Monthly Archives: February 2017

Eraserhead

Eraserhead posterWhere does one start with David Lynch’s debut feature film, Eraserhead?

So much has been written and said about it since 1976 this may well be redundant and as I write I’m still in something of a state of shock following such a mesmerisingly intense experience.

The story follows a young man named Henry (Lynch regular Jack, here credited as John, Nance) who we (and he) discover has fathered a child with a girl named Mary (Charlotte Stewart another member of Lynch’s ensemble of players). After a quick marriage Mary moves into Henry’s rather basic apartment with their baby, and so on.

All that sounds rather normal when described like that but, surrounding a plot that could easily come from a fairly standard drama, or even soap opera, Lynch constructs a world like no other, part post-apocalyptic hell, part internalised nightmare-scape, part 1950’s Americana.

The nearest touchstone I could think of during the first part of Eraserhead was Richard Lester’s surreal vision of post-nuclear war London, The Bed Sitting Room.

eraserhead elevator - Jack Nance

Nance as Henry takes the elevator

From there though Lynch’s work adds layer upon layer of questions with absolutely no answers making the audience find what they will in the building torment of Henry.

From the start it’s hard to not conclude that everything here is designed to unsettle. The clash of standard dramatic conventions with nightmare visions is the broad stroke of this, but it comes in many forms with a non-stop barrage of noise, all seemingly diegetic but often unexplained, with volume levels often entirely mismatching what we are seeing on-screen. 

Equally the set design, limited though it is to a few rooms and exteriors, all shot in black and white, is unapologetically stark but with a decrepit industrial richness that defies its low-budget origins.

eraserhead dinner

Mr X and Henry at dinner

Moments like the early family dinner scene are at once wholesome in the way of 1950s middle America and horrifically corrupt with its man-made mini-chickens – here in particular the idea of maintaining normality in the face of extreme horror, as seen in The Bed Sitting Room, springs to mind.

And then there is the baby… I don’t think there are words to describe or translate this creation without seeing it in action but suffice to say it is at once astonishing and agonisingly atrocious, not because it’s poorly constructed, but because it is quite so convincingly real and never fully explained.

Nance’s performance as Henry is a largely understated tour de force that helps the rest of the film with creating its own sense of totally unnatural naturalism and he is as mesmerising as the visuals with his innocent, wide-eyed expression leading us through what may be his own nightmare.

Eraserhead exterior

Henry takes a walk

The second half of the film just turns this all up even further and there are moments that suggest things to come in Lynch’s later work on Dune, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway before it all comes to a sudden, enigmatic, haunting climax.

Words like unique and visionary are bandied about all too regularly but with Eraserhead David Lynch created something that is certainly both of things.

As much a work of art as it is a horror film and as much a soap opera as it is an exploration of a broken society, it sets the scene for much of Lynch’s work to come as it asks many questions and emphatically refuses to give any answers – and believe me I don’t have any either!

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Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! posterBack in 1993 Richard Linklater took a trip back to the world of his youth with Dazed and Confused, throwing the audience headlong into the world of a Texan high school in the mid-1970s and all the typical comings and goings that went along with it, delivered by an ensemble cast of relative unknowns.

Now, 23 years later, he’s taken us back to first days of college life in Texas in September 1980 with Everybody Wants Some!! a film that is, in almost every sense, a sequel to his earlier work.

The film opens on freshman Jake pulling up at his ‘new’ residence with The Knack’s My Sharona blasting from his stereo and, as he meets his new housemates/teammates, we are again thrown into this nostalgia drenched world of pure Americana.

Jake and his new friends are all baseball players, the stars of the college campus, and the plot, what there is of it, charts the freshman’s journey through the three days leading up to the new term. It’s a whirlwind of clichés from parties, discos and bars to one night stands, stoner philosophy and chance romantic encounters hinting at something deeper we’ve come to expect form American college comedy.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

Jake (centre) with the team on a night out

What sets it apart though is that, despite the cliché and stereotypes, Linklater and his young cast imbue the whole thing with a sense of reality and heart.

