So it’s actually been several weeks since I watched Star Trek Beyond, and I know everyone is dying to know what I thought of the movie beyond (ha, ha) the brief Facebook post I made after getting home from the theatre with my 17-year-old son. I have a few basic thoughts overall.
First, all of the things that I actually liked about first two movies in the rebooted, alternate timeline sequence stand. The casting is generally awesome, and I think even Chris Pine was a better Kirk this time. The design aesthetic is beautiful, visuals are breathtaking at times, and the soundscape really adds to things.
Second, there were a few weird things here, things that didn’t entirely make sense to me, and three of these spring to mind:
- The chain lightning gun that exactly one of the bad guy soldiers used when boarding the Enterprise and took five people out in one shot with. This should clearly have been standard issue, and the boarding action would have been over a lot faster.
- The sheer size and scope of Starbase Yorktown was ridiculous. Your biggest and most advanced Starbase, with a population of a couple of million Federation citizens, just completed and on the edge of explored space, is the size of a small moon. Never mind it was commanded by only a Commodore (which seems like outranks an Admiral, for some reason). Yes, it was some pretty impressive CGI, but really, Starbase Yorktown was only that giant so they could have a starship chase scene run through it.
- Why was there a motorcycle on a 100-year-old wrecked starship on the edge of explored space? And why did that motorcycle still work?
Third, I stand behind agreeing with my son’s succinct judgment of the film as we walked out: aggressively mediocre. The pacing was okay, the writing was okay (and, honestly, I expected better from Simon Pegg), the overall plot was okay. No opening credits for titles, which I finally stopped waiting for, and not many standout moments. As a matter of fact, I’m not really sure there were any stand out moments. Oh, there were a cute one-liners, and nice characterizations by actors who have learned to live in the roles, but a lot of the good stuff in the film is more tribute, even though the tributes were seamlessly woven in for the most part. And there was a lot of tribute, a lot of call backs. That’s cool. Star Trek has, when this movie released, closing in on 51 years of history, if you count “The Cage”. We are rapidly closing in, next week actually, on the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the show on network television.
Now, if it sounds like I’m not terribly impressed so far, you’re reading things they way I’ve written them, but my last point is the key one: in a way that neither of the first two Abrams films were, this is a Star Trek film.
Some very basic Star Trek themes are built into this movie. There are three points I want to think about here, too.
- Inclusiveness, and not wanting to spoil the film if you haven’t seen it, I’ll leave it at saying that inclusiveness in the crew is greater than it’s ever been before, and the theme goes beyond just Starfleet personnel.
- Strive to be better than you are, and help the people around you be better than they are. This has always been a big Star Trek theme, and I’m glad to see it return from the ashes of the poorly written action movies we’ve tolerated in the past two releases.
- Find the place you make a big difference, and then do everything you can to make as big a difference as you can. In other words, it’s everyone’s job to make the universe a better place.
So, while Star Trek Beyond wasn’t a great film, or even a particularly good one, and while I stand by the “aggressively mediocre” summary, that summary is only that. I’ve seen every Star Trek movie in the theatre, and I said before I saw this one that, based on the last two staggering disappointments, this was Paramount’s last chance for me in the theatre. I wasn’t impressed and I wasn’t thrilled, but they gave me a Star Trek movie. On the strength of that, the franchise gets another shot.
Live long and prosper, everyone.by