Star Trek Beyond (2016): The Reboot Series Finally Captures Classic “Star Trek”

Star Trek Beyond

    “Star Trek Beyond,” is a film that best captures the spirit of the Star Trek Franchise than probably “The Undiscovered Country.” That film has a better story and is one of my all time favorite Star Trek Films but this film is still really good and I enjoyed it a lot more than “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which at the end of the day depended way too much on conspiracy and fan service rather than showing the spirit and cost of adventure the way this film does. Non-spoiler thoughts…this film has great action, comedy and characters and is well worth your time to see it on the big screen.

    “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by Justin Lin, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung and produced by J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Bryan Burk.

     The story takes place 3 years into the 5 year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself at a crossroads with the possibility of promotion and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is pulled back into Vulcan after a major death.  They and the crew are put to the test though when they are lead into a trap and must face Krall (Idris Elba) who destroys their ship, forcing them to adapt to the planet and keep him from getting the superweapon he seeks.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – This movie captures the wonder of the World of Star Trek. We get the Utopia of Yorktown, the horrors of war via Krall and tons of alien species and first contact opportunities.

Yorktown – Yorktown is a like a giant snowglobe in space and looks like how I always imagined a advanced space station actually looking (in the tv shows they never were able to capture it like it is on film, they are just stations, this is a city). I loved this area and I like that we spent time here to humanize our crew and see how the Federation has achieved Utopia.

The Writing – Minus the writing of Krall, the writing is a major pro. Every character is given things to do, characters change and aren’t just rehashing the same story (Kirk, Spock and Uhura had the same story twice in the last two reboot films). Simon Pegg being a Trekkie and one of the writers is one reason I think why this worked so much.

Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and stunning and captures the old look of the show while modernizing it for the screen. It feels dreamlike and from it the adventure of this great series.

The Comedy – The comedy is gold, especially anything with Jaylah and Scotty and McCoy and Spock. The dialogue is quick and witty and always moves the action forward.

Use of Ensemble Cast – The cast all has things to do and it keeps the story strong! Uhura and Sulu are protecting the hostages and the device, Chekov is with Kirk, McCoy is Spock and Scotty is with Jaylah. Each of them are working to find one another and defeat Krall and it leads to great comedic and dramatic moments.

The Cast – The cast is the strongest part of this film, these actors have come to inhabit these characters.

Chekov – R. I. P. Anton Yelchin…you really inhabited this role. This is a film where Chekov is with Kirk for a lot of it and later teams up with Scotty since he knows tech. almost as well. We see him be the hero and the problem solver and his relationship with Kirk is pretty great. You’ll be missed Anton…

Sulu – John Cho is fantastic as Sulu and in this we get to meet his husband and daughter at Yorktown and from there see the reason why he is fighting so hard to defend it. In this he get to see him fly the Franklin, fight with the Enterprise until Krall’s drones destroy it. It is great seeing him and Uhura team up.

Uhura – Uhura is the primary protector of the hostages and the device that Krall is trying to get. She only loses when Krall threatens a crew member forcing the crewman to reveal her hand and where she’s kid the device. Uhura is ready to die to protect it though. We also see that her and Spock still have a great relationship even though they may or may not have broken up. Zoe Saldana is fantastic.

Scotty – Simon Pegg is really great in the role of Scotty and in this we see him as the major problem solver, whether it is fixing the Franklin, finding the crew and Krall or working with Jaylah on traps.

McCoy – Karl Urban really owns the role of McCoy and in this we get to see his friendship with Spock grow as they are stuck together for most of the film. It is great seeing their dynamic as McCoy’s cynical optimism is contrasted beautifully with Spock’s cold clear logic and duty driven decisions. This eventually leads to them taking on Krall by kidnapping one of the drone ships since Spock needs someone to monitor his injury he received when the Enterprise was destroyed and McCoy is the only one who knows about it.

Spock – Spock is faced with a decision in this…to stay with the crew or to return to Vulcan to help create more Vulcans. Ambassador Spock has died and no Vulcan is once more lacking limited leaders and there still aren’t very many of them. Over the course of the film he decides to stay for the crew though, not because of future Spock and I really like that. He discovers that it is out on the frontier he can protect Vulcan best and the realization that the entire crew is his family now and will be (he sees a picture of the crew when they are older that Ambassador Spock was keeping).

Kirk – Kirk like Spock is faced with a decision to stay or get a promotion and go as when we first meet him his life on the ship has become mundane and he expresses how trapped everyone feels out in space for so long. It is powerful as he is really talking about himself. Krall reminds him of why he is out there too and even though he loses the Enterprise he decides to stay to Captain and because the Captain of the newly built Enterprise-A we see being built at the end of the film.

Jaylah -Sofia Boutella is awesome as Jaylah and I hope she becomes part of the main crew. She is the one who helps them all team up as her home is Krall’s old Federation ship the Franklin. It is thanks to her and Scotty that they get it running and are able to use it as a base to free the hostages and to confront Krall and his drone forces. She also has a somewhat romantic thing with Scotty and is an orphan whose been fighting Krall all her life. Suffice to say she is awesome.