This isn’t American Pie, where it’s all slapstick and humour for the sake of it, but something more, with a sense that behind the ‘let the good times roll’ mentality, there is substance.

As the film goes on we see hints of the raw competitive nature present in this crowd of ‘jocks’ while the stoner philosophy gives way to something of an exploration of male youth identity.

Like its predecessor though what makes the film so enjoyable is that it never dwells on these subjects, it simply hints and suggests putting the idea in the viewers head before getting caught up in the next party, making it a perfect thumbnail sketch of youthfully exuberant college life.

Freshman hazing

Hazing the freshmen

Though I will admit there were a few moments earlier on where I thought it might go a bit too ‘laddish’ to use a more British expression – thankfully it never quite did.

The main cast, led by Blake Jenner as Jake, are all excellent and there is a real sense that we are watching a team, with the new freshmen being ‘guided’ by experienced sophomores into this exciting new world of not-quite-adulthood and damn any real consequences.

This seems to be something Linklater is particularly good at bringing out of his actors as while there is a nominal lead, the whole group are essential to the film and the team feeling comes across as part of both the actors and characters.

Everybody Wants SomeHighlights amongst them other than Jenner’s everyman are Glen Powell as Finn, a character in some ways akin to Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, and the almost surreal Jay Niles played by Juston Street who is a sight to behold.

You’ll notice the lack of female characters here and it is very true to say the film comes entirely from an alpha-male perspective but that is the story it is telling and the world it is set in so, for the most part, this didn’t bother me as much as I initially thought it might.

Certainly in some senses Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty superficial and it never quite hits the highs of Dazed and Confused for capturing something of a truly universal spirit.

Everybody Wants Some - Jake and Finn

Jake and Finn

Throughout though it is in turns genuine, funny and thought-provoking in a way few films manage to balance and all set to a great example of a mixtape soundtrack that spans everything from Cheap Trick and The Sugarhill Gang to Devo and Stiff Little Fingers before ending on a note that genuinely had me asking what happens for this team next or is this where the real world starts to catch up?

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BBC Introducing Guernsey: February 2017 – WaterColour Matchbox and Of Empires

WaterColour Matchbox on BBC Introducing Guernsey

WaterColour Matchbox in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Click here to listen to the show

As BBC Music Introducing moves on with its 10th anniversary that has so far included the relaunch of the Uploader tool for submitting tracks (click here to find out more), BBC Introducing Guernsey returned with another show highlighting new music from the islands.

This month’s live session came from WaterColour Matchbox. Live they are a prog-metal-grunge hybrid four-piece but it was founding duo Peter Mitchell and Mikey Ferbrache who joined me for the session, playing acoustic versions of tracks from their recently released debut album Fragments, Artefact and Ruins.

I also spoke to Jack Fletcher, frontman of Of Empires, about their upcoming new EP – the long-awaited follow-up to Stranger Sensations – and what the now Brighton based band have planned for 2017.

You can listen to the show thorough the BBC iPlayer or by clicking here.

Tracklist

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Green Day – Revolution Radio

Green Day - Revolution Radio album coverBack in 2004 Bay Area punk trio Green Day reached something of a milestone moment in their career with the release of their George W. Bush baiting concept opus American Idiot.

While that launched them into being one of the most commercially successful punk rock bands of all time (despite causing something a rift amongst long time fans) with arena tours and festival headline slots aplenty, they have since struggled to live up to the impassioned, firebrand strength on record.

Follow up album, 21st Century Breakdown, tried to relive the glory of its forerunner while a trio of albums in 2012 (Uno, Dos and Tre) seemed to slip out somewhat under the radar with less of the hype, but still sold well.

