pm on Monday eveningssomething to watch while eating dinner, no more. Personally – in the year in which Star Trek celebrates its 50th Anniversary – some of the original scripts, not to mention most of those costume designs(!), have not stood the test of time well.

But Star Trek II did exceptionally well to entice and surprise the neutrals such as myself and convince us that the Gene Roddenberry Universe could offer its own wonders…

From the moment that Ricardo Montalban reveals himself as the genetically-engineered Khan Noonian Singh on Ceti Alpha V and starts fiddling with those gruesome Ceti Alpha eels (NOT to be watched with your Monday evening dinner…) you just knew that these proceedings were turning out to be a decidedly different – and more intriguing – Trek than usual – certainly several Warp Factors more sensational than what this ongoing mission had served up for us before…

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“He tasks me! He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up…” – Khan Noonian Singh.

Alas, the Motion Picture failed partly due to baring no resemblance to the legendary TV series that spawned it. However, by reintroducing one of the series’ more charismatic villains, from the 1966 episode: Space Seed, the stage was set for an epic showdown. 

Sure, at once, Khan made very much an 80s villain – big hair and big pecs – and as Shatner and Montalban both exuded larger-than-life characters, the scenes they shared together were electrifying, reslting in some of the best exchanges in SF cinema. 

Acquired a movie magazine from 1982 this week, containing two articles about this movie, including a review by a self-avowed Trekkie who thought it“stunk.” Apart from having “a silly script,” he remarked that Montalban‘s performance as Khan was “so outrageously over the top, it threatened to go over the edge.”

What rot! 

Charismatic yet dastardly, Khan is actually one of the great SF villains – now universally regarded as such. Goodness knows what said same hack makes of some of the lacklustre villains we have had to endure in recent big screen offerings!

To hell with the fact that Ensign Chekov didn’t even appear in the original Space Seed episode so wouldn’t have recognised the significance of Botany Bay!

Look past this obvious goof and get immersed in the flawless and endlessly riveting outer space action! Also mercifully extricated was the first film’s inexplicable predilection for dentist uniforms; sure, in 1979, that sort of thing would have been expected, but in 1982 – the year that also brought us Blade Runner, Tron and The Dark Crystal (remember that?!) – big and bold visions were the IN thing.

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“Admiral, the Commander of the Reliant is signalling. He wishes to discuss terms of our surrender…” – Lt. Uhura. 

While there could not have been any Trek movie without the phenomenal success of Star Wars, again, one redeeming fault of the Motion Picture was the banaland, quite frankly, tedious – way in which it tried to be too cerebral. Good to see this sequel jettison all that. 

Glorious galactic spectacle was not enough though; some major Star Wars-style action scenes were required. And some top-notch battle sequences were added. The initial attack of the Reliant was superbly handled – as you can see here:

…As was the Battle in the Mutara Nebula.

Over thirty years later, these effects still look remarkably special, but let’s face it: would they have been exhilarating without the stirring score supplied by the late great James Horner? Probably not…

And, after all this time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the yardstick by which all new Star Trek movies are judged. 

Will the brand new Star Trek: Beyond be able to sit comfortably beside it? 

We shall see…

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“I have been, and always shall be, your friend” – Spock. 

Obviously, the great twist: SPOCK DIES was such a bold move.

Although neither of us avidly watched the series, we understood how integral to the series format its token Vulcan officer was, and applauded this incredibly bold move to kill him off…

Apparently, there was only ever to be these two movies, and to have one of the central characters meet his end seemed the only (ahem) logical way to end it all. This scene – according to Hollywood legend – was the only reason that Leonard Nimoy agreed to reprise his most famous role anyway. It still puts a lump in my throat every time it comes on – a superbly acted and directed sequence. 

Such a shame that the huge box office success of Wrath Of Khan meant that Star Trek III had to go ahead. And with one of the most ludicrously contrived plots ever committed to film as well! 

What would modern SF cinema look like today if the Trek franchise had ended with the view of Spock’s coffin on Genesis…? 

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“Are you out of your Vulcan mind? No human can tolerate the radiation that’s in there!” – Dr. McCoy.

Star Trek: Beyond is in cinemas now.

“Stop Your Grinnin’ And Drop Your Linen!”: 30 Years Of ALIENS

There are some places in the universe you don’t go alone…

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“Get away from her, YOU BITCH!” – Ellen Ripley.

“Desolate. Black. Silent. Boundless. This is deep space.

