After Star Trek: Into Darkness, I had reservations about this movie. My hopes were for a return to a movie more in line with the original Star Trek where the action was was used in service to the themes at play throughout the movie. I didn’t want the action to be the theme of the movie. The trailer showed a move that was action packed and left me with little hope for Beyond being the type of Star Trek movie that I want.
I was surprised to discover that I liked Star Trek Beyond much more than I expected. It has problems but comes closer to the Star Trek that I want than the previous two movies.
Let us begin with the good stuff.
First, we are given much more time with the characters in this story. Action abounds but the characters are given space to breath and interact which is priceless. The opening sequence is just small peek into the mind of Captain Kirk but it stands out as a unique view that was missing from the Star Trek Universe. We get Kirk’s log playing over a view of life on the Enterprise. The crew is three years into their five year mission. Kirk speaks about the small things that are normal business on a ship of this size. He speaks of the vastness of space and the small speck that he and his ship represent in this vast unknown and wonders at the reason behind the mission. Why seek to learn more when the unknown is seemingly infinite. A deep question from a Captain that has appeared to be uninterested in introspection.
I love that we get to watch as McCoy interacts with both Kirk and Spock at length. Urban embodies the role with heart and soul and ache at the loss of the Original bones due to his genuine performance. He comes across and gruff and irascible while still being caring and supportive. In particular, I loved the interaction between Spock and McCoy. They are given a large amount of time together in this movie and we get to watch their gruff exchanges and see the underlying friendship blossom. There is a point where Spock openly states that, despite the argumentative nature of their relationship, his esteem for McCoy was never in doubt.
This hit me right in the feels.
I also appreciate that Star Trek is attempting to give us a diverse future. Uhura is still allowed to retain agency. She does not wait around to be rescued and makes choices that influence the course of the movie. In addition, she is allowed to be out point of view several times throughout the movie which I like. On top of this, we quietly get a gay main member of the crew. In the sequence where Kirk is talking about the life of the crew on the ship, we get to see Sulu with a picture of his daughter at his station. A bit anachronistic, but still touching. When they arrive on Yorktown, we get to see Sulu run off into the crowd to embrace his husband and his child. No muss, no fuss, just like a normal family.
This is what I want to see in my media. I want to see myself and others presented just like everyone else. This is why these things in this movie are so important. They take place in a Franchise that is so big that it lifts us up out of the shadows and gives us the treatment we deserve.
All the feels.
Star Trek Beyond is not without it’s flaws though.
Did we really need to destroy the enterprise again? The United Federation Of Planets coffers must be overflowing since they do not seem to mind building a new ship for the the crew of the Enterprise. Especially since every time they get on a ship it ends up destroyed. don’t get me wrong, the battle that destroyed the ship was epic and fun to watch, just not necessary. It felt like a lazy way to show the ingenuity of the crew and overtly emotionally manipulative.
The villain of the piece is yet again a nihilist. He is on a quest to show the federation that conflict is not something to be avoided, but to be embraced. The villains motivations for this are shrouded in mystery until the around the end of the movie. Uhura catches a glimpse of Captain of the ship that is discovered hidden on this unknown planet. The crew learns that this man had been soldier whom had fought many battles before the beginning of the Federation. The captain and his crew crashed on this planet and only a few survived to live on as part of an ancient machine that changed them. It left them nothing but a thirst for revenge posited as a mission.
It makes little sense.
During the final battle between Kirk and this captain, we get more of an explanation. It sounds more of a man without a purpose. The reasoning behind wanting to watch the world burn is bad and doesn’t hold up to the dramatic weight that the movie tries to give it.
On top of this, the villain is played by Idris Elba. I knew he was in the movie but he was unrecognizable as the villain. He is layered in prosthetics and his voice is altered. Elba is given nothing that calls for his immense talents which means he gets not time to shine. his character murders crew members throughout the movie and the purpose is not easily evident. It requires Uhura to tell us that he kills people and changes as he absorbs something from them. Really? Did we spend so much on destroying the Enterprise that we didn’t have enough to make the effects clear on the villain to make him make more sense?
I would give Star Trek Beyond three bear paws out of four. It gives me more of the Star trek that I want in movie form than I have gotten from the last two movie. It provides some diversity in the story line that plucked at my heart strings. If the flaws had been handled better, this would have been an even better movie. Still worth seeing at the theater for a matinee.