Following that Revolution Radio then looks and sounds like another attempt at returning to the American Idiot idealism, but, despite being written and recorded during the rise of now-President Trump, it doesn’t seem to have such a targeted focus.

While Bang, Bang and the title track are serviceable numbers with some good upbeat sounds the first half of the album feels somewhat too clean and over overproduced, demonstrating their arena rock credentials but losing much of the band’s spirit.

Green Day

Green Day

From the sixth track, Bouncing Off The Wall, onwards though this seems to change with a far more straight forward punk rock feel to things – faster, harder and more based around the core trio.

While it’s still not the focussed assault it sounds as if it should be there’s a lot to like and here Green Day sound like a band refreshed before closer Ordinary World takes it back to the start a little too much.

As a whole Revolution Radio is a mixed bag but shows there’s still life in Green Day yet, even if they are now very firmly more an arena rock outfit than the young punks who came out of 924 Gilman Street in the early 1990s and I can but hope they return more emphatically to their more political leanings now there is something worth shouting about again.

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The Silverados – The Vault – 24/02/17

The Silverados

The Silverados

While I usually focus on bands playing original music in Guernsey, the island also has another side to its music scene, like most towns, with a vibrant set of cover bands playing in the pubs around the island.

These range from the likes of Stuck to the Ceiling and Day Release who emphasise the rock in their pop to Element 6 who are upbeat pop hits through and through and The Laird’s Chair who do their own traditional folk thing in the same spaces. Within this scene, comparatively recently formed four-piece The Silverados, have created their own rock ‘n’ roll flavoured niche.

Made up of four well-known faces from past bands, The Silverados are Susann Hatcher (vocals), Monty McMonagle (guitar), Dave Hatcher (bass and vocals) and Darran James (drums), so even before they started there was a certain expectation for those who know King Rat & The Soul Cats, The Johndoes, Nemesis and others.

Monty McMonagle of The Silverados

Monty McMonagle

Launching into a spot on version of Dick Dale’s Misirlou (or ‘the theme song to Pulp Fiction‘ to many) set the tone well as they delivered two hours of tunes with a strong rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly vibe to them.

A couple of Stray Cats numbers followed before things diverted and we were treated to covers as varied as Snow Patrol, Elle King and Soft Cell but all with the same rockabilly twang and rhythm shaking their way through.

Although The Vault wasn’t that busy a few made it onto the dancefloor and it was clear that though many present hadn’t seen the band before (myself included) we were all highly impressed.

As anyone who’s knows them might expect while all four members of the band put on a good show it was Monty’s guitar work that was the highlight. He absolutely nailed the rockabilly riffs of Brian Setzer and Dick Dale on his Gretsch guitar and expertly converted the sounds of the poppier tracks into swinging blues and rock ‘n’ roll tones that made them sound like they’d always been played that way.

The Silverados

The Silverados

After a short break The Silverados second set took a similar format, this time starting with The Surfaris’ Wipeout before a few more Stray Cats tracks. This set had something of a looser feel to it as we got versions of Aerosmith, The Eurythmics and The Beastie Boys songs amongst others.

Closing on a reprise of Misirlou ended things on a high and, while this band certainly deserve a bigger and more energetic audience than the one they had tonight, they bring something different to Guernsey’s cover band scene that has potential to do that now rare thing of crossing over with some of the bands playing their own stuff on the island – and this will only be developed when Dave gets into the swing on his double bass!

Silverados press clipping 04-03-17

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Hello America by JG Ballard

Hello America by J.G. Ballard book coverIt seems that the notion of The American Dream is one that keeps cropping up in my reviews recently, most notably with La La Land and Straight Outta Compton, so it feels natural, if strangely coincidental, that I now look at a book that seems to take that dream and turn it into a kind of twisted nightmare.

While J.G. Ballard is well-known for his dystopian science fiction visions from the likes of High-Rise and Crash, Hello America was not one I was familiar with when its blurb and cover caught my eye, but from the off its clear that it bears certain resemblances to the story of Lang in the tower block.

