We’ve all heard the trite but true phrase: Be careful what you wish for. That’s the sentiment behind the newest Star Trek movie, Beyond.
I grew up in the late Sixties and Seventies. I still recall my first memory of watching the original Star Trek series at a neighbor’s house–when I was around five years old. It was magic. It fired my imagination and along with NASA’s Apollo missions to the moon, instilled in me a life-long love of space and technology. A few years later I watched re-runs of Star Trek (the original series) after school in the afternoons in my tween and then teen years. Syndication is a wonderful thing. Over and over and over again I would watch those episodes. I still recall the plot lines for many of them. I learned important life lessons from those old episodes. I’m sure Gene Roddenberry would be happy.
These days I watch re-runs of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, both available on Amazon Prime. I alternate between the two. In the modern canon of Star Trek series, I had thought that I liked Deep Space Nine the best, but lately I’ve changed my mind. I think the writing and plot lines in Voyager is the best of the modern series. It excites me that there’s a new series on the way in 2017.
It’s a big responsibility to reboot a beloved franchise like the original series. I loved J.J. Abrams’ reboot in 2009, simply called Star Trek. Kirk and Spock were adversaries starting out in the Abrams reboot. I liked his fresh take on familiar characters.
I also liked J.J. Abrams’ second movie, Into Darkness, but not as much as the first movie. Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Khan in the second movie, is one of my favorite British actors.
Abrams is now directing Star Wars movies and so was not available to direct Beyond. He is, however, an executive producer, so Abrams’ fingers are still in the pie. Directing for this newest film fell to Justin Lin. In my opinion he did a superb job.
I attended a showing of the non-3D version of Beyond last night. Before going to see it, I read a few reviews. While not completely poo-pooing the new movie, most reviewers weren’t exactly enthusiastic either. The consensus (for reviewers) seemed to be the new movie is like watching an extended version of a television episode. Too much action, not enough existential angst and philosophical dilemmas woven in the plot, apparently. I say “horse, er, a manure!” (You’ll get the reference if you go to see Beyond).
Beyond opens with Captain Kirk growing tired of the routine and life aboard a ship in deep space for going on three years. I once read that one of Gene Roddenberry’s inspirations for the original series was the old TV show Wagon Train. It seems Kirk is tired of just going from place to place to place (like the old Wagon Train) without any real purpose. So he’s decided to throw in the towel and ride a desk as a Vice Admiral. He hasn’t told his shipmates and closest friends, Spock and McCoy, just yet.
Meanwhile, Spock is facing his own personal crisis. An older version of himself from an alternate timeline, the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy, referred to as Spock Prime), who appeared in both the first and second “new” movies, has died–both in real life and as part of the movie Beyond. This causes our new Spock (Zachary Quinto) to question what he wants to do with his life. With the planet Vulcan destroyed in the first movie, and now with Spock Prime’s death weighing heavily, our new Spock now feels an obligation to procreate his species.
Both Kirk and Spock are planning to leave the Enterprise–but neither is sharing that with the other, just yet.
While visiting Star Fleet’s newest Starbase, Yorktown, for supplies and a bit of R&R, a mysterious alien arrives with a plea for assistance to rescue her shipmates stranded in a distant nebula. The Enterprise is just the ship for the assignment. Kirk recalls the crew and off they go.
WARNING: SOME PLOT SPOILERS
What we learn, in pretty quick order, is that the plea for help is a trap. The Enterprise is attacked, savagely, and ends up utterly destroyed. The crew, the ones who survive, are stranded on a nearby planet. The evil antagonist (there’s always an evil antagonist) who engineered the trap, Krall, is hunting for something. Let’s leave it at that. I don’t want to completely spoil the plot for you.
Stranded on the planet in small groups, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Checkov and Scotty must rescue Uhura, Sulu and the rest of the crew, who are held captive by Krall. Our rescuers get a little help from a local.
The script for Beyond was co-written by Simon Pegg, the guy who plays Scotty. He grew up as a Star Trek fan. I think he captures the feel of the original series–in movie format. So often movies these days have plot lines that double and triple back on themselves, making them hard to follow. The brilliance of this movie is that you can follow the plot. It’s simple. Yes there’s a few twists and turns–it’s not THAT predictable. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or a Star Fleet engineer, to figure out what’s happening.
The chief complaints I’ve heard about Beyond, as previously mentioned, is that it’s too much like a TV episode. I beg to differ. While Beyond captures the energy and zest of the original series, this is its own script, worthy of a movie as grand as Beyond. I liked the writing, the timing, the humor, the tension. I liked it all! And I plan to see it again before it disappears from theaters–perhaps in IMAX or 3D.
A note about the special effects for this film, which were stellar (pun intended). In the series and in the movies prior to 2009’s Star Trek, you might get a camera shot of someone in front of a console or computer, but it’s not a close-up because that console or computer is likely cardboard and fake. In this movie we get a number of close-ups of the tech, and you “feel” like you’re looking at a real computer, from the future.
The cast is terrific. I think all of the characters are perfectly matched for their roles. What a sad tragedy that Anton Yelchin, who plays Checkov, was killed in a car accident in June. We’ll see if they recast a new person in the role, or write it out in the next installment. And you can be sure there will be a next installment. Yeah, Kirk decided not to ride a desk and Spock isn’t looking for Vulcan bride anymore.
As a postscript, near the end is a touching moment when new Spock opens the the final belongings of Spock Prime–left to new Spock upon his death. As you can imagine, when Spock Prime slipped through into an alternate reality years before, he didn’t plan on staying the rest of his life. He only had a very few worldly possessions. One of those Spock discovers as he looks through the belongings. I won’t spoil it for you, but let me say what new Spock finds is a fitting and final tribute to the original cast members. Even now as I write this it brings a tear to my eye.
If you love Star Trek, no matter your age, you won’t be disappointed with Beyond. Go and see it.