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Damn this is so Mexican I half expected Robert Rodriguez to be the director. Indeed it is also no surprise to find out Guillermo del Toro was a producer on this movie although the entire project has that nice death obsessed Tim Burton-esque vibe to it much like 'Corpse Bride', you could almost say this was a Mexican version of a Tim Burton project.
The book of life contains all the stories of the world and one such tale revolves around a small town in Mexico (year unknown but I'm guessing its in the past) on the Day of the Dead. The spirits of the dead La Muerte (ruler of the land of the remembered) and Xibalba (ruler of the land of forgotten) see two young boys competing for the attention of a young girl, they make a bet over which young boy will end up marrying the girl first. If La Muerte wins then Xibalba can no longer mess with mortals for fun and if Xibalba wins then he will rule the land of the remembered. The land of remembered being a fun colourful lively afterlife where its always party time, the land of forgotten being like a black and grey coloured Tim Burton vision...OK I promise to stop with the Tim Burton references.
The plot is probably the weakest part of this movie as it really doesn't make much sense or have any real weight to it. These two ghostly spirits make this wager on the young children but I'm not really sure why they do this, or why they even care what these kids get up to in the future. Its also an odd bet because they will both have to wait many many years to see the outcome, and what happens if neither of them marry this girl? surely they could make another simpler wager.
That is one half of the plot, the other is about the two boys who grow up into strong men and again compete to win the hand of their childhood girlfriend (Maria, seriously couldn't they have used a better and less stereotypical name). One of the lads (Manolo) becomes a bullfighter following his family tradition but is unsure of his fathers expectations and prefers to sing. He is the more well adjusted of the two, kind, generous and considerate. The other lad (Joaquin) becomes a well known military hero who protects the town but is a show off and narcissistic. All the while the pair are watched over by the two rulers of the underworld, you might ask what exactly all this has to do with the afterlife, well all that kicks off when Manolo gets killed in a trick by Xibalba. In a typically Romeo and Juliet fashion Manolo believes Maria to be dead after she is bitten by a snake sent by...you guessed it, Xibalba. So Xibalba tricks him by offering a chance to see her again which of course would mean dying...which he doesn't quite work out in time. Hence Manolo is out of the picture and Xibalba can win his bet.
So yeah we've seen this type of story line before, nothing wrong with that of course but its all pretty shallow stuff. This movie is all about the visuals...and what visuals! Honesty at the start I was a little put off by the design of the picture, the characters were very basic and weekday cartoon looking to me, clearly they were going for a different approach but first impressions were worrying. As we delve further into the story and reach Mexico again the character/landscape designs took a change but this time for the better. Now we are confronted by this oddly surreal blocky look which kinda resembles Lego men and figurines that have been carved out of wood. Well that's the main characters anyway, background characters are even more off the wall with outrageous facial designs and body structures that I can only think are somewhat along the lines of 'Ren & Stimpy'. On one hand grotesque but at the same time highly imaginative, the whole vibe feels very much like a continental animation to me. Anyone remember the PC videogame 'Grim Fandango'? well think along those lines too.
The highlight is obviously the afterlife sequences where things really become bizarre and extremely visceral. This movie is all about Mexican folklore, Mexican myth and magic, Mexican, Latino, Spanish culture (if you hadn't already guessed) and this is where is explodes onto your screen. Up to this point the Day of the Dead was just a background theme but on arrival in the land of remembered its a full on mardi gras of colourfully epic proportions. The artistic style is still thoroughly absurd and crazy but it really does boggle your senses in a good way, its like...Beetlejuice in Mexico. Chock full of detail on every frame there has clearly been a lot of time, love and attention to create those tiny details and make it as accurate as possible.