Here our hero is Wayne, a young stowaway from a back to basics Europe of the 2100’s, who has snuck aboard a vessel sailing for an evacuated USA. It’s 100 years since North America was abandoned in the face of an energy crisis as oil ran dry and the once most powerful nation on Earth was laid to waste by climactic devastation.

Arriving in this New World wasteland Wayne and the members of the expedition head off from a derelict New York to Washington DC and beyond.

The journey and the relatively mysterious lead male protagonist are certainly familiar from High-Rise, though Wayne feels far more sympathetic than Lang and the eventual arrival of the equivalent to Royal reveals a far less sympathetic antagonist. Along with this the general sense of growing disaster as the story goes on is similar to High-Rise but on a far grander physical scale.

JG Ballard

JG Ballard

What sets it apart is a sense of optimism, particularly in the first half, where Wayne’s vision of ‘The American Dream’ is infectious and really sucked me into the adventure, much as it does some of his fellow travellers, and the way Ballard paints the landscape of the ‘Great American Desert’ is masterful and hugely visual.

The first half of the book builds the tension to breaking point with what feels like a climax in the depth of the desert before Ballard throws a marvellous curve ball that almost resets things but goes on in eventually more disturbing and absurd ways as Wayne’s dream becomes a real American Nightmare – to say much more would be too much of a spoiler.

The fact that Wayne dreams of being 45th president of the USA is particularly pertinent given recent real world events, but that’s just a ‘happy’ coincidence, but there is clearly a political message at the heart of Ballard’s writing coming as this did at a time when a former film star had recently entered The White House.

Hello America original artwork

The cover of the first edition of Hello America

As well as the politics there is an ecological message which is writ large and obvious throughout though has lost none of its necessity and power since the book was released in the early 1980s and some slightly heavy-handed consumerist points add another layer.

All of this does make Hello America‘s purpose a little unfocused but it is certainly trying to say something and, generally, succeeding.

Where it doesn’t succeed quite so well is in the second half of the story that almost becomes too absurd to take seriously, though it just about holds things together as it reaches a hugely tense and surprisingly cinematic climax – I’m amazed no one has twisted this into a big budget blast-a-thon blockbuster.

This makes Hello America a book that, while easier to read than High-Rise, less physically controversial than Crash and a little unfocused, is none the less enjoyable and bridges hard sci-fi ideals with readable adventure in a very satisfying fashion.

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The Resurrection of Jake the Snake

The Resurrection of Jake The Snake coverIn the late 1980s, while Hulk Hogan stood atop the world of professional wrestling, many other men less famous but (arguably) more hard-working formed the remainder of the ‘sports entertainment’ pyramid of the World Wrestling Federation.

One man who always stood out, captivating audiences with a sinister, quiet menace in the face of all the bluster and bombast, was Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.

If you’ve seen Darren Aaronofsky’s film The Wrestler you’ll have an idea of part of the story of what happened to Roberts, the man born as Aurelian Smith, once his time in limelight faded as he was one of the inspirations for Mickey Rourke’s Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson.

Some of this decline was also documented, in allegedly sensationalised and unfairly represented form, in late 90s documentary Beyond The Mat.

The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, a crowdfunded project, acts as something of a sequel to that documentary as it picks things up in 2011/12 as Roberts made headlines on celebrity gossip site TMZ following a particularly tragic performance at an indie wrestling show that was videoed and shared online.

Jake The Snake Roberts and Diamond Dallas Page

Roberts and Page

From there, former wrestler and now life coach-cum-fitness guru, Diamond Dallas Page, who was mentored by Roberts early in his career, makes contact with The Snake and we follow their progress to the titular ‘resurrection’.

The film itself is fairly basically constructed with semi-talking head interviews with the protagonists and associates along with ‘fly on the wall’ footage ranging from yoga sessions to doctors visits to rather ‘reality tv’ level public confrontations which at times feel a little too invasive.

