Jul
22

10 Great Things About Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond

Full Disclosure: I love Star Trek.  (And it takes great restraint for me to type that sentence without an abundance of exclamation points.)  I've watched every episode of every series and every movie down the line and I am unabashedly a fan of the J.J. Abrams reboots and all the nuances and twists of the Kelvin timeline.  I have never in my life loved a movie more than I loved that first reboot film.  Into Darkness was a VERY close second in my mind, so tonight I raced to the theater to watch Star Trek Beyond.

Much has been said about J. J. Abrams' penchant for lens flares where the first two reboots were concerned. Personally, I loved the effect. I felt that it gave things a grounding in reality despite how heavy-handed Abrams was in its use. While Justin Lin didn't exactly follow suit in this third installment, he gave us the grand-daddy of all lens flares during a wide-angle view of the Enterprise traveling at warp speed with a magnificent display of gravitational lensing shimmering around her warp bubble. Seriously, I think those fleeting few seconds of pure unmitigated awesome comprise my single favorite scene in cinematic history. I have no idea what that says about me in the grand scheme of things, but Oh! My! God! it was GLORIOUS!!!!  (On a related note, for a great episode of PBS Space Time that talks about the real life Alcubierre Warp Drive Theory click here. Trust me, it's worth it.)

Okay, if I calm down a bit and compare this movie with the other two reboots, I have to admit that it fell slightly short for me. Still enjoyable to the point that I will see it at least once more in the theater, but there were a few times where the credibility of the story line stretched a tad thin for me. But if I put that issue aside, it was still a solid and enjoyable movie for me. In fact, there were a few great things that really stood out for me:

#1) Uhura kicked some bad-guy ass.  She stood on her own as a meaningful, capable officer, not just some token female lead who can speak a few languages. She fought like a champ, running into the heat of a battle to get the job done when Kirk was otherwise occupied. Turns out I like her when she's given a chance to do more than just open hailing frequencies.

#2) Speaking of token females... guess what?  No female characters in underwear!  (Why on Earth did Dr. Marcus have to have that underwear scene in Into Darkness?) Commodore Paris was a breath of fresh air to me. She was exotic and authoritative. I could have listened to her voice all day.   And Jaylah was a great addition to the story as well: formidable fighter and keen engineer in her own right.

#3) I quite enjoyed seeing more screen time for each of the leads. With the bridge crew separated for most of the film, you got to see a bit more variation in terms of the character dynamics. If I'm being honest, in the first two movies I found Chekov's character to be a bit too "Wesley Crusher" for my liking. But in this movie, he seemed more real, more grounded... more of an actual character as opposed to a boy genius with an exaggerated accent. It made me realize how much he'll be missed in later movies.  

#4) The deaths of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin were well-handled, I thought. Nimoy's passing was directly integrated into the plot in a really touching way (and of course the credits included a memorial card in his honor). Despite the fact that Yelchin's passing came after the film had wrapped, they still included a lovely nod to him in the credits. Another thing that I found particularly meaningful was in one of the final scenes when Kirk gives a toast "to absent friends" they cut to Chekov raising a glass amongst the crew. I'm not sure if the scene was originally edited that way, or whether things were changed after Yelchin's death, but it was a nice acknowledgment (intentional or not).

#5) The banter. This just seems to get better with every movie. I just love these characters. I love the bromance between Kirk and Spock. I love the uncanny Deforest Kelley-like perfection that Karl Urban somehow makes fresh. And I love to see the way the three of them play off each other. It was particularly great to focus on the Bones vs Spock side of things to some degree.   

#6) I was thankful that Keenser (Scotty's bizarre alien engineering sidekick) had less comic-relief-related screen time in this installmentthough they apparently couldn't restrain themselves from making a snot joke with him this time around. *Sigh* He's like the Jar Jar Binks of the Star Trek reboots in my mind. But as I said, less of a distraction in this installment.

#7) The swarming alien ships were ridiculously awesome. The way they moved was fierce, fluid, and an overwhelming and terrifying wonder to behold.  

#8) Speaking of beautiful... they knocked it OUT OF THE PARK with the design of the latest Federation Station in this movie. It was immense, complex, and inspiring to look at. Think Perplexus meets a happy Death Star.  

#9) I don't normally notice the musical score of a film during action scenes but there were a few times when I thought I detected a musical throwback to TOS. In particular, there's a scene where Kirk is fighting Kroll and I swear the background music was all "Kirk fights the green lizard man" (and it was unexpectedly enjoyable for me).

#10) I am a serious fan of the more expressive way that Zachary Quinto is able to play Spock in the Kelvin timeline. The character still has that same uber-literal / black & white take on things but it somehow doesn't seem forced or out of place to see him smile, or rage, or cry. Seeing him express emotion is poignant and raw and Quinto plays it in perfect balance while still respecting the legacy that Nimoy created.

Final verdict: Was this movie perfect? No, the leads enjoyed near-flawless heroics and remained impressively alive despite the most ridiculous of circumstances, so the plot was perhaps a tad far-fetched at times. But was it entertaining? Hell yes.

As I mentioned above, it's officially in the "see it at the theater more than once" category for me, if for no reason other than to behold the glory of those few fleeting seconds of resplendent space-time distortion.

I loves me some lens flare steeped in physics.

Gravitational Lensing on the Warp Bubble

[Main image above created by combining warp.jpg with the Enterprise in OilyPortlyJunko-poster.]

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