From an visually artistic point of view this movie is truly award winning, a breath of fresh air, smart and original. I can see some folk not adjusting to the look though, its definitely not gonna be for everyone. Alas the plot is a tad stale and predictable with its soppy notions sure but it is a kids film essentially, gotta remember that. I twisted in horror at the use of some modern pop songs that were used here and there, that really spoilt the atmosphere, but twas nice to hear Ennio Morricone's 'Ecstasy of Gold'. Always a problem these days, they have to include some ghastly pop music for the kids to relate to, ruins the dark ambience.
The film really comes alive (no pun intended) after Manolo gets killed its as simple as that, up to then everything is bit meh to be honest. From there on its a vibrant hyperactive wacky-ass cartoon/animation that is a solid celebration of Mexican lore and tradition of which the young can learn from. At the end of the day there is nothing here that hasn't really been done before, but the fact its been created around a culture and heritage that hasn't really been explored fully on film before makes all the difference.
This was the first Star Trek movie I saw at the cinema, and to top that I think I saw it whilst in the US of A too. So the story continues from where it left of in 'The Search for Spock' with Nimoy again at the helm. What can one say about this Trek outing, it certainly took a different route and clearly went for a more comedic approach. I believe this was the first movie to be set on Earth in the present day (at the time, 1986), I think that might also count for the TV series too.
Was this the right approach? well maybe, I can't deny that the film is very entertaining with some well crafted family fun moments that make all the veteran actors even more endearing in their now historical roles. How can anyone fail to love these guys? look at Spock in his hippy outfit...hilarious right?...right?!! Quite literately old age pensioners in space (with Shatner and Doohan getting fatter by the sequel and Koenig's hair piece becoming more obvious) and still saving the Earth, what a team! So yes kudos for the alternate direction and some lovely amusing moments which can't fail to make you smile but...
On the other hand did this film really do much to bolster Star Treks sci-fi rankings within the sci-fi hall of fame? I'm not so sure really, we all know Star Trek has that little niche of semi-serious logical sci-fi mixed with blatant fantasy but for me this plot just took one step too far. There is really only so far you can go before you have to step back and say hold on, and I think the whales went over that mark.
Earth is in trouble (again), oh geez! A weird object in space that looks like a black cylinder connected to a football by a beam of intense white light is headed to Earth. Note the rather blatant '2001' obelisk clone conveniently changed to a cylinder...well that's what I think. Unsurprisingly this foreign object is draining everything of its power as they usually do. When in orbit around the Earth the object knocks out the global power grid and starts tearing the planets weather system apart...inadvertently. This alien thing is seemingly calling to humpback whales which are currently extinct in the year 2286 so the ageing crew simply decide to use a time warp into the past to casually pick up some humpback whales and bounce back to the their present before anyone knew they were there.
Now is it me or is this premise just a tad beyond the realms of a reasonably sensible film? The last film saw a main character resurrected because they needed to keep the franchise going after the surprise blockbuster and now they can jump through time to fix problems...with whales, these guys can't be beaten! The story is indeed an ingenious creation (they do tend to come across a lot of unknown energy sapping problems don't they), a good message about the environment and endangered species but for me the time travel thing just never sat well. Its too convenient and renders the Enterprise crew almost insurmountable in any given situation. Problem? well we'll just pop back in time with a time warp and hocus pocus every things gonna be OK. Don't even get me started on how they managed to somehow transport these massive whales in massive tanks of seawater...Jesus!
All that aside its a completely new breathe of fresh air to have the film set almost entirely on a planet surface, especially our own. This does infact render special effects almost obsolete for most of the film...almost. Being set on present day Earth (1986) Nimoy was able to do a lot more without worrying about the confines of space limitations and real science. This movie really felt like a far out comedic fantasy where anything goes and Earthbound visual gags were a tour de force. Naturally being set in the 80's you can't not have a gag utilising a stereotypical 80's punk...that's virtually an obligation.