What this is does very well though is paint a picture of a man who, after a lifetime of abuse of varying descriptions, is finally beginning to overcome his own issues and learn about himself in a way he never had, while also shedding light onto the less glamourous side of the world of pro-wrestling that is rarely seen if all you watch is WWE sanctioned programming.

Diamond Dallas Page, Scott Hall, Jake Roberts and Steve Yu

Page, Scott Hall, Roberts and director Steve Yu

While the many moments of burly men crying and hugging could easily be ridiculous, much like the profession they all come from, there is a real heart and honesty present alongside an inspirational streak both in Page’s zeal and Robert’s struggles, both internal and external and his, eventual, overcoming them.

This gives us a great insight into the nature of addiction and overcoming it which is backed up by interviews with other wrestlers who’ve had similar problems such as ‘Goldust’ Dustin Runnels and the addition, half way through the film, of ‘Razor Ramon’ Scott Hall going through a similar situation to Roberts.

This all makes for a fascinating story, that, while it feels a little like an infomercial for Page’s DDP Yoga health system at times, is far more than the sum of its parts shedding light on the somewhat absurd world of professional wrestling and also issues around addiction that are frequently glossed over or not made in such an abrupt and impactful fashion.

Jake The Snake Roberts

The Snake in his late 1980s heyday

It also acts as a truly redemptive story for Roberts and Hall and triumphant tale for Page as, by April 2017, all three will be members of the WWE Hall of Fame which is, amongst other things, a sign of respectability for many former performers (despite what a few others have gone on to do since).

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Sound Guernsey: Asylum Seekas & Friends and Sons of a Maniac – The Fermain Tavern – 17/02/17

Sons of a Maniac

Sons of a Maniac

After taking a break in January following their great Christmas party night, Sound Guernsey returned to kick off February half-term with yet another night championing new live music for a young audience.

It was very much a night of two halves and brand new band Sons of a Maniac kicked it off, following a recent well received outing in a local Battle of the Bands.

Playing a mix of 90’s and 00’s pop-rock standards from the likes of Snow Patrol, Coldplay and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers the five-piece, while clearly nervous, sounded good. As they settled down their were moments where they found some really nice grooves and frontman Sam Ashcroft has something going on when he breaks through the nerves.

Above all though what came across and really worked for them was the sense of fun and enthusiasm they brought, with smiles all round throughout that were infectious and got through to the audience.

B-boy Dave Hyett

B-boy Dave Hyett

With something of a switch of tone Asylum Seekas’ DJ Minirol, took to the decks while the scene was set for a night of grime and hip hop by Dave Hyett getting a dance off going with his classic b-boy moves.

Inspired by him several of the crowd took turns showing off their moves while others gathered round to watch and cheer them on in what was a lot of fun.

As Test Switch took the place of Minirol the live hip-hop portion of the night got going with Lowlife.gy.

With a confident and legitimate feeling delivery, Lowlife was captivating from the off as he delivered a series of what felt like rough and ready, but impressive, sketches and he definitely has a presence on stage that went down well and kept some of the crowd breakdancing.

Lowlife.gy and Test Switch

Lowlife.gy and Test Switch

Jordan Mauger, aka Atari, was up next with Smellz on the decks delivering a more electronic inflected set of grime.

While his delivery was somewhat more proficient the tracks still felt like sketches rather than totally finished products and he seemed to have more trouble keeping a connection with the audience, possibly due to the more intense nature of his style for this more upbeat and fun-loving crowd.

Finally of the trio of new(ish) faces was Doyle, again along with Smellz, keeping a similar style to Atari but with a slightly lighter feel. Again the tracks felt like sketches but with a lot to like and some spot on delivery.

For all three of these young performers I’m not sure the audience entirely knew how to react (and I’ll admit as I often have, neither did I) but its great to hear something new and for both the performers and the audience to be exposed to something new and fresh.

