22 July 2016

Star Trek Beyond: First Reactions

One of my favorite Star Trek novels is Prime Directive, by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens. I haven't read it for ten years or more, but it opens with the five-year mission of the Enterprise cancelled under ignominious circumstances, and the crew divided up across the galaxy. But, across the course of the adventure, the crew reunites, showing that they are better off together than apart. I like it for its understanding of the characters, both as individuals and as a group. The Reeves-Stevenses give all the characters their moments to shine in their own separate adventures, before uniting them for a finale where they come together to solve the problem in true Star Trek fashion. I also like Prime Directive for its unbridled Star Trek optimism, showing that all people are better off together than apart: the reunification of the crew showing this in microcosm, I suppose.

Maybe Simon Pegg and Doug Jung read Prime Directive back in the day, but probably not. More likely, they worked out a good formula for a Star Trek story based on the strengths of the premise. I hope I haven't spoiled too much by establishing this parallel, but though Star Trek Beyond does not open with the five-year mission suspended, the crew does pretty quickly (almost too quickly; my biggest critique of this film would be that the first 30 minutes or so feel a bit rushed) disperse into smaller groups or individuals: Kirk and Chekov, Sulu and Uhura, Scotty, and (of course) Spock and McCoy. Each character faces their own challenges, and gets their own chance to shine. I have always thought that the reboot films were pretty well cast (my favorites are Karl Urban as McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty, and, alas, Anton Yelchin as Chekov (so all the funny ones)), but this approach lets them shine. Each character usually got a moment in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, but here they all get a chunk of the story, and the story is better for it. Some of the best Spock/McCoy scenes of the new film series thus far, I think.

Then they all come back together, and are suddenly working together as a group, accomplishing amazing things-- and in doing so, demonstrating the optimism that Star Trek is all about. They even reach out and add new people to the group. It's not a complex message, but it is an enjoyable one. There are hair-pin escapes and crazy plans, and I dare you not to have a smile on your face when the music starts blasting in the final act. Plus, there's a real nice audio signifier of their unity at the end of the film. I can't believe that's never been done, and it works really nicely.

Lots of jokes (the giant green hand!), and though it's as action-heavy as all these recent Star Trek films have been, the action is more fun and more beautiful than in the other two installments. Starbase Yorktown is an amazing environment, and director Justin Lin makes the Enterprise look the most beautiful she's looked in all three films-- the scenes of her at warp at the beginning, and her launching from Yorktown were my favorites, but there were a lot of great angles throughout. So yeah, I enjoyed it. I've enjoyed all these reboot films in their different ways, and I'm not sure if this one is the best one, but it is the most quintessentially Star Trekky in all the best ways.

Actually, there's a big flaw I didn't mention. The title of the movie is wrong. It shouldn't have been Star Trek Beyond, but, quite obviously I would have thought, Star Trek Beyond! Never pass up a chance to throw an exclamation point in there.

No comments:

Post a Comment