Posts Tagged ‘JJ Abrams’

The Enterprise crew takes an entertaining but inessential voyage in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

April 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 13, 2017

Star Trek Beyond, the third entry in J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the venerable science fiction franchise, is a pleasant but ultimately inessential way to pass two hours.

As the picture begins, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise are roughly three years into their five-year mission. But Kirk has grown weary of deep-space exploration (there’s an amusing shot of him opening his closet to see several hangers displaying identical uniforms). Meanwhile, his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto), feels compelled to break off his relationship with the human communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana) because of his wish to help propagate the Vulcan species. This longing is only magnified when he learns of the death of Ambassador Spock (the late Leonard Nimoy, glimpsed in stills), his counterpart from and link to the original Star Trek TV series.

When Enterprise puts in for resupplying, rest and recreation at the remote (and oddly named) Starbase Yorktown after an unsuccessful attempt to broker peace between two warring alien races, there’s a distinct air of discontent about the ship. And yet Kirk remains up for a challenge; when the alien Kalara (Lydia Wilson) rockets toward Yorktown on an escape pod spinning a tale about how her crew has been marooned on an even more remote planet named Altamid, the captain gathers his crew for a voyage through an uncharted nebula.

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Among the stars, war: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ revives a classic space opera but isn’t as compelling as the originals

January 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 7, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings together a mix of old and new characters from the mega-successful science-fiction movie series in order to launch a new sequence of cinematic space adventures.

But you probably already know that.

The plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set in motion by a search for Luke Skywalker, the hero who helped topple the evil Galactic Empire at the conclusion of the original Star Wars film trilogy. The missing Jedi, who wields the mystical, magical power of the Force, is sought on the one hand by the evil First Order, an Imperial remnant that retains its predecessor’s taste for mass destruction, and on the other hand by the Resistance, an ill-defined successor to the Rebel Alliance that is long on scrappiness and diversity but seemingly short on everything else.

But you probably already know that, too, because this movie has been selling tickets like gangbusters. Before it was in theaters for three weeks, The Force Awakens earned $1.5 billion worldwide, making it the sixth-highest-grossing feature in history — all without even having opened in the world’s second-largest film market. If the picture is as popular in China as it’s been elsewhere, it could just be a matter of days before the seventh Star Wars movie overtakes Avatar’s $2.8 billion in tickets sold to become the most successful movie of all time.

Which frankly leaves me feeling somewhat baffled, because while The Force Awakens — or Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, to use the complete title — is an occasionally enjoyable movie, I’m hard-pressed to call it a great one. Director J.J. Abrams and his fellow screenwriters, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, extend the space saga originally created by George Lucas mainly by updating the formula of the original Star Wars and adding a handful of new characters.

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Like father, like son? Identity is inextricably tied to parentage in Nick Harkaway’s ‘Angelmaker’

December 18, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 18, 2014

Absent parents loom large in the fictional realm. A key component of the original Star Wars trilogy is Luke Skywalker’s gradual discovery of the particulars of his parentage (especially the villainy of his father, the genocidal Darth Vader) and Luke’s struggle to develop his supernatural powers without being consumed by his own dark, angry impulses. The rebellious nature of the alternative timeline’s James Tiberius Kirk is shaped in large part by the absence of his father, George, whom director J.J. Abrams killed off in the opening sequence of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Likewise, the rebooted Amazing Spider-Man makes the research and relationships of Richard Parker, father of the orphaned web-slinging Peter Parker, a key plot point in both of the series’s first two outings.

I’d wager that matters of parentage are even more prominent in British fiction. After all, the United Kingdom has been ruled for centuries by a hereditary monarchy, with power passing (at least in theory) from one generation of royalty to the next.

A major storyline in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy involves Aragorn assuming the position of king of Gondor that, according to genetics and custom, is rightfully his. My recollection of the books is hazy, but in Peter Jackson’s wonderful movie adaptation, when the audience initially encounters this character, he goes by the name of Strider and appears to be a well-trained woodsman accustomed to operating on his own — hardly the résumé of the standard fantasy prince.

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Up in the air: J.J. Abrams juggles balls aplenty in a dynamic, overstuffed ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

August 28, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 28, 2014

Star Trek Into Darkness, director J.J. Abrams’s second entry in the rebooted Star Trek series, is packed to the gills with characters, plot threads and action. Unfortunately, the 2013 film is guilty of trying to do a bit too much.

Into Darkness is fun, no doubt. It recapitulates one of the most popular narratives in the Star Trek oeuvre: The story of Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered warlord who was frozen in a cryogenic tube and exiled from Earth after the bloody Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century. Gene Roddenberry’s pioneering 1966 television show featured Khan as the villain of the week in “Space Seed,” a first-season Star Trek episode; 16 years later, the character formed the dark heart of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which many still consider to be the best of the franchise’s dozen movies.

Abrams’s movie combines elements of both outings while adding plenty of new twists. Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch, charismatic but far paler than any man playing a character named Khan should be) and his frozen coterie of superhumans are discovered by a Starfleet commander other than the Enterprise’s James T. Kirk, and Khan’s 23rd-century machinations take quite a bit of unraveling as our heroes seek to learn just who he is and what he’s about. (As superfans already know, the movie is chockablock with dangerous newfangled torpedoes, and there are a pair of characters named Marcus, but there are no signs of the U.S.S. Reliant or the planet-shattering Genesis project.)

The film begins with an action sequence on the planet Nibiru, where Kirk (Chris Pine) breaks all the rules to preserve a primitive civilization and the life of his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto). The opening act sets up several character arcs by displaying Kirk’s immaturity and Spock’s refusal to engage with the emotional needs of his friend (Kirk) and lover (communications officer Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana).

A few minutes later, a Starfleet facility in London is destroyed and a gunship kills several officers at fleet headquarters in San Francisco. This prompts a furious Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) to dispatch Kirk to the Klingon home world, Qo’noS (pronounced Kronos), with orders to kill the fugitive responsible for both attacks. But it turns out that the fugitive is not who he seems, and neither are some of the other characters who are either crewing or focusing their attention on the Enterprise.

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January 17, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken MEMwrites.wordpress.com Jan. 17,
2014 Let me start off with this: Right from the start, I’ve had
mixed feelings about the rebooted Star
Trek
enterprise. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the
pun.) One reason for this, of course, involves the cast: William
Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, the late DeForest Kelley, George
Takei, Nichelle Nichols and all the rest of the cast of the
original Star Trek portrayed their
characters throughout three TV seasons and six feature films. The
thought of seeing different people play Captain James T. Kirk,
Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Hikaru Sulu, Nyota Uhura and the
others is just — well, it’s
frankly weird. I first became aware of
the original Star Trek when I was a
child, and I still vividly remember the excitement that surrounded
the release of the first several Star
Trek
movies. It’s a stretch to say I grew up with
these characters, whose adventures I also followed throughout a
number of original novels — but not a huge one. When
producer-director J.J. Abrams assembled his cast for the 2009
reboot, titled simply Star Trek, he came
up with an interesting group. As Kirk, Chris Pine has something of
the charisma of the young Shatner. Zachary Quinto seems to be a
fine actor, but I frequently think that he has the wrong voice (too
high-pitched) and nose (not angular enough) for Spock. Karl Urban
(a New Zealander,
natch) and Zoe Saldana capture some of the essence of McCoy and
Uhura, respectively, even though I find Urban’s gruff intonation
cartoonish and grating.

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