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Laramie Movie Scope:
Star Trek Beyond

Lots of sound and fury, signifying what?

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 23, 2016 -- A new Star Trek movie directed by Justin Lin and co-written by Simon Pegg? What's not to like? Lin did a great job with several of the “Fast and Furious” movies and Pegg is a sharp, witty writer and actor (he plays Scotty in this and recent Star Trek movies). Sorry to say, then, that I found this movie disappointing.

This was supposed to be a throwback to the Star Trek tradition of the more uplifting TV shows and movies of yesteryear, but it isn't that much of a throwback. It is plenty dark, especially visually (more on that later). It does have some humor (thanks to Pegg, probably) and there are some good action sequences (thanks to Lin, probably) but on the whole, it seems like a long, loud, dark, jumbled mess of a movie.

The strong point of the last three Star Trek movies is the cast. The central characters are spot on, and there is a nice addition of a new character, Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) who is a warrior and engineer, the lone survivor of a wrecked ship on a dangerous planet.

The film's villain is Krall (Idris Elba of “Pacific Rim”) a angry man who feels betrayed by the Federation. He is determined to attack the Federation and create chaos, using an ancient weapon which just happens to be aboard the Enterprise. Once the crew figures out what Krall is up to, their challenge is to find a way to keep Krall from using the weapon against the federation.

Although there are some good action scenes closer to the end of the film, the first big action sequence, in which the Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of insect-like robotic weapons seemed very chaotic and poorly lit. I'll have to watch this again at another, better-equipped, theater to find out why, but many scenes in this film seemed way too dark.

This could be due to inadequate projector brightness in auditorium four of the Fox Theater in Laramie, where I saw this in 3D. It isn't the first time, or the first theater, where I've noticed this problem, particularly with RealD 3D movies, which require a lot more brightness than 2D movies do, to begin with. I think this may be one reason 3D is not as popular as it should be.

In order to get adequate brightness and resolution, a very bright 4K (ultra high definition) projector, or two-projector system is needed for the RealD-type 3D systems. I'd like to see this film on one of those laser projector systems I've read about with dual projectors.

I suspect many theater owners are simply waiting for 3D to go away, so they are not about to spend the money for the equipment needed to show 3D the way it should be shown. That is what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. That being said, there is one scene where the 3D looks good, a well lit outdoor cliffhanger scene. I did some research on this and it appears the local theater's projection system was at least partly at fault for the dark look of this film, so I am revising my rating on this film from C to C+.

The story is also pretty convoluted and not very convincing as far as why the characters behave the way they do, particularly the villains. Krall gives a speech about why he wants to attack the Federation, but it doesn't make much sense. Another couple of villains profess their undying loyalty to Krall and his vision of chaos, which is just typical movie minion-think, also unconvincing.

There is a subplot involving Kirk (Chris Pine) Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) about secrets they are keeping from each other. This stuff doesn't really advance the plot, or add anything to the movie. What works best are the scenes between Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock when they are stranded together and have to work together. The scenes between Scotty and Jaylah also work well in the same way. These are good character interactions.

There are some impressive visual effects involving a huge space station, literally a city in space. Chris Pine has some good scenes in the movie about how Kirk feels worn down by living in space for years aboard the Enterprise. This movie is a real mixed bag in terms of writing, action scenes and spectacle. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)