My review of ‘Star Trek Beyond’…

This time I’m reviewing Star Trek Beyond, the latest in the rebooted franchise and, as with my other movie reviews, I will be talking about the events in this movie (such that they are) so this review comes with a SPOILER warning. If you don’t want the movie spoiled then please read no further. Otherwise, onto the review…Oh, one more thing. There are quite a few acronyms in this review, sorry about that, but it’s necessary, I think. Right, the review!

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I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a teenager. Watching The Next Generation (TNG) at 6pm on BBC2 was something I loved and ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ (BoBW) remains two hours of the finest TV I’ve ever seen and the only part of TNG that I think still holds up really well today. Watching Picard become assimilated by the Borg was a seminal moment in my TV education and the seventh movie, First Contact, is not only my favourite Star Trek movie (yes, I know ‘Wrath of Khan’ is the better movie but I still enjoy First Contact more) but one of my all-time favourite movies. It helps that I saw it for the first time with my best friend and my brother and that we were the only people, besides a cinema staff member, in the screening. That was a fun experience!

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My wife and I are also big fans of Deep Space Nine, I’ve seen it several times through, and actually we recently finished watching the series from the beginning again. DS9 has an impressive story arc, along with wonderful characters and, like BoBW, ‘The Way of the Warrior’ is also incredible TV. I never got on with Voyager and Enterprise is bloody awful, slow and pointless in my opinion. As for the movies, well The Motion Picture is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, as are the Search for Spock and the Final Frontier, but Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country and the aforementioned First Contact are all superb. The entire run is something of a mixed bag and the movies that I haven’t mentioned are not really worth worrying about.

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As for the rebooted franchise, well I have enjoyed it so far. I have seen each in the series in the cinema and I found the first to be an enjoyable romp of a movie that successfully brought Star Trek back to the mainstream, something that I thought would be quite difficult to do. Into Darkness continued that trend of pleasing both mainstream viewers and fans of Star Trek like myself, though I have seen reviews that have said that it divided fans. I liked that movie (especially as I hadn’t realised that Cumberbatch was Khan beforehand) although I did have a few little niggles (Tribbles, I’m looking at you!) and  a friend of mine gave an impressively thought out dissection of the movie some time ago that did make me question whether it was as good as I had previously thought. I could find no flaws with his arguments either.

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When I first heard that they had given the next movie to Justin Lin, the director of one of the Fast and Furious movies, I was concerned (and the trailers did little to assuage my concerns) but the reviews (including that of my go-to movie critic, Mark Kermode) were pretty decent and it seemed to be going down well with the reviewers. How wrong they were. Star Trek Beyond is bloody awful. It is a garbled mess of a movie with almost no discernible storyline and pretty much nothing of note or value. Yes, seeing the Enterprise destroyed is entertaining, but the trailer had completely spoiled that and we’ve seen it done before anyway. The villain (ably played by Idris Elba) is even less developed than those in the past two movies (why are ST villains always so one-dimensional, except Khan of course) and the plot is completely nonsensical. As for the plot-holes, well you’d need some sort of plot to worry about the holes in it and what little there is, isn’t worth mentioning.

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But to give you an example of how awful this movie is, I offer this. There is a climactic scene where Kirk and his crew face the fleet that destroyed the Enterprise. And they do so in an ancient, wreck of a ship. This insurmountable foe is overcome by the application of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ track. Now, I have no problem with this, it’s silly goofy fun. What I have a problem with is that these ships, which are connected via radio waves, seem to spontaneously explode once their connection is cut. No explanation is offered and I think we are meant to assume that the ships that explode are crashing together. Yet, when this effect is shown again, the ships genuinely seem to be spontaneously combusting. This is awful storytelling that neatly fits with how ramshackle the rest of the plot is. Things like character development are ignored or placed into the category of ‘is that even what that character wanted’ an example being when a prominent female character is offered a place at the academy. Did she even want to go, was that mentioned, because I never heard it?