Asylum Seekas

Asylum Seekas

As soon as Asylum Seekas hit the stage at full strength, with DJ Minirol alongside MC’s Jimi Riddlz and Apex, the dance floor of The Tav filled up and everyone seemed up for the energetic performance that was delivered.

Much like at past Sound Guernsey shows, Guernsey Bus was a highlight of the Seekas’ set with Jimi Riddlz heading into the crowd to get them singing along to the title.

While there were points where the audience began to drift after what had been a fairly intense hour or so of hip hop from the support acts, Asylum Seekas brought them back in towards the end of their set by setting up a freestyling game.

Asylum Seekas

Jimi Riddlz gets in with the crowd

With Minirol providing a bag of ten random items purchased from local budget store Poundworld, Apex and Jimi Riddlz freestyled around these in fun and lose but still impressive form, with everything from Marigold gloves and cardboard pirate hats to thermal socks and Chewit sweets coming out of the bag.

With a couple more tracks to close Asylum Seekas once again showed why they have been so popular for so long as they have some great lyrics and are like nothing else in Guernsey and, above all, they work damn hard at what they do on stage and it really pays off and once again did here bringing the night to a close on a high.

You can see more of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Some of my photos were used alongside the review of the show in the Guernsey Press published on Saturday 25th February 2017:

Sound Guernsey review and photos - 25/02/17

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Straight Outta Compton (Director’s Cut)

Straight Outta Compton posterAnyone who’s read through many of the articles and reviews here will probably have noticed that despite my fairly broad embracing of musical styles, hip hop is something that I have, over the years, struggled to appreciate (though I have to credit both Asylum Seekas and DJ Oneofakind for their help with what I do like), so, coming to Straight Outta Compton, a film chatting the history of ‘gangster rap’ originators N.W.A., I did wonder how well I would connect with it.

It wasn’t long into F. Gary Gray’s director’s cut edition of the film though that, whatever the style of music being created in the story, two things connected me with it deeply.

First is that this is a story about youthful rebellion, much like rock ‘n’ roll and punk in decades prior, though arguably these youths had a lot more to rebel against.

Secondly is that this yet another of that most cliché of cliché’s for Hollywood, The American Dream – so much so that there were a couple of points that had me comparing Straight Outta Compton to La La Land which also uses this as a framework for its musical action.

Starting off by introducing to our protagonists, the young men who would soon become N.W.A., and particularly Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr, the original Cube’s son), Gray drops us right into the heart of the action.

Eazy-E (Mitchell) and Jerry Heller (Giamatti)

Eazy-E (Mitchell) and Jerry Heller (Giamatti)

We meet ‘E’ in the midst of a drug deal as it goes wrong and the LAPD intervene with something resembling a tank – if that doesn’t set up just how extreme the situation of inner city Los Angeles was in the early 1980s then nothing will.

Dre’s situation is somewhat more sedate though still troubled as he is kicked of his mother’s house, dreaming of making music while missing out on steady work, and Cube’s introduction comes with a gang hold up on a school bus.

From there the plot is fairly well trodden, the group hit an artistic and commercial high before becoming embroiled with the kind of music industry stuff that seems to catch up with all successful musicians eventually.

As it goes on the troubles get more extreme and it all comes to a bittersweet conclusion, but with a sense of hope. I’m sure if you care that much you’ll already know the story but as I didn’t I won’t spoil it anymore than that.

N.W.A. have a run in with the police

The scene supposedly inspiring for ‘Fuck tha Police’

What really makes this all work and be so captivating for its near three hours is that, while it’s clear some elements are fictionalised, the whole thing has a ring of truth to it whether in a literal or artistic sense and the performances are all excellent and entirely convincing.

