The Frontier Pushes Back

Story: Star Trek Beyond
Written By: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
Series: Alternate Reality Films
Year: 2016

So after the mess that was "Into Darkness," a film that was a financial success but becomes increasingly dumber the more you think about it (and after my first rewatch I knew it was utter crap about 10 minutes in and wondered what I initially enjoyed!) the behind the scenes of Paramount's next installment of the franchise became a bit of a mess too.  The director of the first two films, JJ Abrams, got a call from Disney to helm the next Star Wars film...and since he pretty much always wanted to and even kinda turned Star Trek into Star Wars in that 2009 film, he took the job.  This left this film with no director.  So Paramount initially promoted the hack writer of those first two films, Roberto Orci, to the director's chair.  He was gonna co-write as well, but not with his long time partner but two newcomers (JD Payne and Patrick McCay).  But he must've really screwed the pooch quickly...because early on in pre-production he ended up getting kicked off (I'm sorry, he decided to leave the director's chair, and just be a Producer). And the first script was completely discarded.  Then they hired Simon Pegg (who has played Scotty since 2009) to pen the script with Doug Jung.  And "Fast & Furious" director Justin Lin was brought on to direct. 
So things were messy early on, and they did seem like they were starting to get their crap together quickly...but there was this thought that persisted with many a Trek fan while this was in production...would all that behind the scenes drama and main production team players being replaced...would this film somehow come together? Was it even possible?  

So it's finally here! The brand new big Star Trek spectacle movie that is supposed to represent the franchise in it's 50th Anniversary.  Is it actually any good? In short...it is the best the franchise has been in years!  It is the best of the reboot films in my opinion, as it brought back the fun and modern fresh feeling of 2009 that had gone stale early in "Into Darkness," and it evoked the original series far better. It felt very much like a middle season episode of the classic show (with that modern twist), told with a more expensive flair and a few modern flourishes.  
The cast was great, everyone gets a moment to shine and they all felt more developed and like real people than they had in either of the previous movies. I really enjoyed the 2009 movie as a fun ride, but it was filled with convoluted plots and character arcs that always kept the movie from being exactly what I want from a Trek adventure.  I equate it more to "Galaxy Quest" than "Star Trek."  This had a better plot, it may still have a villainy villain...but he at least had some nice character twists in the end...and he didn't seem so much out for "Revenge" as he seemed to have a total mental breakdown and belief system that didn't quite gel with the Federation way of life.  We'll get into that in a bit.  

Visually, this is the best looking of the three reboot films for me.  Justin Lin took the Abrams style, and mixed in his own look and styles...and I think the way the ship looks at warp is pretty cool compared to the last two flicks.  While the lens flares didn't bother me as much as they did others in the first movie (I'll admit they really began to get obnoxious in the second), there were times in both films where I just wanted to see the movie and not lights being flashed in my eyes.  This film drops the flares, and it leads to a cleaner look...a look I think lends itself better to this film.  It's a great looking movie all around. 

Spoilers may be ahead, so proceed with warning!

The plot involves the Enterprise, a few years into the five year mission, with the crew feeling a bit fatigued by the routine they've settled into.  Kirk is beginning to question his decisions in life, as this Kirk joined starfleet on a dare, and is now wondering whether he really wants to be a Captain, or whether he is doing it just to live up to his father.  They stop off at a (fantastically designed) Starbase called the Yorktown, in which the crew gets a little bit of rest, but they are quickly sent back out to investigate a downed ship on a planet in an uncharted region of space.  Once there, they are attacked by swarm ships lead by a crazed alien named Krall, who is searching for some artifact the Enterprise happens to have which he can use for his nefarious purposes. The swarm ships totally destroy the Enterprise, and without a ship on an unknown world, Kirk and crew must take down Krall and his people and stop him from getting the artifact and destroying the Yorktown, and possibly other Federation planets.

It turns out though, that Krall isn't just some crazed alien...he is a former captain of a downed Federation ship, who discovered the alien tech on the planet...and used to prolong his life (which altered his appearance over the years), and attack others in search of this doomsday weapon.  I didn't see the reveal coming, which was great!  I also loved that Krall wasn't just out for generic revenge, he seemed to have this crazy ideology...he was a soldier who didn't belong in the Captain's chair...he lamented that position in life...and when he ended up stranded on a planet and prolonged his life...he slowly began to believe more and more that he was better off as a soldier fighting in wars...and then that that was a better way to live. Peace, he began to believe, was bad...and strife and pain was better suited for all.

As a 50th anniversary movie, it really works...because the ideas of the Federation and unity and peace were the tenants of Trek, and this movie really does question those ideals and then hold them up to scrutiny...and in the end it shows that those ideas really are the better path.  Only through seeing this whole crew work together do we get the successful result.  Everybody plays their part, and the day is one.  It is done very organically and not in a ham-fisted preachy way...and that makes all the differences.  Also for little 50th anniversary touches, the death of Nimoy is handled quite nicely with the death of Spock Prime, and it actually plays into the new Spock's motivations and character development through out the film.  Also the line in Kirk's Captain's Log in which he feels his adventures are becoming "episodic" was a fun touch!

This was one of the finer Trek movie efforts. Probably the first time this reboot series has felt like genuine Star Trek to me...moreso than the enjoyable 2009 effort!  If this film series continues on this path?  I will be far more interested in seeing one every few years.  I know the fourth movie is apparently already in the works.  Let's hope they can pull Justin Lin into the director's chair again...because I think he seemed to really get what this movie needed to be.  Kudos to Pegg and Jung for their script that really came together and worked out very well!  Nicely done everyone involved!
NEXT TIME: Finally...A New Series!