Quick thoughts on the Star Trek Beyond trailer

Yesterday, the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released.

I’m really not sure what to make of this.

My first impression is very much ‘oh no, looks like the Enterprise is being destroyed, so much for the five year mission’, followed by ‘whatever happened to Star Trek’s mission statement?’

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

My understanding of Star Trek, both the original Kirk series and the 80s/90s ‘sequels’ was that it was about exploring the universe, whilst having something to say about us as humans.

Yes, it had drama, action, fights and comedy, but there was a sense of something more.

Obviously, you can’t judge a film on a 90 second trailer – and I recognise the need to appeal to a broad audience, but I’m not sure this feels like Star Trek. It feels more like an action-packed science-fiction comedy. In fact, it almost feels as if the makers of the trailer are appealing to those who were grabbed by Guardians of the Galaxy (a pretty fine film in its own right, I might add) rather than showing what is distinctive about Trek.

Maybe Trek in film has always had to fight the battle about ‘not being Star Wars’ (the first films in both franchises came out within a relatively short time of each other).

Well, we’ll see.

For the meantime, I think Wil Wheaton, Star Trek alumni himself, sums up my feelings with this tweet.


Review: Kingsman – The Secret Service

So, another film I’ve been quite late seeing…

Kingsman is, as the title suggests, a secret service, unaccountable pretty much to any other agency in the world and charmingly hidden behind the facade of a Saville Row tailor’s. Or, as you might say, could it be any more British?

Saville Row meets James Bond

In fact, the sheer Britishness (possibly even Englishness) of this film is unmistakable. The moments when it loses its Britishness, which are few and far between, also manage to keep an element of the stereotypical ‘stiff upper lip’. Even the most violent, and in fact downright shocking, scene in the film mostly throws the viewer as much for which character is mainly involved as for the violence itself.

The film toys with reflecting a certain era of James Bond (the charming, suave 60s one), with gadgets galore and a villain who really could have run SPECTRE. And yet, it also manages to feel timeless and modern, which is quite an achievement.

Much of the energy of the film is carried by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) and Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton). The talented pair of actors play off each other extremely well, especially in portraying Eggsy’s rags to riches/coming of age tale. Although the viewer knows that the clash of worlds will be resolved before the end of the film, it doesn’t matter. There’s a lovely knowing wink to this major theme of the movie in the discussion which ends up with Hart expressing surprise that Eggsy has seen My Fair Lady.

A clash of cultures

In some respects, early parts of the story echo Young Adult blockbusters such as Divergent, where our ingenue slowly proves his worth, only for disappointment to hinder him before he is thrown into a situation where he finally succeeds. Kudos to the writing, direction and acting that this formula doesn’t feel tired here.

An extra nod really needs to go to Michael Caine. His part is small, but he has one seen where he ‘blows the bloody doors off’.

The film overall has some great set pieces, a good few shocks and twists and buckets full of charm. Who wouldn’t enjoy a couple of hours in the company of Kingsman?

Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Okay, let’s clear one thing up first. In spite of potential confusion with the title, I’m sure the filmmakers intended it to mean the second version of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel rather than a second-rate version of the first one.

Whether the film manages to be a second version or a second-best version of the original film is perhaps more open to question.

The main positive of this film is revisiting characters we know from the first film (Dames Judi and Maggie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel), even (surprisingly) the charmingly odious Jean Ainslie (Penelope Wilton). They feel like friends like by this point, so it’s a bit like putting on a comfy pair of slippers.

We learn more about the roles they’ve adopted in Jaipur, but (of course) this means that one of the key successes of the first film – the ‘fish out of water’ experience is lost. And that element doesn’t appear with the addition of Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig’s characters.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

There was an interesting sub-plot about monogamy in older age which could have been fleshed out more, as it raised an interesting perspective.

Occasionally, the film steps into some darker or sadder places. Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), whose character journey was well-defined in the first film, appears on screen more but with a somewhat underplayed storyline. There’s a hint of where it’s going, but it is tantalisingly unresolved by the end of the film.

Although an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, the film felt like ‘characters in search of a plot’. To be frank, nothing really happens. A few strands from the first film are continued and developed and it’s all very nice, but we learn very little new in terms of the characters and very little actually happened. And, slightly unforgivably, the resolution of whether there will be a second hotel really comes out of nowhere.

I’m not sure I would say the film is ‘second best’, but I do feel that it was something of a watered-down second trip to a well which, in the end, perhaps didn’t really need to happen.