Alas there are still many many typically nasty Star Trek bluescreen shots, hokey sets, some hideously obvious whale footage crowbarred in and pretty obvious matte paintings. On the other hand you do still get a solid array of decent looking starship models and the ever lovely Earth Spacedock. We also get to see much more interior of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey ship which up to this point had never really been explored much. On the whole I did actually like the misty atmosphere of the ship, the dark green colour palette set against various red LED panel lights, it looked mean and aggressive.
I can see why this did well upon release as its a fun film with a good message and happy ending. True it does feel like a long tourism advert for San Francisco and the humorous side makes the entire feature come across like something as daft as 'Crocodile Dundee...in space'. For me the plot has gone from generic in the last two films to completely outlandish in this film, such a sweeping change in concepts and tone! much suspension of disbelief required here.
Yet much like the previous two films I neither overly dislike or overly like this fourth effort. Its a movie of its time, I accept it for what it is and the movie itself knows what its aiming for, so to that degree I can't really moan. It is a typical Star Trek plot...but one of the more stupid plots, the classic TV series always did have good and bad plots. I can't really score this very high because apart from the childish funny moments that are indeed sweet the rest is pure dodgy hokem that still doesn't really look any better than the last two movies (the original still looking the best at this point).
The rebooted crew are back and this time they're going into darkness? trekking into darkness? how does this title fit the story? moving on. The first film in this new era reboot was a huge success and rightly so, it was an exciting sci-fi romp, does this remake/re-imagining of 'The Wrath of Khan' work just as well?
We kick off admittedly with a very nice looking yet clear [i]Indy[/i] rip, all that was missing was a giant rolling boulder. Instantly you can see this film is gonna be a treat visually, modern films have gotten to a point now where they do (can) look extremely polished and slick, and this film is easily top of its game in the effects department, its beautiful. I do especially love futuristic London and the look of future Earth in general, so much detail, so much going on, the newer Star Wars trilogy pales in comparison. I could of course mention the immense use of lens flare but I think everyone knows that now and it merely blends into the background, some looking very nice.
Lets get down n dirty here, the plot, the main issue of the film is the badly written, disjointed, confusing plot which makes no sense. I'm still not sure what exactly was the point of half of it. Marcus finds Khan and his crew floating around in space I believe, but where exactly? why was Khan in suspended animation in the first place? whose ship was he on? etc...nothing given away there. Now I think about it once Khan was discovered how did anyone know he and his mates were genetically-engineered superhumans? and why awake just one? Anyhow Marcus wants Khan to develop advanced technology and weapons...but the guy is 300 years old, surely he's gonna be slightly out of touch with modern day tech? right?? guess not.
My point is does this new movie follow on from the original Star Trek episode 'Space Seed' as did 'Wrath of Khan'? Did that happen in this rebooted alternate timeline? if so then fine, most of my questions are answered. If not then there are some mighty plot holes here...or we would need to see that alternate version of 'Space Seed'.
There doesn't appear to be any real goals or reasons for anyone in this film, Marcus wants Khan to create new advanced gear and then...? start a war with the Klingon's, why? He intends to start this war by getting Kirk to fight missiles at Khan who is hiding in an uninhabited area of the Klingon homeworld, but how did he know Khan would hide there? what if he hid on another world? Why exactly are Khan's crew stuffed in these missiles?? risky place to smuggle them isn't it?...well isn't it?! And no one suspects the fact there are 72 missiles exactly, not maybe 10 or 20 but 72! odd high number isn't it? well isn't it?!
The character story arcs are just all over the place with little sense or connection, its all so vague. The only reason Khan doesn't set off the bomb in London by himself at the start is so they could introduce his super blood into the plot. There is no other reason for that entire sequence with the black man and his daughter. Oh and an exploding ring? eh? wut?? On the subject of Khan's super blood why does everyone tear around trying to get his blood, why not use some of the blood from his crew? surely theirs is super too, isn't it?
