Film and drama

Screen Themes: Star Trek Beyond vs Green Room

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Let’s all go to the movies as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the latest in the Star Trek franchise and claustrophobic thriller Green Room.

Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin

DEPENDING ON how you look at it, Star Trek Beyond is either the 3rd or the 13th Trek movie. Launched off the back of a relatively unsuccessful TV series back in 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a tedious affair that was followed by a couple of great sequels and then some other films. Fast forward to 2009 and the franchise was rebooted by über-geek JJ Abrams with the action packed Star Trek.

While Abrams take on Star Trek was a lot of fun, the speed that James T Kirk ascended to the captaincy of the Enterprise rivaled that of Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers, which was a parody in case you didn’t catch it. By comparison, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness was dark and derivative, trying (and failing) to capture the magic of 1982’s Wrath of Khan.

Set three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission and directed by Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 4 through 6), Star Trek Beyond is probably the most faithful of the new series to Gene Roddenberry’s vision. You genuinely care about what happens to Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew, and the giant action set-pieces add to the impact of the film rather than seeming tacked on.

Having grown into their characters, Chris Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s McCoy are note perfect, paying tribute to Shatner, Nimoy and DeForrest Kelly without imitating them. Also credited as a scriptwriter, Simon Pegg is a joy as Scotty, while Zoe Saldana has a lot more to do as Uhura, using her language skills to act as a peacemaker between warring alien races.

The tag team of John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov are as entertaining as ever, although Yelchin’s untimely death before the film’s release adds a tinge of sadness to his engaging performance. While there was some online hubbub about Sulu’s newly revealed sexuality, it feels organic to the movie and in no way distracts from the plot.

Last but not least, there are not one but two touching tributes to Leonard Nimoy, the second of which had tears rolling down my cheeks. I honestly didn’t expect that from a Star Trek movie.

Green Room (2016) directed by Jeremy Saulnier

If it weren’t for the starring presence of Anton Yelchin and Sir Patrick Stewart, there is a good chance you would have never heard of Green Room. This is not to say it’s not a good film, because it is. It’s just that the subject matter and the intentionally grim approach of director Jeremy Saulnier don’t necessarily make for a fun movie experience.

Green Room tells the tale of down-on-their-luck punk band the Ain’t Rights, who accept a shady gig at a neo-Nazi clubhouse for some quick cash. After the band close their set with ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’, things go pear shaped pretty quickly as they witness a murder and get stuck inside the green room with a horde of angry skinheads outside.

The Ain’t Rights are made up of Anton Yelchin as Pat, Alia Shawkat (Maeby from Arrested Development) as Sam and two other dudes (Joe Cole and Callum Turner) who may as well have “Nazi fodder” tattooed on their foreheads. And make no mistake, this movie gets downright brutal at times.

Sir Patrick Stewart plays Darcy, the ice-cold leader of the neo-Nazis. As you would probably expect, the newly minted country singer and all around international treasure is superb in this role, bringing a steely determination and pragmatic viciousness to the character. In any other film, he would walk away with the MVP trophy, but in Green Room he has to contend with Anton Yelchin.

From his start as a young teen actor in movies like Fierce People and Alpha Dog, Yelchin has always displayed a mix of bravado and vulnerability. In Green Room he is a passionate artist but often the lone voice of reason, offering a faint ray of hope in an otherwise catastrophic situation.

After getting his start with the highly acclaimed Blue Ruin, director Jeremy Saulnier has made a dark, disturbing thriller that verges on outright horror at times. Worth watching for the performances of Stewart and Yelchin alone, Green Room is a movie that will stick with you long after you’ve seen it.

The Verdict

The tragic death of Anton Yelchin provides connective tissue between two very different movies.

Star Trek Beyond is a highly entertaining sci-fi flick, worth seeing on the big screen for both the eye-candy and the engaging character beats. Green Room is a dark, disturbing thriller that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern Grindhouse, but definitely worth a look for the performances.

Rest in peace, Anton.

Star Trek Beyond: 8/10

Green Room: 7/10

Like what you read? John Turnbull''s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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