The Idea of Krall – The idea of Krall as a former Space Marine turned alien warlord is cool. Peace doesn’t work for everyone, especially those who gain honor from combat and live from it (one reason the Federation fights the Klingons every generation even after the treaties). There was so much more that could have been done with this idea if he had just been fleshed out more as a character.

Remembering the Dead – R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. Both of them were given time to be remembered as Spock remembered Ambassador Spock and the final scene was fade to black with “For Anton” in memory of Anton Yelchin. The two of them were amazing and have left a legacy on this universe and the world.

Okay: Krall/Balthazar Edison – Idris Elba is good at humanizing this ex-marine turned alien Warlord and his acting is great, it is just the writing for Krall is only so-so so I’m putting him at okay. We never get explanations of why he turned into an alien or how using people turned him back into a person.

The Cons: Villain plan – The villain plan is to destroy Yorktown, which if Krall want the Federation at war, that isn’t going to help…since there is no way could escape, it was do the most damage and die…which I expected more from a man who had lived hundreds of years. He should have had a better plan.

How did Balthazar become Krall and Revert Back? – Balthazar was a M.A.C.O. (Pre-Federation Marine) who is maid captain after the Xindi and Romulan wars and finds himself abandoned on the planet. Something happens that causes him to become the alien Krall and he is using people to turn back into a person. This is never explained.

Pacing – The pacing can be a bit jarring at times. Sometimes everything is going too fast and we have no time to really soak in what our characters are going through, and other times we linger too long. This is most true at the beginning but by about a third of the way through the film this isn’t as much of an issue.

   The villain isn’t bad but he is where most of the holes in the plot are. Sometimes the pacing can be a little jarring, and I was bored at one point because of it…but the payoff when they arrive on Krall’s world is fantastic and almost everything after that works. This is a film that reminded me why I’m a Trekkie and I can’t wait to go back and review the other films so I can rate them all against one another. This a film well deserving of it’s place in the Franchise and some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies this summer.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 7 – “The Infinite Vulcan” – New Purpose

Spock_2,_Keniclius_5,_and_Enterprise_crew

  Walter Koenig (the actor who plays Chekov) is a great writer! He has a lot of big ideas he deals with in this (the survival of a dying species and how to change ideals) and does a really good job with it! This was an episode that could have been terrible. Clones generally are a bad idea, especially cloning a major character, but this episode rises above this generally bad idea.

   “The Infinite Vulcan” was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by as stated above, Walter Koenig.

      The story involves the Enterprise being ordered to a planet at the far reaches of the galaxy where a dying plant species called the Phylosians has made a deal with a man from the Eugenic Wars who has chosen Spock to clone in order to create his Master Race to bring peace to the galaxy. It is up to the crew to stop him.

The Pros: Phylos – Phylos is a really cool planet. It is entirely made of plant life with both predatory flying plants as enemies and the dying race of the Phylos as the dominant species. It is colorful, green and dangerous and I wish the planet would make appearance in other “Trek” things.

The Phylosians – This species is fascinating as they latch onto the man Dr. Stavos who almost killed them from his germs but did everything to save him. They were once a war making species but now only want to be peacekeepers…much like humanity and Dr. Stavos.

Uhura – Uhura has a minor but great role in this. She researches the Eugenic Wars and finds that Stavos fought in it and it is from her research they are able to reason with the man and Spock 2 in order to save Spock and keep Stavos’s ideals from becoming a nightmare. 

Sulu – Sulu also has an active role in this as it is the Phylosians who save him from a plant that poisons him and it is he who later defends them when they are attacked by the Phylosians by easily throwing one. He shows that he is adapt, witty and can match wits with any crewmember or alien. He’s a lot of fun in this and Takei brings his charm.

Scotty – Is the acting Captain and does a good job as we see that he is the one who tries everything to reach Kirk as he doesn’t want to cause a war during first contact. He truly is the best engineer in “Star Trek.”

Dr. Stavos – Stavos is the idealist run amok who has lost all faith in humanity so wants to create a master race to enforce peace between worlds. He ran away from the Eugenic Wars because of the ashamed he was of his people and the war and that shame rubbed off on him when he nearly wiped out the Phylosians from simply being part human. This makes it possible to reason with him though and in the end he becomes an ally of the Federation.

Spock and Spock 2 – Spock 2 is Spock’s Clone who has Stavos’s ideals but also the Vulcan logic which leads to him stopping further clones from being created and mind melding with the original Spock in order to save him. He later stays to help Stavos further his research and save the Phylosians.

Spock agrees with the Clone and calls out Kirk for his aggression while complimenting him for when he acts with a cool head.

