Thoughts on Star Trek: Beyond

maxresdefaultI probably should have been watching Mike Bartlett’s Wild yesterday, but given what’s happening in the U.S. at the moment I knew I was likely to have little patience with reflections on the theme of whistleblowing. And I knew I needed to get away from the news, so I decided to go to the movies, and I’d been planning to see the new Star Trek film. I was a little leery because (despite being a long time Star Trek lover), I was neutral on the first film of the reboot and I emphatically did not like Into Darkness.

All of my usual reservations about these movies aside (which occur here as well — with the exception of Zoe Saldana as Uhura, the principals are mimics, not actors; too much violence; unnecessary sexism; the annoying frontispiece vignette with “weird” aliens that makes the anthropologist in me cringe), I really enjoyed this film. It starts off with the right script: I feel like it returned to themes of classic Star Trek that the last two films abandoned, starting off with the notion of an optimistic future and the regrounding of Star Fleet as an exploratory rather than a military organization. It’s the film I wished I could have been watching while the RNC dramas played out, with its consistent message that diversity is positive, strength lies in unity, and cooperation in a pinch can help people surmount any problem. The film got extra points from me for its awareness that convincing villains aren’t just born bad — there is always a reason, something Into Darkness forgot. This villain’s problem was rooted in the history of the Federation as an institution, which I found both convincing and interesting on an allegorical level. And the critique that Krall (Idris Elba, under way too many prosthetics) consistently presents — that the Federation is too peaceful, too weak — sounds so familiar from our own political sphere that the viewer has to at least think about whether he could be right.

Best of all — the film was funny. It was space opera at its best. I was worried about this when I saw the trailer — too much smash ’em up and bro-ey antics — but the film wasn’t like that at all. I loved both that Kirk got to ride around on a motorcycle as a decoy and that Uhura was just find with saving herself when she was in trouble. The addition of Sofia Boutella as Jayla also provided a source of humor, energy, and the cultural fillip of the use of a Beastie Boys song to disrupt the enemy at a crucial point. I felt great about the rest of Michael Giacchino’s score. And the opening vignette — about a species that doesn’t want to make peace because it is afraid it will be eaten — contributed to the whole message of the film this time rather than simply being silly.

I will always miss Leonard Nimoy. Seeing Anton Yelchin as Chekov made me teary. Elba is underused. It is impossible for me not to like Simon Pegg in the role of Scotty.

~ by Servetus on July 25, 2016.

24 Responses to “Thoughts on Star Trek: Beyond”

  1. I’ve been so worried about this film I haven’t let myself get even a little excited about it. But the reviews I’m seeing so far, such as this one, are reviving just a little bit of hope.🙂

    • I was really frustrated by the last one. If there’s one thing that really frustrates me about science fiction in general it’s the resort to the deus ex machina — and the last one had both that and then used it to cynically rewrite one of my favorite moments in the entire universe (Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan). It was almost enraging in its idiocy. So cheap.

      This one is much better.

      • The last one was just flat-out not a Star Trek movie. It embodied none of the qualities that made Trek a cultural touchstone for so many people across so many decades. Hugely disappointing. And aggressively regressive on the gender politics, which is just mind-boggling in a Star Trek property. It has seemed like this new team just really doesn’t get it and was determined not to listen to any feedback explaining what it was they were missing.

        • totally agree re: gender. That doesn’t happen in this one. You still have the problem of 3 male leads but Jayla is pretty clearly female and she is seriously badass.

          I was thinking about this earlier, because it’s an attitude I most recently associated with JJ Abrams (the first 2 ST films and then his comments about the SW reboot, which i more or less decided not to see after his comments about gender in its advance press). This script is by a different time — Orci and Kurzmann got a writing credit but they didn’t write it, apparently — script totally turned around after Pegg got involved.

      • Yes, I really didn’t like the rewrite of Spock’s death from TWoK in Into Darkness. The Kirk and Spock relationship in this universe just doesn’t have the same resonance as it does in the original timeline. No doubt Abrams thought he was being so clever but it rang hollow.

        They’re were some lovely tributes to Spock Prime in this movie that caused me to tear up a little so I hope you go see it, alyssabethancourt.