Part of this may be down to that fact that I wasn’t familiar with any of the actors (besides Paul Giamatti who seems born to play sleazy managerial types) so as the cast all physically resemble the people they are playing to a degree they are able to inhabit them without baggage.

That goes for the smaller roles too as we meet the likes of Snoop Dogg and, briefly, 2-Pac as the film goes on really helping to place this in the wider context of the musical scene of hip hop at the time.

Jackson Jr as Ice Cube

Jackson Jr as Ice Cube

The other thing that really works in the film’s favour is how it uses the music it is talking about.

From scenes in studios (ranging from bedrooms to high-end industry facilities) to a recreation of a national tour, the music is used as part of the narrative, not just a byproduct of it, giving the film the feeling of being something of a musical, albeit in an unconventional sense.

This is highlighted by a concert in Detroit where a riot is instigated as the local constabulary try to shut down the show as N.W.A. unleash the vicious, and massively appropriate, Fuck tha Police.

As the film winds down things get more emotional and again the performances come to the fore with a more grown up feel.

Hawkins as Dr. Dre

Hawkins as Dr. Dre

It all climaxes not only with the sense that we’ve watched the story of a musical group, but we’ve experienced along with them the journey of five young men from adolescence to adulthood through some hugely tumultuous times and experiences.

Added to that is the notion (quite rightly) that this all had a genuine effect not just on these five men but on culture, politics and life not just in Compton, but the USA and around the world making Straight Outta Compton at once personal and political while having a lot to say about the troubled ongoing, real world, narrative of The American Dream.

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Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond posterBack when JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise with the ingenious time twisting Star Trek back in 2009, adding a modern, action-adventure edge to the formula laid out by Gene Roddenberry in the mid-1960s and developed through to the 1990s, it seemed the series had found a new life.

However following Star Trek Into Darkness, a film that while enjoyable was riddled with plot inconsistencies and riffed a little too much of the series stone cold classic The Wrath Of Kahn, it seemed it had all lost steam as Abrams headed off to breath new life into Star Wars with The Force Awakens.

With Justin Lin at the helm Star Trek Beyond hit cinemas in 2016 with somewhat less fanfare, dwarfed by ‘the other Star franchise’, and so catching it now at home my expectations were somewhat lower…

Left to right: Chris Pine plays Kirk, Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah and Anton Yelchin plays Chekov in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

Kirk (Pine), Jaylah (Boutella) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin)

Interestingly for those of us who’ve followed the series for a long time, Beyond starts out three years into the Enterprise’s first five-year mission as Kirk and his crew are exploring the boundaries of the Federation.

Here they encounter a new alien aggressor with, as one would expect, a suitably weaponised maguffin to kick off the kind of action adventure we’ve come to expect.

As expected it is Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) who provide the main core of the film but even more so than previously the rest of the main crew are all part of the action, particularly Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhuru (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) all having more pivotal roles. On top of this we meet new character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who fits in well with the established cast.

star trek beyond krall

Krall (Elba)

Scripted by Pegg and Doug Jung, Beyond is, for the most part, all fairly formulaic and never really does anything to break the mould of either the previous two films, or big budget blockbusters in general but for the most part is a fun romp. That said it relies a little too heavily on the action side for Star Trek which loses something of what makes the original series what it is.

On top of this it suffers from having an antagonist who never really feels properly threatening as, while Idris Elba’s Krall starts off looking fairly mean and nasty, it’s not long before he becomes somewhat ineffectual leading to a denouement strongly reminiscent of Into Darkness but I never had the sense that Kirk and co wouldn’t prevail.

bones and spock

Bones (Urban) and Spock (Quinto)

There are also moments that put this clearly post-Guardians of the Galaxy giving it an occasional ‘wacky’ tone that doesn’t really suit, including a fairly major and pivotal music cue.

Despite all this Star Trek Beyond was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and while it won’t stick in the memory like some of its forbears, it maintains some of their essence, but for a third film in a row the highlight is Quinto’s Spock.

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