Kirk –  This is a good Kirk episode as we see him deal with threats in a reasoned way while still using force when absolutely necessary. He is convincing too and manages to turn the Phylosians and Dr. Stavos who were once enemies into allies of the Federation.

    This was a really great episode with the only cons being the fact that what Dr. Stavos did during the Eugenic Wars is never gone into. In a way it isn’t needed but it would have made the episode perfect if we had more time. I really recommend this episode. I had no idea Walter Koenig could write, but he did a great job.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 3 – “One of Our Planets is Missing” – New Life and New Contact

The Cloud

   “One of Our Planets is Missing” is one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek.” “Star Trek” is all about making contact with new life and new civilizations and the dilemmas sometimes presented by that. This one explores that thoroughly and shows the hope that there is for mankind when we truly seek out every new possibility before destruction of life. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed this episode.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Marc Daniels.

    The story involves contact with a mysterious cloud that devours all life around it and ends up eating the Enterprise. From here it is up to the crew to stop or kill it before it can reach the furthest Federation world of Alondra, destroying all life there.

The Pros: Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk does all he can to protect the Federation while also exploring all ways to speak to the Cloud. This is partially on prompting of Spock who reminds him that it is against the code of the Federation to end new life…but in the end he finds away, giving Spock until the final minute to convince the creature to turn away from the planet.

Scotty – Scotty shows how resourceful he is when he improves the ship to survive the interior of the cloud. It is a great moment and we see him thinking fast when they are devoured on how to keep them alive and keep them from being digested.

Spock – Spock is the one who makes contact with the Cloud and is able to show it that they are life and should not be destroyed. It is that convinces the creature to return to it’s place of origin. It is powerful conversation and sharing of minds that feels Spock with wonder.

The Cloud – The Cloud does not perceive things that are small until the ship is able to amplify Spock’s mind to communicate with it. Once it sees the Ship and Universe through Spock’s eyes it leaves though since it does not wish to do harm to others, only to survive.

The Dilemma – The dilemma is whether to end something that is possibly a new life form before and if unable to make contact and in turn save the planet or to do everything and try to make contact first. It ends working out and they were lucky the Cloud was a benevolent life form.

This is an episode that showed “Star Trek” at it’s best. Not all life is humanoid or like us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of thought or feeling or that it is incapable of being made aware of others. It’s a powerful episode that shows the risks and possibilities in first contact with life that is truly alien from us.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Yesteryear” – Spock’s Search for Peace

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 ep 2

    “Yesteryear” is a great Spock and Time Travel episode. It is also one of the few times we get to see an Andorian character explored outside of the horrible “Enterprise” series. It is a subtle episode that manages to bring a lot depth and show a lot without having to say much. It’s focus on Spock also lends it a lot of strength too as there aren’t any side plots to distract from that core story.

    The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by D. C. Fontana.

      The story involves the crew traveling to the planet of the Time Vortex in order to help some archaeologists explore the past of the Federation. When Kirk and Spock return though they find no one recognizes Spock and that he died as a child in this timeline forcing Spock to travel back to the past in order to prevent his death.

The Pros: The Archaeologists – The archaeologist team has a great look! We have a woman of color in charge and an alien with a beak and wings working with her. They have a minor role but they work with Spock in order to restore the Timeline.

The Guardian of Forever – The Guardian is haunting, just like the episode it first appeared in in “The Original Series.” It also lays down the rules too that Spock can only change one big event, illustrating that actions will have consequences before he even goes back in time. James Doohan plays the voice of the Guardian and other characters in the episode.

Kirk – Kirk is the only one who remembers Spock and it is he working with Spock to learn what happened in the timeline where Thelin is now his First Officer in order to bring Spock back to life and save his mother. He is supportive and we see just how deep the friendship is, from them exploring Orion together before the Timeline was changed and afterwords where Kirk is the only one who knows what happened.

Thelin – Thelin is the First Officer in the Timeline that Spock died as a child. He is a cool character and I would have liked to see more of him. He is a warrior but supports Spock in restoring the Timeline since Spock’s desire to save his mother from dying is something he finds admirable. He is one of my favorite minor characters and I wish Andorians made more appearances on “Star Trek.”

Amanda Grayson – Majel Barrett does a wonderful job as Spock’s Mom. She is the outsider on Vulcan and is doing all she can to support Spock on a path she cannot take. I feel bad for her character as she is powerless to do anything for Spock beyond show him love. She in many ways is just as much an outsider as she is, except she has chosen not to become Vulcan wholly in philosophy, much like Spock does later.

Sarek – Sarek is a harsh father and complex character. He is very much a man of Vulcan who sees the Vulcan way as the purest way to peace. It is for this reason I get why he is the ambassador to Vulcan. Sadly he does not hold other Vulcans accountable for when they bully his son though he supports Spock in setting things right for himself. When old Spock pretends to be his cousin he listens to him as well when old Spock tells him to seek to understand his son. It is a touching scene and Sarek keeps having the feeling that he knows Old Spock even though Spock is going by a different name. Mark Lenard is once again fantastic in this role.

