Tag Archives: Simon Pegg

Why Star Trek: Beyond can’t tell its art from its Elba

25 Jul

For God’s sake, Jim, I’m a liberal not a fascist! Spock and Bones with newcomer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) in Star Trek: Beyond 

Really, internet? Does no one apart from me find it peculiar that, in Star Trek: Beyond, the Enterprise crew keep talking about strength in unity? They are the ultimate liberals – Simon Pegg, who wrote the script this time round, even recently said the Enterprise crew would have been unanimous Remainers in the Brexit vote – and yet this slogan is the very definition of fascism. A “fasces” in Latin is a bound-together bundle of sticks – one stick is easily snapped, a bundle is not.

The saying and its application also feel like an inferior retread of “the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many”. Perhaps it’s one of Pegg’s many deliberate homages to the original series, but it comes across as lazy.

Indeed, the plot seems even more perfunctory in conception and risible in denouement than usual. The much-touted new character, who shares pride of place on the poster with Kirk and Spock, has no more depth than any other identikit bad-ass martial-arts babe (with, admittedly, a talent for engineering thrown in). The dialogue, though fitfully entertaining, is never as laugh-out-loud funny as you would expect from being off the Pegg, though in his defence he was simultaneously filming Mission Impossible at the time of writing and had to be talked out of resigning by producer JJ Abrams. And while the last Star Trek film had the more nuanced Benedict Cumberbatch, Kraal is a painfully stereotypical villain, with a face where you can’t tell its arse from its Elba.

Ah well. Star Trek: Beyond still has much to recommend it. Hugely superior production design, for a start. The “snowglobe in space” that houses millions of people in a suspiciously fragile-looking bubble one-ups the curved space base in Elysium with a dizzying convergence of gravity-defying walkways, shimmering lakes and bendy skylines. A crashing Enterprise similarly upends gravitational logic to have Kirk climbing floors and walking on walls. The action scenes, courtesy of Fast & Furious 6 director Justin Lin, are faultless.

Overall, as a life-long Trekker, did I enjoy it? Hell yes. I mean Jeez – I remember what it’s like to sit through Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in the cinema. Criticism be damned: may the current incarnation of bold goers live long and prosper.

Star Trek Into Darkness – Three words: A. Ma. Zing.

10 May


Nearly 50 years after Star Trek first aired on television, the new film, Star Trek Into Darkness, feels box-fresh and cutting-edge. I’ve just seen it on opening night in South London’s famous Ritzy cinema, where they served Romulan Ale in the bar and the staff – sorry, crew – dressed in uniform with Starfleet insignia!

The film can be summed up in three words: A. Ma. Zing. It starts with the most thrilling opening sequence since Raiders of the Lost Ark – Kirk dodging spears on an alien planet while Spock is dropped into the boiling heart of a volcano – and then it goes into warp-drive.

I hate reading spoilers myself, so I won’t give away the plot. And anyway what we love about Star Trek is the interplay between the characters, and that’s all here and played to the hilt. The Kirk/Spock bromance? Yup. Each would die for the other. Spock singing The Logical Song? There’s a great exchange between him and an angry superior officer: “That’s just a technicality!” says the officer. “I am Vulcan,” replies Spock calmly. “I embrace technicality.” And, in an argument with Kirk, “Reverting to name-calling suggests you are defensive and therefore find my objections valid.” Maybe you had to be there.

It’s hard to write an ensemble script. Marvel Avengers Assemble managed it (see here); so does Star Trek Into Darkness. Simon Pegg has a bigger, funnier role as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu stands in as Captain for a while; Karl Urban as Bones gets several of his patented “For God’s sake Jim, I’m a doctor, not a missile defuser” lines; and Zoe Saldana’s romance with Spock is now on the rocks. “Really?” says Kirk. “Are you guys fighting?” A pause to consider Spock’s cool logicality. “What’s that even like?”

But the stand-out is Benedict Cumberbatch. He has the stillness and physicality of a Zen Warrior, the deep, slow, sure voice of a man utterly convinced of his ability to “walk over your cold corpses”. He’s already conquered TV with Sherlock, and dipped a toe into Hollywood with War Horse. After this, his phone will be ringing off the hook. He is unquestionably Britain’s next A-list star. See here for my interview with Benedict; part 3 will be posted on Friday.

I said I wouldn’t talk about the plot. Without giving too much away, I will say that just as the ‘60s TV show fostered love and understanding between nations by having Asian, Russian, black (and alien!) crew members working together, women alongside men, so too Star Trek Into Darkness has a moral heart. It is a film about the effects of terrorism. And, with Guantanamo Bay still open and drone attacks causing high civilian “collateral damage”, the message is clear.

“There will always be those who mean to do us harm,” says Kirk at the end. “To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves.”

Discover more about Benedict Cumberbatch in my in-depth interview. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. For part three, click here. FINAL PART: click here