“A scorched speck of technology called Narcissus drifts silently through the void on a non-stop course to nowhere. A monstrous shadow engulfs it. Beams of light flash on from above, criss-crossing the hull. Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley and a cat named Jones, last surviving members of the commercial starship Nostromo have been found…”

Is it really thirty years since ALIENS was released this day in the US in 1986?(!) It wasn’t until my birthday the following year that ALIENS received its first viewing (on my well-worn VCR, of course). At school, earlier that year, returning to class after a memorably rain-drenched lunch hour, it was thrilling – if a tad frustrating – to see that our teacher(!) and some of the other lads were watching ALIENS, thennewly-released on video.

Trust me to walk in during one of the more exciting bits: Ripley squashing one of the creatures under the wheels of the APC. Everyone there knew that this was Brad’s sorta movie, so why wasn’t that dweeb there to watch with them?!

(Ha, that’ll teach me to go study in the library…)

Yeah… but why did this SF movie buff NOT watch this at the cinema?!

The SF rollercoaster ride that Roger Ebert described as “painfully and unremittingly intense” would not be released until the following 29 August when it reached the unsuspecting UK. With a Cert-15 looming ominously over it, there was NO WAY yours truly would have been allowed to get in and gawp at it…

“That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?!”

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“All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I love the Corps!” – Sergeant Apone.

“From his console, Hudson cries out triumphantly: “Found ’em!” He looks at the cluster of blue dots clumped tightly in one area of the screen. “Sub-level C, under the south tower. Looks like a goddamn town meeting.”

The main reason why ALIENS has held up so well over the last three decades is due to the outstanding achievements of its script and vision, both realised by James Cameron.

Creating a sequel worthy of Ridley Scott’s marvelously claustrophobic: ALIEN seemed like an impossible challenge, but this turned out to be the biggest success story of ’86, outgrossing its predecessor and garnering 7 Oscar nominations (it won Best Visual Effects). Cameron has stated in numerous interviews how ALIEN is his fave film. While retaining that original’s scary tone, he imbued his follow-up with unrelenting thrills and suspense.

The title was the writer/director’s idea: “It’s funny… I read an interview with [Dan O’Bannon, screenwriter of ALIEN] that said he was typing away one night at 4:00am, and he was writing:

“The Alien did this; the Alien did that,” and he realized that the word: “Alien” stood out on the page. It was very much like that for me on this film. I was writing away and it was: “Aliens this and Aliens that,” and it was just right. It was succinct; it had all the power of the first title, and it implied the plurality of the threat. It also implied, of course, that it’s a sequel.” 

And from the very beginning, he had conceptualised it primarily as Ripley’s story, with Weaver very much in mind to reprise her first major movie role.

But the actress had still not signed up.

So, Cameron would easily have allowed the studios to offer the role to another actress?

“No!” the director remarked. “Never, never, never!”

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Private Hudson: “Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man? 

Private Vasquez: “No. Have you?”

“Hicks climbs onto a file cabinet and raises a ceiling panel, shining his flashlight inside. The crawlspace is a sickly, gut-wrenching mass of squirming, moist aliens clawing their way forward. Hicks leaps off and fires at the ceiling which bursts, raining aliens. Newt screams. Hudson and Vasquez open fire.”

With the sequel, some extension of H. R. Giger’s original nightmarish design was called for.

The Alien Queen was the stupendous result, designed by the movie’s main effects guru: Stan Winston, with Cameron: “I did the artwork, and he did the physical sculptural work. We tried to be consistent with Giger’s motifs, but not necessarily enslaved to them.”

(H. R. Giger was otherwise engaged at the time on Poltergeist II).

Crucially, rather than just a “thing,” the Alien Queen was viewed as a character, hence Ripley’s anguished dialogue towards it, and the extent the FX team went to make the audience accept that “she” was anything but a “7 foot tall actor in a suit.”

In the classic climactic confrontation, Ripley goes up against the Alien Queen in a Powerloader (after all, she has got a Level 6 rating) – one exo-skeleton versus another.

“Both Ripley and I have changed as time has gone on,” Sigourney Weaver observed. “I feel quite at home in this kind of action picture, oddly enough – because I guess I cut my teeth on it.”

And to think when she started production in 1979, and Giger’s design was yet to be unveiled, she remarked:

“For all I knew, the creature was this big blob of yellow Jello running around…” 

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“We’d better get back, ’cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly” – Newt.

“Ripley runs back the way she came. Aliens are coming at them from everywhere. She runs into a side corridor and enters a macabre room filled with eggs. A piercing shriek fills the chamber. Ripley whirls around and sees the most terrifying thing she has ever laid eyes on…”

One reviewer at the time remarked how ALIENS gave Sigourney Weaver “new emotional dimensions to explore.”