Spock – Spock is the outsider who is choosing the Vulcan way though as a child that is hard. It takes old Spock showing him the good in the Vulcan way in harsh choices (to keep his pet alive and let it suffer after it saved his life, or to let it die with dignity) that make him see why logic is so important. It is after this that he stands up to the bullies and shows them the Vulcan Neck Pinch he learned from Old Spock. At the end he mourns the choice he made to kill his pet so it wouldn’t suffer but is grateful that the timeline is reestablished and that he can once again fulfill his role as First Officer living the Vulcan Way in the Federation.

    This episode shows the pressure that was on Spock to conform to Vulcan society and how his father never gave him any other choice. This causes conflict in their relationship later as Sarek’s refusal to show affection and only anger or disappointment mostly pushed Spock away and it really wasn’t until Sarek’s death in “The Next Generation” that they were able to resolve these differences. We see that he does love Spock though, and tried to show it as best he could.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 1 – “Beyond the Farthest Star” – Capturing the Wonder and Adventure of “The Original Series”

Star Trek The Animated Series Season 1 Ep 1.

   “Beyond the Farthest Star” is the Pilot of “Star Trek: The Animated Series” and in my opinion it does a good job of capturing what “The Original Series” so good. In this we have a mystery, a problem to be solved and humanity shown in an enemy with most of the crew at work and active in order to solve the problem. This to me, is part of what made a good Star Trek episode.

     The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Samuel A. Peeples.

     The story involves the Enterprise being caught around a Negative Star Mass who find themselves dealing with another threat when they go to the other alien vessel trapped where they are and find it was carrying dangerous cargo which escapes onto the Enterprise. From here the crew must outsmart the creature and escape from orbit.

The Pros: The Conflict – The two conflicts are done really well. The Questar M-17 feels like a threat in how it is pulling them towards it and the malevolent being nearly kills Scotty and many members of the crew as it tires to blackmail them into getting off the planet so it will be free in the Galaxy.

The Voice Acting – The voice acting is great in this episode! Shatner, Nimoy, and the others speak like they are doing the actions and they feel invested in the events being animated.

The Ancient Alien Race – There is an ancient alien race that destroys itself in order to trap the entity around the Questar. They are cool looking and look like giant bugs and their vessel looks like a giant purple plant. This was the reason I chose it as the photo for this episode review as it captured the great creative things you could do with designing an alien species.

The Malevolent Entity – The Entity starts out as a troll and has the voice of Dalek and manages to nearly get its way until Kirk is about to manually take control of the ship and in a desperate gambit force it out onto the Questar where we alone part of it’s issue is it is alone and that is why it has always acted out from it’s isolation.

The Crew of the Enterprise – The crew is fantastic and all of them do things. From Sulu being in control when McCoy, Scotty, Spock and Kirk explore the alien vessel, to Spock figuring out the calculations in his head to get them out of the Questar and get rid of the alien and finally Kirk’s gambit to control the vessel and to risk it all to get rid of the Entity. Most of the crew has things to do this episode.

The Cons: The Animation – Filmation cuts corners and it shows. The crew walks very stiltedly and the eyes don’t feel fully real. It’s serviceable but it’s hard not to notice how cheap it is.

Too Short of Length – This episode could have been an hour long so we learn what the Entity is who the Ancient Alien race was and to raise the stakes of them being trapped. The episode only being 30 minutes made things feel a bit rushed.

   This was a good episode and it captures the wonder of space travel and shows the crew as a Team which is what usually made a good “Star Trek” episode from any series. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the series and after this reviewing “The Original Series” on a more regular basis as this episode reminded me so much of all I enjoyed about the very first “Star Trek.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Upcoming Reviews

Star Trek The Animated Series

     “Star Trek: The Animated Series” is a series that I’ve been planning to review since I did “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” are two of my favorite franchises with both having some rather horrible things tied to their name (For “Star Wars” it’s the first 2 Prequels and “The Christmas Special” and for “Star Trek” it’s “Enterprise” and some of “Voyager.”

From what I understand this series isn’t fully considered canon (much like some of the “Star Wars” animated EU) but still is an important part of “Star Trek.” For one the original voice actors from “Star Trek: The Original Series” played the voices of their characters on the show and even though the terrible Filmation produced it (lazy is another word I’d use) Gene Rodenberry did produce it and penned some of the stories as well. For this reason I’d consider it more lore than the Abrams reboot series as it is still within the “Star Trek Universe” and main timeline.

It was fan love for the revival of the “The Original Series” after it’s cancellation that lead to this shows creation from 1973-1974 which in turn helped give us “The Original Series” films and a reboot of the live action franchise. In this way it is a powerful part of history and showing just how much power a fanbase can have in reviving something they love.

I am a Trekkie and have been since Middle School but I have never watched this series. So I am looking forward to what I’ll discover and if it is able to capture the wonder, mystery and some of the great messages that made “The Original Series” so great.

