First, it needs to be addressed that I’m a weird Trekkie. The first reboot film in 2009 is what brought me to the Star Trek fandom. I watched some of the original series and thought it was all right. Sacrilege, I’m sure some of you are crying. Then I found The Next Generation. There it suddenly was. My brand of Trek. Everyone has the incarnation that is their baby, and I don’t judge anyone for whichever show or set of films that is. Even in discovering that Next Gen was definitely my favorite, the reboot films are still beloved by me. You’re always going to show favor to whatever brought you to the dance, even among naysayers.
With that said, this had to be one of the biggest Trek controversies I’d seen since Enterprise. The director was known for action flicks. Simon Pegg writing the script left some people paranoid. The editing in the first trailer was a total misstep. I won’t pretend that I watched that trailer and felt hyped for the film. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach. It was quippy and bombastic with The Beastie Boys screaming over explosions and motorcycle stunts. I found myself wondering when Michael Bay had sneaked onto the set.
Luckily, you really shouldn’t judge the film by that trailer. Yes, there are some incredible action set pieces, but they don’t detract from the film, and they feel in keeping with the action of the previous installments. Also, did I mention they’re incredible? It is quippy, but it’s the sort of dialogue that is Pegg’s specialty and serves to deepen the relationships between characters. The Beastie Boys… It was a really cool sequence. There was a part of me, deep in the back of mind, quietly resigning to “this is what Trek is now.” But there was also a part of me wildly laughing, because they called it “classical music”, and the effects and timing were stunning. They took a chance there, and I can’t say that they failed.
One of the big things this film did was pair off some characters that we’ve not seen interact much. Captain Kirk is searching an alien planet for survivors with Chekov at his side. Bones is charged with caring for an injured Spock. Uhura and Sulu are being held in a prison camp. Scotty is rebuilding an old ship with Jaylah, a new character who holds her own among the cast. Some really great interactions and character moments emerge from these dynamics. Bones and Spock have to have special mention, because Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto so utterly embody these characters and channel them with eerie precision.
In particular, while Spock’s role was reduced in comparison to the first two films (which served to make Beyond feel more like an ensemble effort, so I’m hardly complaining), they use him as a way to pay tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy. This was handled incredibly well, with Quinto’s Spock fighting tears as he mourns, essentially, himself. Yet his lines could easily be applied to Nimoy, giving every Trekkie in the audience a powerful punch to the heart. Both he and Anton Yelchin, who died before the film was released in America, are given dedications in the credits.
For most Trekkies, the heart and soul of the series lies in its progressiveness. Beyond concerns itself heavily with that. It has become known for giving Sulu a husband rather than a wife, a decision that was controversial but I feel is a natural development in a universe that embraces differences and change. Trek has always been right at the center of hot-button issues, and it was high time LGBT representation became part of that.
It’s also clear to see the film’s overall message and how it reflects the politics of today. The new direction the world is taking to evolve and unify versus the old guard who prefer things the way they were. People raised in violence who see that as the only solution versus those who would rather die themselves for a good cause. One of the biggest complaints about the new films is how Trek’s idealism gets lost in action film antics. If that’s how you’ve felt, then Beyond will change your mind. It’s chocked full of idealism, optimism, and unifying acceptance.
This movie didn’t get a lot of attention. That first trailer unfortunately killed much of the hype for hardcore fans. It also had a lot of competition not just this summer, but all year, going up against one superhero movie after another, until it’s been forgotten for every “top films of 2016” I’ve seen. That’s a shame, because this movie was a hidden gem. A completely worthy blockbuster that should’ve been more widely accepted. We can still give this film life through DVD and Blu-Ray sales, and I say the movie is more than worth that.
I hope this review has convinced you to give Star Trek Beyond a chance. Thank you for reading, and as always, happy geeking!
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