Far better than expected & better each viewing, it’s a bright and explosive Star Trek for sure, but in the character focus and respect for the past it’s still very much Star Trek as we know it, Jim. Now the film is out on home release it’s a good chance for a bit of a re-watch just to see what’s what.
Like Into Darkness before it, opinion on Beyond was mixed when the film came out. And watching it again, yes, there are some things that don’t seem to quite work.
There’s an action sequence with a motorbike for example that is like a segment from a video game; somehow it just doesn’t feel Star Trek. And there’s the disappearance of Carol Marcus – having established her character’s role in Darkness, it just feels odd to leave her out. I’ve read that screenwriter Simon Pegg couldn’t find a role for the character, and yet without resorting to spoilers, I can think of at least one possibility for her intervention as a Science Officer in terms of some of the plot functions carried by new character, the scavenger Jaylah. It seems a shame to have built the character and then to let her go.
Having said that, Jaylah also happens to be one of the best things in the movie – she’s a really strong introduction to the storyline at a time when things could easily have started to waver. Key cast characters are split up into pairs around a planet surface and Jaylah to a large extent is the device to bring them together. With a kind of white and black Darth Maul vibe to her make-up and a Matrix kung-fu action style, Jaylah is a really fun character, and I hope she’s in the next movie as well.
The best thing about the film – and the more I watch the whole Abrams era series back just about the best thing in all of them – is Karl Urban’s absolutely brilliant Bones. Right from the start he’s hysterical, and yet when the plot demands he does serious well, and action very well. There are some great combo scenes as Spock and Bones fight and bond their way through the movie. Urban gets better every single film and for me all the laugh out loud moments belong to him. The Original Series could be wry and comical, and Urban brings this to Star Trek Beyond very well. One thing you can’t really say about the film is that it takes itself too seriously.
Beyond also made me go back and watch Darkness – and be pleasantly surprised by what I found. Although it really has been a controversial movie the second movie is actually way better than I remembered it, and if anything – although some of the character work advances in Beyond – I’m not sure now that Darkness isn’t the second best of the three movies behind the first 2009 reboot. Into Darkness was unpopular with some fans for sure, but if you were okay on the points of controversy, or have got over it, it’s really pretty good. In any case, the three movies work together well, even though Justin Lin took over director duties in Beyond. They feel like a piece.
Star Trek Beyond is also a very sad farewell – a farewell to Leonard Nimoy in a striking and well handled scene with the amazing Zachary Quinto – and to Anton Yelchin, tragically killed before the movie was released. Yelchin was a brilliant and loveable young Chekov and his death at such a young age – with such great promise for this character and other roles in the future – is terribly sad. Both actors are commemorated at the end of the movie in a subtle and deeply moving way.
Star Trek Beyond is a good movie. It’s not the best Star Trek movie ever made, but it’s not the worst. It has great action sequences – okay, maybe not some of that bike stuff – a really good central villain and some really impressive special effects and lightshows. But it also never loses touch with the characterisation and heritage that makes the franchise so special. In many respects it’s a good combination of lots of Star Trek elements – from the Original Series onwards – and so makes for a strong screen ‘Happy Birthday’ on the occasion of the big 50th.
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