Star Trek Beyond is a really good movie with a really silly name. There, I’ve said it. The title is ridiculous. Of course, Star Trek Into Darkness was a ridiculous title as well. Is it that difficult to just stick with the Star Trek: Vague Story Description titles? This may seem like a pointless complaint, but it’s not. The title is the first thing people see. It is the first impression. If people think a movie title is silly sounding or uninteresting, then they won’t even bother with watching the trailer. Sure, it may not matter to Star Trek fans, but you’re going to have dwindling returns if you only go after already established fans.
But now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about the movie. Actually first, close your eyes. Now, I want you to…crap, I told you to close your eyes. How are you supposed to keep reading this if your eyes are closed? Guess I’ll just have to wait for you to come to this realization as well and open your eyes.
You’re back? Good. Let’s try this. Just imagine what you think the critical reception to Star Trek Into Darkness was. I know from what social interaction I have with some people, the talk was could Beyond return quality to the franchise after the disappointment of Into Darkness. I never had any big issues with Into Darkness, but I thought the larger reception, audience and critical, was somewhat negative towards this film. I was so confident in this memory that I went to RottenTomatoes.com just to see how much better Beyond was received than Into Darkness. And boy was I surprised.
Into Darkness actually performed better with critics and the audience than Beyond did. Not by a lot, but the fact that it was better surprised me. Surprised me enough to write this whole opening. It also reminded me of an article I read a couple weeks ago about 10 reasons you should re-watch Superman Returns. I didn’t get very far into the article, because pretty early into it, it described Superman Returns as being widely regarded as one of the worst Superhero movies of all time. That sounded off, so I went to my handy dandy score aggregator, and saw that it has a 76%. That’s hardly being regarded as one of the worst.
But all this is because I am really just frustrated that the narrative I wanted to write isn’t actually true. I wanted to write that Star Trek Beyond was a return to quality movie-making. That it was a worthy follow-up to the J.J. Abrams relaunch. And it is. It’s a good movie. I greatly enjoyed this movie. It had heart, characterization, drama, whimsy, exploration. Everything you could possibly want in a Star Trek movie.
The crew is on their 5 year mission, but we pretty much immediately have them stopping at a base to resupply. You get some quick exposition about life constantly in space, and it does an effective job at setting the scene for later on in the movie. While at the base, an escape ship is recovered. The Enterprise crew is tasked with going through a nebula and into uncharted space in order to find the rest of the crew. I suppose this is where the Beyond part happens. Well, they get ambushed, things go wrong, and the crew ends up separated.
Here’s where I think this movie distinguishes itself. In the crew separations, you don’t get the normal pairings. Scotty is on his own, meeting up with a new character named Jaylah. McCoy is with Spock. Uhura is with Sulu. Kirk is with Chekov. This allows for more in depth interactions than we’re used to seeing in these movies. It brings characterization and builds relationships that you can then use in later movies. Think of it as an investment for future movies.
The story is fine. Themes about mortality and purpose in life brought up early on play out well later on in the story. You have Kirk worried about what he’ll become if he stays isolated in Space. Sure, he has the crew, but there is only so much fraternizing with the crew that the Captain can do. They use Leonard Nemoy’s death to kill off Ambasador Spock, and use it to make Quinto’s Spock question what he should be doing with his life.
Idris Elba plays the villain Krall. He does a fine job. As decent as any other Star Trek villain. Star Trek has never really been known for it’s strong villains. Sure, there’s Khan, but go back and watch The Wrath of Khan. Odds are, his villainy isn’t as great as you remember it. People really just remember Kirk yelling his name. But I digress. Krall is fine. He is menacing enough that the threat he’s posing can be taken seriously.
I don’t really have much else to say on the movie. I really enjoyed it. To me, there weren’t any glaring issues. It’s nice that they’re back exploring new worlds. I do find the insistence that Star Fleet is not a militant organization a nice thought, but it’s kind of lost in the space battles that you have in every movie. Also, this movie may have the best, and silliest use of a Beastie Boys song ever in a movie. But if you like Star Trek, you will probably like this movie, and I encourage you to go see it.