On the subject of Khan I really must say I don't understand what the fuss was about with Cumberbatch. Now I'm not saying the guy did a bad job, not at all, but as far as I'm concerned his performance on the whole was just very average, his entire range boiled down to over pronunciation of his words. As a character he wasn't particularly interesting either, a very bland generic looking bad guy (or was he? he just wanted to save his crew) who blended into the background, accept when he's killing everyone like an unstoppable superhero (Khan never did that in the original second Trek film).
I also think Cumberbatch is miscast in the role frankly, he's so dull looking, so uniform, that it destroys the character of Khan. There is nothing special about the guy anymore, no flair, no razzle dazzle, its just a bog standard looking white guy. Why didn't they cast a man from South Asia or at least someone with a clear ethnic background. Old Spock calls him by his full name in the film, Khan Noonien Singh, but he's white!! clearly white British with a British accent for Pete's sake.
And while I'm on the subject what exactly is Khan's game? save his crew...check, errrr...and then? What is his goal? old Spock reckons to kill everyone inferior to himself, but Khan never says that I believe, I don't think we ever get told what he actually wants to do...after saving his crew.
On the whole there is so much badly written plot in here it just ruins whatever it was they were trying for...and I'm not sure what really. Khan's super blood cures death and they have him captured so that means no one will ever die in this universe now? there is a cure for most death related injuries and a good supply of blood if they can keep Khan alive. As said old Spock turns up AGAIN!, whenever they are really in the shit he just pops up and tells them everything they need to know almost like a videogame cheat. Yet how the hell does he manage to get in contact with them? its like some kind of Jedi trick. There also seems to be interplanetary transporters now...sooooo doesn't that do away with the need for spaceships? oh and cold fusion doesn't...ah who cares.
The idea of a cure for death brings me to the death of Spock in the classic film. That was a shockwave for everybody at the time, I don't think people saw it coming, no one really knew if he was gonna come back, could he come back? was that it for the lovable legendary Spock? In this film we see Kirk get killed in a silly play on that iconic sequence. The difference is we know for a fact he won't really be dead because he is the main flipping character and we've only been given two films in the new reboot franchise, so of course he will come back. This makes the entire scene completely devoid of any emotion, in fact its pretty pointless, utter fail of a scene.
That of course in turn leads me to mention the iconic [i]'KHAAANNNN!'[/i] moment. We all know of the classic version of course but what of this regurgitated version? Well its kinda silly really, the fact is these two guys have only known each other for a relatively short period of time (two films), so again the emotions don't really bubble much when Spock blubbers over Kirk, zero emotions in fact. Plus of course as I just mentioned we all know that Kirk will definitely be back from the dead somehow (oh wait, where did they find a Tribble?) so the whole thing is just plain dumb. These moments are in the new film purely to get the hardcore old school Trekkies wet and a rather weak attempt to be clever simply by reversing stuff when in fact its more of an insult to the 82 film. Spock died in the original so lets make Kirk die here, Kirk screams out Khan so lets...you get the drift, genius writing huh.
I feel bad giving this a poor write up because there are elements in this I like, loved the new look Klingons and their Predator-like masks, nicely aggressive and intimidating and I enjoyed the space jump sequence. The main problem is this isn't a Star Trek film, its not a proper Trekkie flick, its merely a generic action flick set in space that just happens to be the Star Trek universe. You could quite easily replace the Star Trek crew with John McClane and call it a Die Hard film. Long gone are the slow moving, character based genuine science fiction Trek films, its all shooting, death, explosions and the obligatory destruction porn which seems to be a complete requirement these days.
As a stand alone film the first Trek reboot was a fine film, this sequel is simply loud messy action folly with lavish visuals. There isn't really much I can recommend here if you're a true Star Trek fan, regular film goers may enjoy it of course but that's only because this isn't proper Star Trek (which is what they were aiming for). All I can say is I really hope they don't try and reuse more of the classic films, why not try and make you're own classic cinematic moments instead of copying some one else's. A reasonably entertaining watch no doubt but hardly memorable or groundbreaking, wholly average, very lazy, very jumbled, half a mark up for visuals.