I’ll be reviewing the episodes individually with a series assessment at the end and my “Top 5 Episodes” for people too. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to it.

Lets Explore the Final Frontiers.

 

Fringe Finale – Season 1, Episode 20 – “There’s More Than One of Everything” – Out of Time and Reality

There'sMoreThanOneofEverything

    I should start out by saying I’ve never watched “Fringe” before, so this Finale was my introduction to the show. Which probably wasn’t the best way to go, but this is the episode that introduces Nimoy as William Bell, who is discussed a lot in this episode. I would describe “Fringe” as “X-Files” meets “Warehouse 13.” This means it’s probably a show I could like but due to “X-Files” jumping the shark for me during season 3 I suspect this show may have similar problems due to the premise being investigation of the paranormal, alternate dimensions and things that can easily cause magic reset buttons or the rules of the show. Suffice to say, this finale was not enough to get me to stay. If people request I take a look at this show, I will…but it’s not the top of my list.

    The episode was directed by Brad Anderson and written by J.J. Abrams and Alex Kurtzman.

    The premise of the episode involves Fringe’s Team trying to stop David Robert Jones who is attempting to open up a portal to another reality in order to get to William Bell who was one of the original scientists who postulated on the existence of alternate realities and who the Fringe Team sees as responsible for all the Fringe Events that have happened during the season. Elsewhere Doctor Walter Bishop is dealing with loss but is soon pulled into events as the only one who can stop them. While Nina the leader of Massive Dynamic is robbed by Jones as she is pulled into Fringe’s investigation and is keeping secrets of her own close.

The Pros: The Premise – Investigation of paranormal science and alternate dimensions is a really cool idea, and if the writing was better…I’d probably be sold on this show. Sadly it only has the idea and villains going for it so far it looks like.

David Robert Jones – The terrorist with the bandaged face because of past experiments is a pretty cool idea…and he is threatening in his disregard for life and fanatical desire to leave this reality. He pulls Nina into things and it takes a lot to bring him down based off him being the main big bad of this season, so props to that. Jared Harris who has played baddies in the past does a great job of bringing class to his role.

Nina – Nina works with Fringe only because she has too and does a good job of adapting ot the fact that the government is hanging over her head. She disappears at the end too so we never fully know if she is a good or bad person, which is part of what makes her compelling.

William Bell – Leonard Nimoy does a great job as the scientist who you don’t know if you can trust. He is fully honest at least. When Olivia asks where she is and who she is…he is honest about the time and world is different than where she was before and that he is William Bell. Nimoy’s charisma shines through in this role and I’m curious what happens and happened to his character. Sadly the protagonists are not compelling at all.

Okay: Fringe Division – I’m including Doctor Bishop in this too, who is played by John Noble (Denethor, Horseman of War) but is just the sad lonely scientist in this mourning the death of his son. The main characters of Olivia, Philip and others are just bland. I want to care about them but I didn’t see anything defining about them. They are just people doing things, I don’t know their motivation or see any of their personalities as distinct…they are just bland.

The Cons: The Structure – So we’re focused on Jones, but talking about Bell and Nina is doing things too. The episode structure is very confusing and since there are so many questions already it doesn’t lend itself to being enjoyable…since we aren’t getting answers on character motivation we are depending on character and actor charisma…which was very lacking in our main characters.

  It’s a shame that Leonard Nimoy Week is ending on this note, but he was the best part of this episode without a doubt. He was the character who remains a mystery and is compelling beyond that because of what Nimoy brings to the role. He isn’t Spock, he’s William Bell and this week we got to see some of just how wide his range as an actor is. I don’t have enough information in regards to recommending “Fringe” but this episode did not sell me in regards to the quality of the series.

Final Score: 7 / 10. Only reason I’m scoring it this high is because of the ideas and the complex potential villains one of which was Leonard Nimoy.

The Transformers: The Movie (1986): Loss and Crazy Fun

transformers

    We continue Leonard Nimoy Week with “The Transformers: The Movie.” In this we see some of his awesome voice work! I should start this by saying I have never seen any of the animated “Transformers” television show, my only experience with the “Transformers” Franchise has been through Michael Bay so my expectations were pretty lowered going into this…and it blew the live action films out of the water. Everything those missed this film got right on so many levels, The fact that there is an all-star voice cast beyond Leonard Nimoy certainly helps the production, since it does have some obvious problems, which were probably even more apparent in the show.

       The film was directed by Nelson Shin, written by Ron Friedman and produced by Joe Bacal and Tom Griffith.

