Oh Star Trek, we've had such a convoluted history together. You might say my relationship with you mirror's my feelings for Star Wars... or even Battlestar Galactica. But let's not say that for now. Instead, let's just say... it shouldn't be this way. If all these great franchises would just listen to me and stay reasonably close to their source material, they would still be awesome!
But sadly, we have idiots that either don't respect the original concepts, or they're arrogant to think they can improve on what came before *COUGH*robert.orci*COUGH*jj.abrams*COUGH*
Now before you think I'm stuck in the past, I DO understand that things need to be updated for the times, and really I have no problem with some gentle tweaks. It just makes sense. Case in point, Marvel movies have proven repeatedly that you can take heroes that are decades old, and make them fun and relevant today, but stay true to who they are and consistent with why they've been popular for so long.
So with that in mind, I'd like to present to you my three different reviews for Star Trek Beyond. Three reviews because it seems everything today has to come in threes, and depending on your/my mindset, maybe you can agree with me in some capacity on at least one of them. Oh stop complaining, I promise I'll be brief... ish. Trust me, it'll all make sense in the end.
First off, let's do a basic surface review:
I'm very happy to report the third incarnation of this Trek, was NOT written by Robert Orci (aka clueless hack), and not directed by JJ Abrams (aka lens flare/shaky cam fetishist). It was directed by Justin Lin, best known for directing the Fast and the Furious franchise... because really, at their core, that series is also sci-fi... apparently.
And visually Star Trek Beyond actually works. It was well lit, with very little lens flare, and I could follow the action and story. Although there was no groundbreaking directorial moments, it did the job successfully.
The story was written by Doug Jung (aka ???), and Simon Pegg, (aka Scotty in this Trek, and of course Shaun from Shaun of the Dead). I know nothing about the other guy, but Simon Pegg has enough nerd cred, he could make it work. And honestly he did okay! I can easily say it is MUCH better than the previous Abrams Trek movies.
But having said that... it's not going to win any awards either. It felt more like a day in the life of the Enterprise crew, than a particularly epic theatrical release. It also felt like they really wanted to jump on the Force Awakens bandwagon, because some aspects felt very Ep. VII-ish, and maybe even a bit Guardians of the Galaxy-ish too. The story was decent, but not powerful. The action was fun, but not spectacular. The characters were good but not great. And just to clarify, as much as I like most of the cast, I really, really still don't think Chris Pine is a good choice for Kirk. There must be a million better charismatic actors that could have sat in that seat.
The biggest problem I had is... the title. Star Trek Beyond. Seriously??? What does that even mean???
So for a surface review, if you want a fun sci-fi action movie and really don't give a crap about previous versions of the series and you're not overly nerdy, but just sort of casually nerdy (aka geeky)... I give this 7.5 green skinned alien women out of 10.
Review 2.0 - for the discriminating nerd:
Star Trek is a very unique franchise. It's not about 'pew pew pew'. Star Trek is supposed to make you think. As much as I love Zachary Quinto, I was a bit offended by his comments recently about the original series. Essentially, he said it was boring. Oh Zach, you just don't get it, do you? Don't worry though... You'll always be Sylar to me.
The original series was written by actual science fiction novelists, (although generally fine tuned by DC Fontanta and/or Gene Roddenberry... and perhaps even Shatner). The original series consisted of episodes like, a creature that can camouflage itself as someone you like, so it can get close enough to suck all the salt from your body. Or a transporter malfunction splitting the captain into good and evil versions of himself. Or getting trapped in the past and Kirk falling in love with a woman that has to die, or risk altering the timeline.
Of course the series had some action, and heavy tension, but fundamentally, it was about exploration, and discovery. It had thought provoking, and unique situations to resolve. Many of the cool toys we have in the world today were inspired by the originality of Star Trek, because young nerds at the time said, "I want that for real!", so they figured out how to make it. And with the invention Star Wars, you had a balance. One franchise to fill the action/fantasy part of your brain, and the other could fill the intellectual/curiosity part of your brain. So on that level, Star Trek Beyond fails.
But let's look a bit deeper...
Someone tell me again WHY are Spock and Uhura a couple??? Do any of these people know anything about Pon Farr?? Okay, sure Sarek (Spock's father) hooked up with a human woman, and I'm sure there is a great reason/story behind it all. But I would like some type of justification for Spock and Uhura to be together, because it never happened before. You can't drop a bomb like that and have people just blindly accept it. And don't give me this 'alternate timeline' crap either! Just thirty seconds of explanation would help my tiny brain accept.
And as much as I love Karl Urban as McCoy, there were things he was required to do in this movie that felt very out of character for him. I understand why it was done, because he would have been useless otherwise. But it felt very forced.
And THIS is a phaser!
Phasers go 'pzzzzzzzzzzt', not 'pew pew' as Star Trek Beyond will have you believe!
And for the third time, no matter how you justify it... 20th and 21st century music does not belong in the 23rd century!!
Finally, were the nacelles a LOT closer together than they should have been? Did someone bodyshame the Enterprise to look thinner?
So in the end, is this really Star Trek? There were some nice homages and easter eggs for fans, but was it enough? After Spock did some calculating, he determined there is actually only 34.639% Star Trek content in this movie. So based on that, I give it 4 arched Vulcan eyebrows out of 10.
My third review will contain a big spoiler for the movie. But I want to discuss it. So if you'd like to stop reading here, let me leave Zoe Saldana (Uhura) pics here to leave enough space before moving on...
They blew it up! Damn you!! Damn you all to hell!
Well, in their insane desperation to follow the trajectory of the original films, they were apparently required by law to blow up the Enterprise. To be absolutely honest, I have no problem with them sinking another ship. But it was how they did it that really bothered me. The entire incident felt too casual.
The Enterprise is an integral member of the crew. So it's 'death' should have a powerful meaning. There should be a purpose, just like in Search for Spock. The moment had an impact. In Star Trek Beyond, it consisted of, "What's that coming at us? Shields aren't holding! Abandon ship!" All within the first 30 minutes, followed by some shrugs and rummaging for survivors. "Well, this sucks. Let's try to get out of here!" I felt no emotions for this loss whatsoever. But I should have... shouldn't I? For such an iconic vessel.
To me, this was a very poorly written moment for fans.
I'll go one more for you:
Spock has a first name. And no, It's not Mister. In the episode, This Side of Paradise, someone asked Spock his name, and he said, "You couldn't pronounce it". So seeing the items Spock left Quinto Spock, wouldn't it display his full name, not just "Ambassador Spock"? Officially, it should perhaps say Ambassador S'chn T'gai Spock, (according to research).
And seriously, with as many things as they changed, couldn't SOMEONE have updated the NX uniforms to not look like space mechanics??
So for all that, I give it a Next Gen double facepalm.
Sorry you had to hear all that. Let me reward your patience with one more Zoe Saldana because....