        • I never want to say “he wasn’t enough of a fan” to understand the significance of that moment — but this would be a case where I would be tempted. I don’t believe in good fan / bad fan but this particular case has me ambivalent about it.

          agree re: tributes to Spock.

  2. Yup, yup, yup. Just saw it this afternoon and I think I loved it.

  3. i’ve heard they got this one right. Good. I was okay with the reboot until I realized towards the end that JJ completely altered canon, I’ve not seen the 2nd one yet. Leonard’s death hit me almost as hard as Robin Williams and honestly, that New Zealand boy does a dang good Dr. McCoy. (Yes, I know it’s Karl and Karl was also Eomer, King of Rohan.) I just might have to go see this one.

    • It’s more or less the premise of the last three films that they are developing an alternate time line — if that is a dealbreaker you will hate them all. They confused me so much in the first one though that I’ve just decided that I’ll live with it.

      I think that they are really all good mimics of the original actors and I agree Urban is frighteningly good. I just wish they wouldn’t do that. But I know a lot of people probably love that piece of it.

      And I don’t think you really need to know the plot of the last two to understand this one. Well, collaterally I guess you need to know that Vulcan was destroyed in the first one. But I think that is it.

      • I’ve seen the first one, just not the second. Of course, I’ve not seen the 3rd film of the Stars Wars – as in III, not VI. I’ve seen VI. And VII. Actually, I’ve seen all of them BUT III. Did that make sense?

  4. Seems like a few of us took refuge in the Universe and boldly went where no one had gone before🙂 We did the exact same thing. That is after a Richard III matinee with the incredible Ralph Fiennes which was breathtakingly evil and way too close to the bone and too nice weather to go inside we were wondering what to do in the evening and unanimously decided to brave the absolute masses and squeeze into the last spare seats in the first cinema we came across😉 It was opening night in the UK so very busy.I loved every bit of it! it felt like the ST stuff that i loved and i was commenting with my friend afterwards that so many thing were predictable in a trekkie way or worked out as expected but that was exactly what made it fun and recognizable. We at row 1 a bit too close for he action stuff, i may have to go again and see it at a bit of distance.

    We were surprised at the writing credits too but that explained some of the good humour in it🙂
    I loved the motorcycle ride and the banter between Jayla and Scotty🙂 And the music solution to winning the battle was great! It was a bit action heavy, i mean in comparison to franchise history but cinema is what it is these days, at last they made it fun.
    I’d completely forgotten about Idris being in it and was gobsmacked when i saw him and suddenly remembered.. we did wonder how much actual prosthetic he had to wore and how much was effects but still, wow, too much. Could have done with a bit less but then again that makes the reveal all the more powerful. I liked the way they kept the tension, you wondered from the get go what drove him.
    Great 2h in the cinema and i still enjoy a good trekkie movie way way more than all the Avengers and that stuff taken together , guess i’m old🙂

    • I would agree that the film is mostly not surprising — it’s a problem in a franchise where you can’t kill people (or kill them and expect them to remain dead) because it takes away real risk. It’s part of why Wrath of Khan will probably always remain my favorite film — because it looked for a while like they’d actually taken a risk and gone from good to great. (Also, Ricardo Montalban.)

      There was something about the music issue that was so understated. It was an echo of a lot of classical discussion about the relevance / non-relevance of the arts and the question of decadence. If we’d seen this thirty years ago it might have seemed like a Cold War allegory and that stuff was full of this idea of “join the West, we have more fun”.

  5. aside… you changed the eyes recently didn’t you? sorry i missed when but i absolutely love this one.. fits out mood it seems and just… well gorgeous, i need a bit of gorgeous a day , so thanks for this!

    • it was time for a change. The question is always finding a photo with a high enough resolution to blow the eyes up that big.

  6. Enjoyed reading this, have you posted this on any film sites?

  7. Ich hatte eh schon fest vor, mir diesen Film anzusehen, aber jetzt freue ich mich umso mehr darauf. Dies Art von Filmen bietet die perfekte Gelegenheit, die (anstrengende) Realität für eine kleine Weile komplett auszublenden. Das tut manchmal einfach zu gut.🙂

    • I guess Alyssa didn’t like it much — too violent for her and she didn’t find the plot convincing. But I would still defend it as a worthwhile expenditure of time and money.

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