       The film begins with a haunting opening as a giant ship devours a planet and civilization whole. We then  are with Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) plotting an attack to retake Cybertron, but he needs more Energon Cubes on Earth in order to do it. He sends a party to do but they are attacked by Megatron (Frank Welker) who uses their ship to infiltrate Autobot City on Earth. After the devastating attack the Autobots are scattered and must deal with the new threats that have arisen in the galaxy beyond the Decepticon faction.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is good, which is important as there is a lot of action that happens. If the fights were taken out of this movie, it would actually be pretty short as fights are the major way most forms of conflict are resolved in this film. It’s very much a follower of the Super-Hero model, which makes sense since it was and is a comic book series as well as tv franchise.

The Animation – The animation in this is beautiful! It flows and all the Autobots and Decepticons have really sleek designs that makes their transformations all the more stunning as most battles between the groups involves the robots living up to their names as Transformers.

Dinobots – These guys are adorable! They are very simple Transformers that just want respect and can turn into Dinosaurs. They are pretty good in all of their fights too and at one point take on and defeat Devastator. They also save Hot Rod and Kup and are present to do damage in the final battle.

Junkions – These guys could have been really annoying…but they weren’t. I attribute this partially to Eric Idle who made this anti-hero character catchy and made his gang help in the final battle as well as helping bring Ultra Magnus back to life after he is destroyed by Galvatron. Wreck-Gar is a lot of fun and these guys are the only hostile faction that becomes an ally over the course of the film.

Devastator – Made from Constructicons, this guy is pretty aweome! like the Dinobots he isn’t the smartest but still manages to break into Autobot City and take on multiple people at once as well as taking direct hits from missiles. So much better and more threatening than the version in the live action “Transformers 2.”

Starscream – This guy is super annoying and kind of plays the Loki role as the one you should never trust. I know in the tv show he was trying to kill Megatron and in this one he does as Megatron dies and it’s Galvatron who incinerates him. He is killed during his coronation. I am putting him as a pro though because his scheming paid off, even if it was only for a little bit and he was a good threat during the battle at Autobot City.

Optimus Prime – He dies! Megatron actually manages to kill him, though Optimus mortally wounds him in the process before passing on the Matrix of Leadership to Magnus. It’s a great scene he has with the Autobots and the death means something. He doesn’t come back in the film so his death isn’t cheapened and it forces Hot Rod and the others to grow as characters since Optimus isn’t there to save the day. Also the voice work by Peter Cullen is fantastic.

Megatron – Megatron doesn’t survive for very long as he thrown off the ship when Starscream takes advantage of his injury and Decepticon selfishness. Unicron than appears to him and offers him a deal, new life and strength…but he is a slave. Fearing death Megatron take the deal and becomes Galvatron, who I am considering a separate character due to Nimoy being the voice actor and Galvatron speaking of Megatron in the past sense in his battle scenes. Frank Welker is great and Megatron would have defeated Autobot City if Optimus and reinforcements hadn’t arrived. He also killed Optimus, so major credit for that.

Unicron – Orson Welles gives so much fear to this role and it is awesome! Unicron is the ship at the beginning that devours planets and civilizations. It is Unicron who changes Megatron to Galvatron and who creates his own personal army from the discarded Decepticons that Starscream removes. Unicron’s final form is awesome too as he is a giant Transformer that is the size of many planets and has enough power to destroy anything. It is only at the end when the Matrix of Leadership destroys him and after an intense battle. He was a good leader too as he always got on Galvatron’s case to remove the threats to him. Unicron is a genre savvy villain who knows if the heroes live he can be defeated.

Galvatron – Leonard Nimoy plays Galvatron and it is awesome! From his introduction where he kills Starscream, to his killing of Ultra Magnus and also his fighting Hot Rod in the final battle. He is great at matching any threat thrown against him until Hot Rod upgrades using the matrix and becomes Rodimus Prime. He still manages to possibly live though as he was thrown out of Unicron before Unicron is defeated, so he has his freedom now too as much of his arc was trying to resist his slavery to Unicron and be his own person. It made him compelling and Nimoy did it really well.

Hot Rod – This guy has the heroes journey and it is pretty good. He goes from reckless and arrogant, to a team player who can see the bigger picture. It’s a pretty standard heroes journey but the character has personality and grows up and isn’t as static as a lot of the heroes and villains. I’m also glad the Matrix of leadership didn’t go to either of the human characters.

Loss – So many characters die and you feel it. Megatron murders Optimus Prime and he doesn’t come back. Galvatron kills Starscream and he doesn’t come back. Galvatron kills Magnus and in the war countless Autobots and Decepticons die and this isn’t even including all the ones devoured by Unicron throughout the film. This loss gives the move stakes and makes it extremely enjoyable.

Okay: Random Planets – There were a few planets we went too that we never got to know fully. One had an alien judge who had many faces and was crazy and killed people it declared innocent and that was about it. There were also creatures that transformed into alligators. These threats didn’t need to be robotic and felt unneeded with the threat of Unicron and Galvatron.