The addition of Newt – a lone, female survivor against the xenomorph menace; essentially a pint-sized version of Ripley – offered an emotional – predominantly feminine – subtext usually quite rare in mainstream SF. It allowed Ripley the chance to resurrect her maternal instincts; after having been “lost” for 57 years, she woke up only to find that she’d lost her own daughter just the year previously.

“She’s not the earnest young ensign she was when she went into space the first time,” Sigourney Weaver commented at the time. It was: “a real joy to return to Ripley with a whole different set of conditions… but I feel she has changed, so utterly, by what happens to her early in ALIENS… She is still a strong character.”

Bizarrely: “This is the first film where I’ve been surrounded by a large number of people who actually have less acting experience than I do.”

A possible sequel had been discussed since 1979, but after Weaver was gobsmacked by The Terminator, she knew that Cameron’s draft would be the only one to actually work.

“Exec producers [Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill] are friends of mine anyway, and we would get together over dinner and laugh about the sequel,” she said. “One scenario was that they would open Ripley’s little space-pod tomb – and she would dissolve into dust.

“No need for Sigourney!”

This is a monumental masterpiece; it is a personal favourite.

This was the overnight rental chosen to celebrate my 14th birthday.

This was the Saturday night TV matinee enjoyed the day after learning that a well-deserved BA degree was heading my way.

Heck yeah, here’s to the next thirty years!

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 “Not bad for a human…” – Bishop.

KARNAK: The Most Awesome New Comic Book You Will See All Year!

Everything Has It’s Weakness, Even The Bonds Of Death. To Him, Weakness Is A Weapon.

He Sees It And Exploits It.

He Is…

Magister Karnak.

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Magister is apparently the Inhuman name for high priest or top philosopher guy or something. And he registers smiling as an insult. Follow my lead…” – Agent Phil Coulson. 

Just when my comic book buying days seemed to be well and truly behind me… 

For the first time in twenty years, all that changed last week. 

And what title was so unputdownable, that it just had to be taken home with me?

While searching for images of suitably moody and/or mysterious hooded figures to illustrate my fiction blog, these illos of such a figure, but with curious green stripes across his face grabbed my attention. This character – going by the moniker of “Karnak” proved immediately striking.

Marvel’s Premier issue of Karnak came out in December. To say that this character has received a MAJOR overhaul since making his debut in Fantastic Four #45 in 1965 would be the understatement of the century.

Just to illustrate what a radical redesign this character has been given, look at this panel from the original Inhumans comic, featuring a cameo from a green guy who needs no introduction:

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And then check out this panel from the new Karnak series.

Wow: such a brutal bunny.

Talk about putting the graphic into graphic art…

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“I think he just smiled then. What does that mean?” – Agent Simmons.  

Ironically, here’s me, attempting to branch out to comic book writing and along – seemingly outta nowhere – comes this jaw-dropping title with blitzing art by Gerardo Zaffino, which is more powerful and more visually striking than any engaging written script!

Who the blazes is this guy?!

Essentially, Karnak is a member of the Inhumans – yes, the same Inhumans whose promised movie has been delayed to accommodate yet another Spidey-flick. 

Hard to believe he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby way back in 1965. This 2015 manifestation, on the other hand, is a warrior-monk with little time – or patience – for the petty problems of humans.

His extraordinary power – channeling an incomprehensible telekinetic energy which, just by pointing or swiping his fingers, can shatter bones and burst internal organs – surely makes Karnak one of the deadliest characters in the Marvel Comics pantheon. 

The fourth issue of Karnak should be in all good bookshops by now.

…And it oughtta be in my collection pretty darn soon.

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“…He’s got no qualms of doing anything to get the job done. As long as he can do it by being a badass… Karnak can see the flaw in everything. That includes bullets, so he can slice them in half with a single swipe” – James Whitbrook. 

Just when it seemed that all the major ideas and stories had been done, so here is Karnak to demonstrate – in the most devastatingly cool fashion imaginable – the jaw-dropping wonders that can be achieved through the innovative-as-ever medium of comics.

Be warned: this title is NOT for kids… 

In this first issue, he tracks down a double agent in S.H.I.E.L.D. Ha ha! No, not Steve Rogers!

But it is difficult to see how the Cap could be a match for Karnak of the Inhumans, Magister of the Tower of Wisdom…

As hooded figures are my favourites, they don’t come much cooler than this fella. 

For a taste of what you can expect, take a butcher’s (and a deep breath) at the page below:

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Totally radical, man.

This Post will leave you with – quite simply – the most awesome single page you will ever see this year… or any year for that matter.

DARE YOU to present to me any other comic book thrill-power MORE gob-smacking, MORE outrageously exciting than this published now!

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“Friends, I must again leave you for a while, to engage the human world and secure our own future. While I am gone… remember to clean the latrines” – Karnak.