Battle Beyond The Stars
For true fans of the science fiction genre, the last half century has been dominated by two franchises that leave every other franchise in their wake – the behemoths, Star Wars and Star Trek. Amazingly, across a total of 19 cinema releases (twelve Star Trek films and seven Star Wars films) only once before has each franchise released a film in the same year. That year was 2002, when Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones kept Star Wars fans happy but didn’t do much else to attract new legions of fans, and Tom Hardy took on a role he’d probably just as soon forget as a clone to Patrick Stewart’s Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis. A clash of the titans turned much-maligned, and we, the fans, have had to wait 14 years to see them go head-to-head again.
The year 2015 was all about Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Ask me about any other films released last year and my answer will probably revolve around how much I enjoyed the Star Wars teaser trailer, or whether any new Star Wars posters had appeared in the cinema foyer since my last visit. This year the main event (for me, anyway) is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The first of a promised series of three Star Wars anthology films set for release by Disney. Taking place in the Star Wars universe, but without necessarily following our beloved Star Wars heroes, Rogue One is set prior to the original trilogy. Here we follow the story behind rebels plot to steal the plans to the first Death Star (as appears in Episode IV: A New Hope. There is no evidence to suggest that any Bothan spies died whilst retrieving this information). Hot on the heals of the ridiculously successful Episode VII, Rogue One is basically a guaranteed financial success straight out of the blocks, and with a strong cast featuring Felicity Jones (The Theory Of Everything), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal television series), Alan Tudyk (what isn’t he in) and two of my personal favourite (and underrated) actors, Ben Mendelsohn (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Forest Whitaker (Repo Men, Vantage Point), this entry into the Star Wars universe promises to deliver everything we hope it will.
As if all of that isn’t exciting enough, we also have persistent rumors of potential cameos by some old favorites. No spoilers here, but one particularly deep-voiced actor is thought to be involved, and plans to fill a younger version of a much beloved character from the original trilogy are being hastened for a possible inclusion. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will be released in December, and, like its Force Awakening predecessor, should dominate at the box office during its run.
Back in the alpha quadrant, Star Trek: Beyond sees Chris Pine return as Kirk for the third time since Eric Bana’s misguided Romulan, Nero, changed history and allowed us to restart the voyages of the star ship, Enterprise, from scratch. I’m a huge Star Trek fan (though I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie) and the series reboot has done much to garner a new fan base after the film series started to run out of steam with the Next Generation crew. After setting the wheels in motion, directing the first two in the rebooted series, JJ Abrams is no longer the man in the chair (ironically to allow him to direct The Force Awakens), and the pressure is on director Justin Lin (of the Fast and the Furious franchise) to restore some gloss to the Star Trek mantle after a somewhat lacklustre first sequel, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Whilst Into Darkness provided some great set-pieces and visuals to keep gen-pop happy, as a Star Trek fan the overall story was a little wearing, and while the shout outs to the original film series were fun, they were also more than a little cringe-worthy.
The returning cast have proven to have a terrific chemistry (Zoe Saldana is Uhuru, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones and of course Zachary Quinto as Spock), and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Star Trek: Beyond can deliver the goods and resume a good-natured rivalry with their cross-galaxy rivals.
Trekkies will have much to celebrate as the July 8 release date was deliberately pushed back two weeks (to July 22) to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s original series. That said, Star Trek: Beyond will face significant competition from the likes of the Ghostbusters reboot, Independence Day sequel and Matt Damon returning as Jason Bourne. The race for Box Office glory in July is going to be hot.
Rogue One 4.5/5 The only thing on the horizon more exciting is Star Wars Episode VIII.
Star Trek Beyond 4/5 (pre-trailer release) 3.5/5 (post-trailer release) Huge franchise, great cast, and fingers crossed it raises the bar for future ‘Trek’ films.