Okay/con: Minor Autobots and Allies – Magnus was bland and stale and felt like a guy trying to Optimus but clearly wasn’t. The humans were completely uninteresting and weren’t needed (since the Transformers are interesting enough on their own) Hot Rod’s love interest was just kind of there and needed rescuing as much as the human kid and a few of the Decepticons had no personality at all, which is one reason Starscream stood out so much.

The Cons: The Annoying Transformers – Sometimes characters could get really annoying. Wheedle for one, who spoke in riddles and had an annoyingly high voice, as well as some of the minor ones who got killed off.

   If you like animated films sand like any of the Transfomers shows, I’m guessing you’ll like this. It was so much fun and though it had obvious problems was worth it. From Leonard Nimoy’s Galvatron and Orson Welles’s Unicron…the voice acting was phenomenal and the animation and action were never dull. It also has a story that is much more compelling than any of the Michael Bay films and actually focuses on the Transformers and not the annoying side human characters. This is a movie that takes itself seriously enough to tell a good story but is self aware enough to know it was inspired to sell toys. This film feels like people playing with toys and creating an amazing and fun adventure in the process.

Final Score: 8.3 / 10. Well worth the time if you like animated films or the Transformers.

Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 14 – “Balance of Terror” – Seeing Yourself in Your Enemy

Romulan_commander_and_Centurian

  We continue Leonard Nimoy Week with my favorite episode so far of “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The episode is “Balance of Terror” and is the episode that got me into the “Original Series” in the first place, as the first time I’d seen it I hadn’t been impressed. In this we learn about the Vulcans, Romulans and Humanity’s past and present…and Nimoy’s performance as Spock is a major part of it.

   “Balance of Terror,” was directed by Vincent McEveety and written by Paul Schneider.

     The story begins with outposts going silent along the Romulan Neutral Zone, where Humanity and Romulans had once fought a war with Nuclear Weapons and have never seen one another as they communicated the treaty. As one of the last ouposts is attacked the Enterprise Crew glimpse the Romulans and one of them suspects Spock as the enemy. From here the crew must stop the Romulan Warbird before it returns to Romulus as it’s victories could re-ignite the war.

The Pros: The Romulans – The Romulans are awesome and this was the episode that made them a favorite to me. They are honor bound, clever, hierarchical and driven to be the best in all things. They are also extremely passionate showing that they left Vulcan because they rejected the Philosophy of Vulcans and went their own way. They are independent and powerful. They are my favorite Empire and Species in “Star Trek,” and it’s a shame they have yet to have a good movie where they are the great antagonists they deserve, like they were this episode.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is really great in this episode, especially in regards to the ship combat where we are shown what each ship is seeing and from it how they are balanced. Both have strengths and weaknesses and those play a part in how the Commanders strategize against one another.

The Newlyweds – There is a couple getting married at the beginning of the episode, and the husband dies in the battle against the Romulans. You feel it too as they have chemistry with one another and we are given time to know them over the course of the episode. He was a good red shirt…and his death establishes just how deady the Romulans are.

The Battle – This is related to the cinematography but both ships are limited in the same way the ships were in “Wrath of Khan.” The Romulans only have impulse power but can cloak, they have one powerful shot but it doesn’t have the extended range federation lazers do, and the Enterprise has speed that the Warbird lacks. This makes for a great battle especially since it has costs in the end with Centurion dying first and later the crew of the Romulan Warbird and of course the husband of the newlyweds on the Enterprise.

Lieutenant Stiles – This guy is the hothead who hates Spock for looking like the enemy as his family was killed in the Earth-Romulan War and he sees this as his chance for revenge. In the end he changes though when Spock saves his life making him realize how small minded he had been.

Centurion – Centurion is the Romulan Commander’s mentor and similar in role to how Bones is Kirk. They are old friends and it seems like their families know each other. They discuss what was done and the risk of war as well as the benefits and fallbacks of what was accomplished.

Spock – Leonard Nimoy is great in this role as he takes on Stiles bigotry by educating Stiles that he is right to fear as the Vulcans were once warlike and similar to humans. He also saves Stiles life and justifies it as the logical thing to do showing that even when he was heroic he was humble and reserved to Stiles who was always arrogant and angry. He is Stiles’s teacher this episode and also helps Kirk in the battle against the Romulan, and sadly due to one of Spock’s mistakes nearly costs them the ship too. We see in this just how imperfect he is, though he is a great person and officer. I chose this episode for Leonard Nimoy Week for a reason.

Captain Kirk – This episode has some of  William Shatner’s best acting range. We see the sympathetic happy man who is about to be the overseer of a wedding, we see the good when he stands up to Stiles’s prejudice with, “Leave any bigotry in your quarters; there’s no room for it on the bridge.” we see the conflicted soldier facing off against an equal adversary, we see his goodness when he offers to save the Romulan survivors before the ship is destroyed and when he mourns the loss of life. This is really a fantastic Kirk episode.