The final showdown for the next generation crew and FINALLY the Romulans get a chance to shine. Thing is they are overshadowed and pushed to the side by the Remans, guess the Romulans had to wait for the reboot.
Sooo here we are again, Earth in danger from an alien race and Picard is also being abused by another alien race, again. First he's assimilated now he's being mentally tortured by his power crazed clone who wants his blood...literately, some days huh.
I must admit I can't get my head around film responses at times, I've read this was looked upon negatively. Why? its actually a pretty good Trek adventure and possibly the slickest of the next generation films, maybe the best of the four. Certainly better than 'Insurrection' and 'Generations' and much more open for everyone instead of just the Trekkies, which is probably for the best if you think about it.
Plot wise this is total Star Trek, exactly as you would expect with overblown ideas and fantastic notions of sci-fi. Its not original and its not gonna surprise you but at the end of the day it does the job and entertains for the run time. Hardy is the bad guy dressed in shiny black armour (and am I the only one who forgot all about him being in this?! I was like...hey that's Tom Hardy!), He's bald, he sounds like David Thewlis and he's unpredictable with bouts of sulky anger down to his young age, I presume that was intended. Put simply he was a darn good villain (finally) who was perfectly slimy enough to get under your skin, just what the franchise needed.
The rest of the bad guys all look really decent too. The Reman makeup/prosthetics are excellent in fact, first really good Star Trek aliens I've seen to be truthful. OK they do look like a race of Nosferatu, in fact a bit too close really, almost a complete rip-off, but I must admit they look damn good, highly aggressive and imposing visually, kudos.
Actually the bad guys in this film coupled with the nice makeup and regal work/designs on the Romulans completely steal the show from the Enterprise crew. We all know the next gen crew are dull but they pale in comparison to the villainy on screen here, I actually wanted the bad guys to win this, would of been much more interesting.
It was also weak to see they finally got the balls to kill off one of the next gen crew (Data) only to basically have him survive on by introducing an earlier model. I could see that coming miles away, and of course Data conveniently manages to upload all his personal 'data' into the earlier model before he sacrifices himself. So basically Data was killed but low and behold the replica earlier model takes his place complete with all Data's personal memories and attributes, as if he had never left *groan*.
As I said earlier this is easily the best looking of the next gen films, probably all the Trek films. Production values look high with pretty much everything in the film, all sets look quite swish with depth and a solid appearance. Picard and his crew look as boring as ever in their grey uniforms but as I said before both the Romulans and Reman outfits all look superbly crafted and border more on Star Wars quality.
Space sequences look delicious as they tend to in these films but this time the starships look much better than before. Its mainly CGI as usual but clearly much sharper and with some good looking weight to them, still not quite up to Mr Lucas' spaceships but getting close, the cloaking effect still looks a bit dodgy. Must mention the rather sweet looking cityscape on Romulus at the start of the film, very much on form with another certain popular sci-fi fantasy, dare I say quite Naboo-ish. A big kudos to the death sequence of the Romulan Imperial Senate also at the start. The infection and fast decay shown is some of the best CGI mixed with real time model work I've seen. These effects really put the film in good stead showcasing a newer sexier Trek offering.
I guess you could say this one film is merely an action film in Star Trek clothes and not exactly what Star Trek is all about. Where has all the exploration gone? the seeking out of new worlds and new civilisations etc...There is definitely more bias towards fighting, death, multiple laser blasting and even the obligatory action film 'car chase' sequence. But its hard to win with Star Trek, either its too flashy and gun-ho, not Trekkie enough for the core fans. Or its too dull and slow for everyone like some of the older Trek films or its too in depth for non core fans and more of a Trekkie treat fan film.
