“Not Moving Very Far” (Star Trek Beyond)

Star Trek Beyond.jpg
The gorgeous poster.

This movie is very confusing for me. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like Justin Lin, Simon Pegg, and Doug Jung have made both a fantastic and horrible Star Trek movie at the same time.

 

Let me explain. I loved Star Trek Beyond. It was incredibly fun, and watching the brilliant cast of the reboots interact with each other again was just goddamn enjoyable. The whole plot, though it felt strangely short (when the movie was gearing up for the finale, I felt like I had only been in the theater for an hour), was a good time. It was filled with fun, or suspenseful, or intense moments, and while I think the pacing was certainly off, to say the least, I still had a great time.

Like, a really good time. This movie was chock full of in-jokes, and regular jokes, and references, and clever nods, and just plain fun humor. It’s fun to have the crew back, to see them play off of each other, and to see how they get themselves out of bad situations with determination and a healthy dose of casual optimism. It also helps that the big stuff, spectacle, is there too. Seeing the Franklin ride straight through the heart of the Bees on a wave of fire while “sabotage” blasts its way through the speakers is a moment of pure cinematic joy that is unrivaled in any movie of Star Trek Beyond‘s kind.

Star Trek Beyond the Motion Picture.jpg
It’s not the official poster, but it’s damn familiar.

I just want to make you understand before I start yelling at this movie, that I enjoyed the hell out of it. This is the second most fun I’ve had at the movies this year, and the first belongs to Ghostbusters, which I saw less than a week before Beyond. No matter what I say beyond this point, that doesn’t change the fact that this movie is undeniably, nay, contagiously, enjoyable, and I’ll recommend it based solely on that any day.

 

So, now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for the hard points. Star Trek Beyond is, sadly, barely a Star Trek movie.

There’s some messages about strength in unity that clash with Krall’s warlike ways, and those are nice, really, they are. There’s witty banter, technobabble, and close shaves to get out of impossible situations. But when the end credits roll, everything is still the same. Nothing has changed. I’m kind of surrogate-complaining about Star Trek Into Darkness, and absolutely fantastic movie that ruined basically everything it had going for it in the final ten minutes. And you know why? It was too scared to take a risk. It didn’t want to leave the movie’s characters off in a worse state than they were before. It was afraid to be a Star Trek movie.

I could beat around the bush for pages, but I read a really great article that sums this all up very nicely. I’m going to quote it, because I really believe I won’t be able to explain my feelings any better.

“The strengths of the old Trek movies lay in their willingness to shake the world. The Wrath of Khan killed the fan-favorite main character. The Search for Spock brought him back, yes—but at the cost of the Enterprise. And then, after two movies of battles and explosions and grit and death, the core crew of the Enterprise flew off on their stolen Bird of Prey to find some humpback whales in 20th-century San Francisco, returning to what they hoped would be a court martial because the alternative was the end of all life on Earth. And it was only then that we got anything close to what we started with—the whole crew, together, on the bridge of the brand new Enterprise-A.

The old Trek movies weren’t flawless, but they were brave. I’d trade the new films’ pitch-perfect casting, epic battles, super cool uniforms and nostalgic call-backs for even a hint of that audacity–for the new Trek to do what Trek has always done best: seek out brave new worlds and boldly go where no one–not even Star Trek–had gone before.”

–  Rachel Edidin, Wired

Here’s the full article, if you want to read it. And I suggest you do, it’s really quite good. “The Braver, Better Movie that Star Trek Into Darkness Could Have Been”

Star Trek Beyond walks, swims, and quacks like a Star Trek movie, and, for all intents and purposes, it is. It’s a damn good one! Physically, I shouldn’t be worried, I was just given a great Star Trek reboot film. But, spiritually, I’m still waiting.

Planning (Beyond).jpg
Kirk, Jayla, Scotty, and what I believe to be Spock’s arm plan their assault.

The movie itself, the scenes that inhabit it, and the moments that keep it alive, are interesting, and memorable, and enjoyable, and even make you want to get up on your feet and cheer at times, but the whole package is held together with glue that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

 

I will absolutely reccomend Star Trek Beyond, because of how much fun I had with it, but this is not the point of Star Trek. It’s getting  harder to justify the complete lack of real risk in these movies the farther along they get, and to be honest, I’m starting to get a little tired of it. So go. Go ahead to the theater, and smile until your cheeks hurt, laugh until your belly aches, have fun to your heart content, I know I did. But just try to understand that something incredibly fundamental to the identity of what Star Trek truly is is missing here, and I won’t be satisfied until I have it back.

Star Trek Beyond is the second most fun I’ve had at the movies all year, and the first is Ghostbusters, so it’s not a bad hit at all. But it’s all surface detail. There’s no trace of any of the daring and boldly going nature that defined the franchise when it originated, and solidified it in the minds of countless people. So, uh, I loved it about as much as one can love half a movie.

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