First off, I just want to say that J.J Abrams is a hugely talented writer and director. His work on Lost; Super 8 and Cloverfield alone means he deserves all the credit he gets. He also did a decent job with parts of the recent Star Wars movies. But what about his work on the Kelvin timeline Star Trek movies?
There needs to be a little backstory before we begin. After the critical and commercial failure of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, there was a bit of a void in the Trek universe. In 2005, Viacom and CBS Corporation went their separate ways. Paramount Pictures then convinced CBS to allow them to make another Star Trek movie.
Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman were both approached to write the film, and J.J Abrams to direct it. A story revolving around Kirk training at Starfleet had been around since 1968. But for this film, a decision was made to create an alternate reality: The Kelvin timeline. Now, this seems to have been done to allow the film to avoid the constraints of continuity and have more freedom.
Trek fans have argued over the years about whether this was a good idea or not. I’ve also heard some people say the three Kelvin films should be banished to Rura Penthe for all eternity. I happen to think they should be. Let’s start with the first one.
To boldly reboot
Star Trek was released in 2009 to much excitement and fanfare. There was a line-up of new actors portraying the original cast. Chris Pine as Kirk; Zachary Quinto as Spock; Karl Urban as Dr McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Now these are fine actors with excellent CV’s and to their credit, they portray the characters very well. They are not imitations, but they keep the quirks of the originals.
Now on to the story. This isn’t the worst film of the Kelvin trilogy. In fact, it’s the best of a bad bunch. The plot revolves around a rogue Romulan called Nero who attacks Vulcan, along with story of how Kirk; Spock and McCoy ended up in Startfleet. Eric Bana does a sterling job of playing the baddie and the effects and pace of the film is done very well. But let’s be honest, it isn’t really Star Trek.
The deep, ethical philosophy and emotional conundrums core to Star Trek were largely abandoned. They replaced with action sequences and brawn over brains. I know they were trying to appeal to a wider audience but in doing so, they sold a bit of Gene Rodenberry’s soul.
If Star Trek had Gene Rodenberry turning in his grave, then I think Star Trek: Into Darkness had him well and truly spinning.
J.J. Abrams himself admitted that he got this film wrong, and I would wholeheartedly agree.
Let’s look at some positives first. For example, the cinematography is superb. The effects were award-winning, and they had the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. And therein lies one of the problems. Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Khan Noonien Sing; famously played by the superb Ricardo Mountalban.
Now, there is no denying that Mr Cumberbatch is a fantastic actor, but it didn’t feel right him playing a character that was of Sikh/Asian descent. I get that it’s an alternate universe, but it just felt a bit jarring.
The plot was also like previous Khan storylines. The main story revolved around Khan attacking Startfleet, and to free his cryogenically frozen people . It didn’t bring anything new to the table, or at the very least, add any new layers to the original story.
There’s also that one scene that features actress Alice Eve in her underwear. It was completely irrelevant to the film and served no purpose whatsoever. Pleasing to the eye, yes, but it was crass and should have ended up on the cutting room floor.
It’s certainly not Star Trek. Add in the silly overuse of lens flare and you have a film that’s convoluted; unoriginal and lacklustre.
Beam me up, Scotty
The final film of the rebooted Kelvin timeline series was Star Trek: Beyond.
For me, this was the one film that had me leaving the cinema completely deflated. Not that I entered the cinema with high expectations, mind. The film was co-written by Simon Pegg; known by UK viewers for his various comedy TV shows and films. He certainly added some of his trademark humour into the film, but it just felt a little forced.
The storyline was ok; more like an elongated episode from the original series, but with the fantastic Idris Elba as the villain. There’s no denying that Edris is a fantastic actor, but the plot just plays it safe again. There was certainly no boldly going where no screenwriter had gone before.
Yes, there are some frenetic action scenes, along with the obligatory destruction of the Enterprise. But we’d expect nothing less from director Justin Lin; most famous for his work on the Fast and Furious franchise. If you were to really think about this film, it is pretty much the Fast and Furious in space.
There is one touching moment in the film, which is where Spock finds out that the elder Ambassador Spock has died. That was done in homage to Leonard Nimoy, who had recently passed away. But in the end, it’s just another popcorn action movie that brings nothing to the franchise.
So, there we have it. Have the Kelvin timeline films brought anything new to the Star Trek franchise? In my opinion, no. They’re action-heavy and well-acted, but offer little to expanding the franchise. They also don’t offer the thinking person anything to get their teeth into.
If you want J.J-helmed simplistic whizz-pop-bang space adventures that aren’t Star Wars, then watch them. But if you want pure Trek that poses questions and pushes boundaries, then ignore these films and watch the original movies. They are so, so much better.
Thanks for reading our article on what went wrong with the Star Trek Kelvin timeline. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
More of our Star Trek articles HERE.
Read IMDB information on Star Trek (2009) HERE.
No Time To Die – Review
No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.
A step up?
This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.
That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.
The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.
Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.
There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.
Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.
The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.
Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.
It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.
I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.
Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.
It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10
Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.
Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.
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