Star Trek Beyond
July 28, 2016
Star Trek Beyond (** ½)
J.J. Abrams’ initial reboot of the Star Trek franchise back in 2009 was greeted with much acclaim from the critical community and from audiences as well. I found that to be quite confounding. I felt that the essence of Star Trek and what made it so popular in the first place, namely that it was a series about ideas as opposed to action and special effects, was nowhere to be found in Abrams’ take on the beloved franchise. There were action set pieces galore and the film was well cast but nuance and depth were nowhere to be found and I was puzzled (and still am) as to why the first film resonated so well with audiences. The second film, Star Trek Into Darkness rectified those problems a little bit but on the whole it was clear that a new day had dawned for the beloved series.
And now we have Star Trek Beyond, the latest film in the series and the third in seven years. Any hopes that the film series might be heading into the more philosophical territories that the TV series inhabited were thrown out the window for good this time around. Star Trek Beyond is all special effects and action set pieces and not much else. That may be enough for today’s audiences. I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that anyone expecting anything beyond what’s on the surface need not apply.
Abrams has been replaced in the director’s chair this time around by Justin Lin, best known for his stint behind the camera on the Fast and Furious franchise. He brings a lot of that expert flair for staging action sequences that he does so well over to this film.
Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella & Simon Pegg in Star Trek Beyond
It’s a good thing Lin knows what to do on that front as the script gives him very little to do other than give him an opportunity to showcase his sizeable talent for such things.
The script, co-written by series star Simon Pegg, has the crew being besieged by an alien race. The USS Enterprise is damaged in the process and most of the crew is forced to crash land on a distant planet in the interim. There are a few dramatic conflicts here and there but not anything that will take precedence over the film’s aforementioned action sequences.
There are nods to series stars Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, both of whom passed away since the last installment in the franchise. They both deserved the send off the film gives them but it would have been nice if the filmmakers had given audiences something a bit different instead of retreading such familiar ground.
Jason Bourne (** ½)
Jason Bourne, the fifth in the series of theatrical films based on author Robert Ludlum’s character of the same name (not counting TV movie adaptations) does get one thing right. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, you’re probably aware that the star and director of the majority of the films in the franchise, Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, have returned to the fold. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, Greengrass and his creative co-conspirators have given us a film that’s probably the weakest of the crop of Bourne films in which Damon has been the star. That, unfortunately, is the bad news.
Jason Bourne is, at the very least, better than its predecessor, The Bourne Legacy, a film whose creative talent made the disastrous decision to try and send the series in a different direction with a different leading man (Jeremy Renner). It didn’t work, was easily the weakest in the series and was instantly forgettable at best. Jason Bourne ranks just above that last entry in terms of quality. It’s a largely forgettable yarn with extended chase scenes and lots of action-related havoc and destruction but not much resonance when all is said and done. To say it’s all sound and fury would be an understatement.
The central element of the plot here is a thumb drive containing sensitive information that could prove detrimental to certain people in positions of power.
Matt Damon is back in Jason Bourne
In this case said person of power is the head of the CIA, a role filled this time around by Tommy Lee Jones (looking more craggy faced than usual). Jones’ character makes it his mission to get back that blasted thumb drive before it can do some serious damage. Of course he has a government department to run and can’t be bothered with such trivial matters so he enlists an assassin (Vincent Cassel) to do the job for him. Said assassin, of course, leaves a trail of bodies and destruction on his trail with Bourne’s character at the center of it all. There’s also a subplot wherein Bourne regains just enough of his memory—it was wiped clear in the first entry and comes back in fits and starts—to figure out who he really is and what happened to his father.
The final section of the movie takes place in Vegas and contains an extended car chase involving Bourne and his assassin that’s well done but just not enough to overcome the fact that the film is a one trick pony. Jason Bourne may have returned with Damon in the role but let’s hope he has a better story to accompany him if by chance he returns to movie screens in the future. (Also featuring Alicia Vikander and Julia Stiles.)
Both movies are playing everywhere in this area.
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