Review: Star Trek Beyond

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I’m not a huge fan of the first two rebooted Star Trek films. The cast is mostly great, but the scripts seemed determined to aim for the lowest common denominator, losing the heart of what made Star Trek so good in the process. Star Trek Beyond still has lots of lens flares, shaky cameras, and the same trouble properly naming natural phenomena that the first film had, but surprisingly, it feels a lot more like Star Trek thanks to Simon Pegg’s influence on the script.

The Story: During a five year mission of space exploration, The Enterprise is suddenly attacked by a mysterious enemy who captures the crew. Stranded on a planet littered with downed ships, Captain Kirk and friends must make do without any technology as they try to rescue the crew and find out what their mysterious attacker really wants.

I got flashbacks to several existing Star Trek episodes such as TNG’s “Disaster,” DS9’s “Armageddon Game,” and Voyager’s “Basics Part II,” and “Gravity,” which was fun. The colorful sets were a beautiful homage to any number of TOS-era planets with their foam rocks and desert landscapes. There were also a few thematic nods to The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, which I thought were handled well. Unlike Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, which seemed more like parodies rather than actual Star Trek films, Beyond genuinely feels like it was written by someone who understood the source material.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t without its issues. A big plot point in the beginning is a “nebula” (that doesn’t look at all like a nebula…more like the remnants of a shattered star system) that has never been explored even though it’s literally right next to a gargantuan space station the size of a small planet. I find it hard to believe that the Federation would devote that much time building this magnificent place and not at least send a probe or something to see what the big scary phenomenon right next to it is all about, at least to guarantee the safety of all the folks who live there. Think of how Deep Space 9’s whole purpose changed once Sisko discovered the Bajoran wormhole. I find it hard to believe that such a thing would just be ignored, especially since it seems sort of ominous. If a big ship like the Enterprise can cross this asteroid field (it’s not a nebula. I don’t care what they say) easily in about ten seconds, then a smaller ship would have had an easier time of it. In this continuity, Captain Archer’s Enterprise still existed in the previous century, and Ensign Mayweather wouldn’t have had any issues traversing this thing, so I just don’t buy the whole, “Well it’s unexplored space, so we don’t know what’s beyond it” thing. It just felt like a super lazy plot point, something this trilogy has really struggled with.

Despite that, as well as a few other moments where it’s clear the writers said, “And…uh…they escape! Because reasons!” it was an entertaining film. It’s still fluffy and superficial, but it did feel like it was heading in the right direction in terms of marking a return to the heart of what Star Trek is. The main theme of strength through unity was very Star Trek, as well as the concept of advancing towards the future as result of cooperation and mutual understanding as opposed to conflict.

Plus, there are a few moments that die-hard fans of the series, even those who hate the new movies, will react to. I won’t spoil it, but I will say there’s a moment right near the end that got me a bit misty-eyed.

I’d recommend it to Trek fans only in that we need to show studios that we want them to continue on this path towards recapturing what made us all fall in love with Gene Roddenberry’s universe in the first place.

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