Its not very original and is pretty much a cookie cutter production but what do you expect with Star Trek. Plenty of decent action in space and a bit on land with a moon buggy chase, some of the best effects so far (about time), great visual designs throughout with the usual high caliber imagination but maybe it loses the true Star Trek essence along the way?
Entirely predictable to the last minute but ultimately very enjoyable like most of the good Trek adventures. Another good franchise bookend, this time for the next generation crew. It hasn't been as memorable as the classic crew films in my opinion but a valiant effort none the less.
The next generation crew steps up to the plate with a third film but does it knock one out of the park? Well not to beat around the bush no it doesn't, its a full strike if you ask me.
I'm not gonna sugar coat it, gotta be cold here. For me this was easily the weakest Trek film so far, even worse than 'Star Trek V'. I know I have used the term 'outstretched TV episode' a few times in previous reviews with Star Trek but this one term really sums up this film to a tee.
Apart from the quite dreadful grey scale shaded tone that accompanies every scene on board the [i]Enterprise[/i] which somehow now seems more intrusive than in the previous two films, the plot is utterly non-engaging or even remotely interesting. A planet which harbours immortal regeneration powers that Starfleet and the alien race Son'a wish to keep for themselves whilst at the same time evicting the local hippie population. Say what now?? yes that's right, its basically all about evicting some perfect happy go lucky boring blonde haired blue eyed farm folk off their planet...and that's it. I'm not even sure if there were any bad guys in this! I suppose they were naughty, not really much of a threat though, it was just a few groups fighting amongst themselves really, nothing more.
The whole film is so so utterly pointless and dull for virtually the entire run time! It only kicks into action for a small segment near the finale and even that was very mediocre stuff. Everything looks exactly as it does on the TV show, there is nothing that would make you think this is a big budget movie. The effects are no better! you would think they might be getting better but no, this film actually goes a step backwards.
There is just something about the next generation design, even though these are movies they just can't seem to shake the look and feel of the TV series. The classic crew movies didn't always look tremendous but they were always much better looking than the original show, they always had real silver screen moments. I'm afraid to say this entry has none what so ever.
It seems as though everything is now fully CGI here, I'm not a fan of computer generated effects and I think this is a good example why. The only thing that looks good and realistic in this film are the space panoramas, nebulae, planets etc...which is exactly what CGI is good at. Starships can be done well but here they are no better than their TV counterparts, satisfactory at best. There are still the age old issues of dodgy bluescreen going on but now they also have the added downside of completely fake CGI sequences on top.
So apart from the dreadful plot and god awful CGI are there any plus points? I guess F. Murray Abraham does add a sprinkle of class onto the proceedings, its just a shame he does completely nothing of interest for the whole film. The alien race he portrays (Son'a) are such a generic concept with little to no imagination in design, their faces are simply plain grey just like all the uniforms of the Enterprise cre...zzzzz.
So the film ticks along with tonnes of dialog including so much space jargon I felt completely bewildered and detached. I'm sure this one film has more Trek technical mumbo jumbo speeches than any other, by the end of the film I had actually lost how or what they were all suppose to be doing.
Add to this some really vomit inducing romance with Picard, really hokey sets, really fake plastic looking props, hokey fights and the very annoying practically perfect farm civilisation in their typically 'I'm a goodie' beige/white loose fit garments. Yeah I know its a Star Trek film and you come to expect this kinda stuff but by this point I think certain aspects of this really should be better. The classic Trek crew were loved for their quirky comedic like adventures and Shatner's fluffy fist fights. The next generation crew just can't pull that off, they are too serious and too dull basically. For me they can't get away with the charming nonsense that the classic crew got away with.
This film lacks punch and energy, its a complete non entity and in my opinion will only please Trekkies. For fans it basically has all you need as its pretty much a very long TV episode so you can't go wrong. For neutral non-fan folk it will be a slow arduous slog through some heavy dialog that will probably leave you dizzy whilst offering no reward at the end.