Movie Review: Star Trek: Beyond

When it comes to science fiction Star Trek does it the best. The shows and movies are about explorers solving problems with logic and diplomacy as representatives of humanity. I am not a fan, but I will watch TNG if it is on, and Wrath of Khan is a great standalone film. Because I do not have a bias, I can judge the Trek movies as movies and about half of them are pretty bad. Into Darkness is my least favorite because it is a remake of Khan. Instead of following up Trek 2009 in a meaningful way, the hack screenwriting duo of Orci/Kurtzman rehashed an already perfect film. There was nothing about the consequences of Vulkan being destroyed, how the event affected the Romulans, or what being admiral meant to Kirk. Cumberbatch was the highlight, but the rest of the movie was worthless. With Orci/Kurtzman nowhere in sight of Star Trek: Beyond, will we finally see a decent sequel to Trek 2009 or more faux science fiction?

After travelling into uncharted space to find a lost Star Fleet ship, the crew of the Enterprise is attacked and brought to a planet where Krall, played by Idris Elba, is gathering them for a nefarious plan.

Orci/Kurtzman’s absence from the writing is why Beyond is the best Star Trek movie since Undiscovered Country. We get a genuine science fiction narrative that does not add nonsense for the sake of spectacle and is competently written. Beyond is a technical film where every action has a purpose and the results make sense. Because the people in charge actually know what they are doing, the action sequences fit within a logical context while being exciting. The second to last major set piece is incredible and how the story got to that point made sense.

Within the logic driven plot is a character story of Kirk, played by Chris Pine, questioning his choice to join Star Fleet. He turns the same age as his father when he died and contemplates taking an office job. A part of Kirk feels he accomplished his mission of living up to his father and that his reason for being in Star Fleet has expired. His struggle throughout is finding a reason to continue.

The rest of the characters added a lot to the whole. Beyond is arguably an ensemble because each member of crew is paired with another and given an equal share of the runtime. There is something for everybody where all our favorites get a chance to be who they are while playing off of each other. Kirk/Chekov have some harrowing moments, Bones/Spock are the highlight, and Scotty with newcomer Jaylah had some nice moments. The great performances of each actor in their respective parts go without saying, Elba included.

My main problem is the shoddy CG work. Most of it was good, but with shots of people running and/or in motion, there are CG stand-ins taken directly from Blade II. They just looked terrible and I do not know why live people were not filmed and dropped into the shot instead. Everything else was fine except those instances. Also, the uniforms were inconsistent and there was a lot of shaky cam.

The Martian was the last science fiction movie that emphasized the science, but it was Star Trek that did not forget the fiction. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future could not have been realized without the television show and movies that followed. Star Trek: Beyond is a return to form and one of the best works of science fiction this year. Even if you are not a fan it is well worth your time.

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