The Romulan Commander – This guy deserves his own section and is on par with Kirk as the focus of this episode and rightfully so. In this man we see a man who is driven by duty to commit wrongs (destroying the outposts) when he wants nothing more than to return home. Everything he does is so they won’t be defeated but that they will arrive back to Romulus safely. Sadly it is duty that does him in though he realized how similar Kirk and he were and mourns the friendship that could have existed in another world and time.  “I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend,” So glad that Mark Lenard played Sarek later in the series and in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The guy is an amazing actor and was a huge part of why this episode was unforgettable.

The Message – There are a few messages this episode. One is the wrongness of prejudice (the Stiles and Spock arc) and the other is that even enemies may find just how similar they are and that war happens when that is forgotten and they only exist as the enemy. It is powerful and we see in the Romulan Commander and Kirk a friendship that might have been as both as seasoned commanders who rule by more than duty and see the bigger picture of all that is at stake in how they act in the Galaxy.

    This is my favorite episode of “Star Trek: The Original Series,” and to any person into sci. fi., is the episode I usually recommend. Leonard Nimoy is fantastic at Spock and we come to know the Romulans through him when he reveals the Vulcan’s Colonial past and the wrongness of prejudice in how Stiles treats him. We also see the price of conflict and war with the death of the husband on the Enterprise and the death of the Romulan crew of the Warbird. This is “Star Trek” at it’s best and is a must see for anyone who is a Trekkie and loves the show.

Final Score: 10 / 10.

The Twilight Zone – Season 3, Episode 15 – “A Quality of Mercy” – A Matter of Empathy and Mercy

The Twilight Zone A Quality of Mercy Season 3 ep 15

    This episode has officially got me interested in watching the rest of “The Twilight Zone.” I really enjoy shows that make me think…it’s one reason I love the “Star Treks,” enjoyed the episode of “Black Mirror” I reviewed and tend to enjoy films like “Inception.” This was a good episode to kick off Leonard Nimoy week too, as he plays a small but key role in this episode of “The Twilight Zone.” This was one of his earliest works as Nimoy starred in this episode in 1961.

    “A Quality of Mercy,” was directed by Buzz Kulik and written by Rod Serling and based off a story by Sam Rolfe.

    The premise begins at the end of World War 2 where a bunch of American soldiers have some sick Japanese troops trapped in a cave and have had them trapped their for a while. A lieutenant arrives on the scene named Katell who wants to wipe them out as to him every Japanese is an enemy regardless of circumstances. The men protest but in the end follow orders. As they prepare for the attack though Katell wakes up in another man’s body in 1942, A Japanese lieutenant named Yamuri who is being ordered by his commander to wipe out the American’s trapped in the same cave.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of body swapping to see things from another point of view is cliche but a really awesome idea that is done really well here. They put Dean Stockwell in make-up to look Japanese but it works in this instance because he isn’t being used to bash Japanese, he is there so he can reveal that they are the same people stuck in a horrible situation in a circumstance in which mercy is what is needed and not seeing the other side as purely just “The enemy.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful in this episode and presents how tired the soldiers are in the wars being fought as well as showing closeness in relationship in how characters are placed in different scenes. Using the broken binoculars to show past and present was a brilliant use of cinematography too.

The Soldiers – The soldiers in both situations are presented as complex people which lends strength to the story. Nimoy’s character is a cool headed communications officer who calls out Katell on his bloodlust while the others are calling him out for being so green and point out they’ve lost 3 commanders already because they came in so arrogant and were easy for the Japanese to pick off. They all have great chemistry together and their Sargent played by Albert Salmi is stand-up guy. Dale Fujiwaka did a great job playing the Japanese captain who sympathized with the alienate on not killing the Americans and was supportive while their superior was driven by the need to kill.

Dean Rockwell – Dean Rockwell does a great job in acting in this! He plays the overconfident man who hates the Japanese and when he finds himself as a Japanese man he feels vulnerable and scared and when he realizes that Americans are going to be killed using the philosophy he used to justify killing the Japanese, he panics and realizes that he hopes he never kills. This episode really teaches the value of human life.

The Message – The message in this is powerful. It shows how the soldiers in wars are often just fighting to survive or due to orders and that it is important to stand up to protect the weak, even if they seen as the enemy and that mercy is important, for without it we lose our humanity. It also showed how soldiers are parts but often times it’s bigger things like the Bomb that end the war implying an even bigger question of ethics.

Okay: Sgt. Yamazaki – I wish we could have got this guys motivations more, he wasn’t green like the lieutenant so I wanted to know why he was so driven to kill the defenseless. He was the only person this episode who could have been handled better.

    This was a great way to kick of Leonard Nimoy Week! His character is small in this, which makes sense as this was when he was just getting started as an actor, but his cool demeanor is a nice contrast to the trigger happy lieutenant and his compatriots who joke around a lot more. The episode was powerful too as the point it made is one that is timeless and reminds us to empathize with those who don’t have power and the importance of seeing things from other points of view, as well as how important mercy is, especially when there is the option to kill.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10. Near perfect episode.