My biggest problem with Beyond is that it is just incredibly boring and though there seems to have a lot going on onscreen, it failed to engage with either me, my wife or my family, and I wonder how that is possible. The one moment that I enjoyed, when Spock looks at a picture of the Original Series crew, relied entirely on your affection towards said crew to get an emotional reaction. It worked for me but it did so because of my connection to those movies, and not because of Beyond, and also that I was aware that most of the actors in the picture have now passed away including, most recently, Leonard Nimoy. And when a movie has to rely on your feelings about characters in previous entries, then it is certainly failing.

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The last time I was this disappointed by a movie that I paid to see in the cinema was Jurassic World, another turgid, mess of a movie, and that time, as with this one, I saw the movie with friends and family on a group outing. I wish I hadn’t paid to see this terrible movie and I certainly will not be ever watching it again. I have better things to do with my time and better movies to see and I would recommend that you do the same. To paraphrase Spock in Beyond, this movie is ‘horseshit’. Well put, sir, well put!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

OnlyanAtheistFinal

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My ‘rambling’ review of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The View from the Cheap Seats’…

In case it isn’t quite clear from my previous ‘rambing’ blog posts, Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author. I have loved his work for as long as I can remember from reading his and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Good Omens’ in the 90’s as a teenager, to discovering ‘The Graveyard Book’ in my local library many years later, I’ve always read everything of his that I can get my hands on. I’ve enjoyed all of his novels and most of his short-story collections, as well as his excellent comics especially Sandman (which I will be buying in the beautiful omnibus edition when funds allow). I’ve never read anything of Gaiman’s that I didn’t find to be beautifully written and that I didn’t take a lot away from. Anyway, onwards to the review!

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‘The View from the Cheap Seats’ is a non-fiction, mish-mash of many random things such as the introduction to books written by friends of Gaiman, including the late Terry Pratchett, to blog posts taking in such topics as his appearance at the Oscars (from which the title of this book is taken) or a heartbreaking visit to Syria, to musings on friends like Charles Vess or Dave McKean and with ‘View’ Gaiman’s passion is clearly on display. He writes about things that matter to him and that he wants you to care about and everything written by Gaiman is worth reading, in my opinion.

I would always recommend reading Gaiman’s work but ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ is something a little different, something that may be passed over by readers of his due to the fact that it’s not a work of fiction. I would urge people to not do that. Find the time for this sizeable tome, you won’t be disappointed and a lot of worthwhile information will be conveyed to you. I also felt with this volume that Gaiman was almost reading these exchanges to me (as it often feels like when you listen to his audio version of Neverwhere) and that was something I enjoyed very much. He is a writer who is always looking to improve, always striving to be better, and someone who does not want to stay still for too long, nor to repeat what he has already done, something which many writers seem to settle into once a certain level of success and fame is reached. Reading Gaiman always makes me want to be a better writer and I think that is one of the best things about reading his work.

When my wife and I recently saw Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in a New Statesman event, several things stood out. One is how unbelievably talented this pair is (but also how hard they work) as well as how much they adore each other. Second, they obviously give a shit about the world around them and want to do what they can to improve said world. Gaiman’s visit to Syria, and subsequent appearances on news networks, as well as his blog post (which is included here) demonstrate that he would very much like to contribute to both the conversation and to finding a solution to the problems of the world. And given the state of the world, I think most of us know how he feels.

I got the copy that I read from my local library (something I’m sure Gaiman would like) but I may at some point pick up a copy of this book if only to, hopefully, get it signed (along with my hardcover copy of Graveyard book, which I treasure) as well as to work my way back through the frankly ridiculously long list of authors that Gaiman talks about. From Ray Bradbury to Brian Aldiss and many other names along the way, the book could potentially provide you with an impressively long reading list. I will be endeavouring to find the time to add some of these authors to my to-read list, though I have no clue when that will happen, given the stack I seem to permanently be attempting to tackle

I think it’s fair to say that Gaiman is an influence on my writing, probably my biggest influence, and I strive to one day write as well as he does. Maybe if I keep going that will happen. Eventually. ‘Only an atheist’ has already been compared to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett by a reader who reviewed it and I hope that something I write will be compared to Gaiman. Until then, I shall also strive to be the best writer I can be, to aim to keep improving, and to repeat myself as little as possible. In this, Gaiman provides a role model and for that, as much as for his writings, I am grateful. Cheers!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

OnlyanAtheistFinal