Sunday, July 31, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Out of all of the movies I've seen this year, this is the second one I've really seriously considered for Best Picture. We're looking at one or two good movies on average a month, with boring, mediocre movies padding out the rest of the year, and a significantly bad movie punctuating each month. Compare this to 2012, which had more movies coming out per-month, and better ones too.
I'm not saying this just because Anton Yelchin died tragically, that didn't even cross my mind once while watching the film. I legitimately think that this could be a contender for Best Picture based on the quality of the film alone.
If you need a quick summary of the film, think Star Trek Generations, but well-made. No random wardrobe changes, no alternate dimension wish-fulfillment thing, no disconnected villains, no random sub-plot with Data being forced to experience emotions. It's nothing but the good stuff. They take the best parts of Generations, and run with them to their logical conclusions.
Spoilers inbound, as usual.
Three years into the five year mission that the crew of The USS Enterprise set out on at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, Kirk (Chris Pine) is trying to negotiate a treaty between two races, one which could easily be closely related to Drax The Destroyer. The incredibly literal race attacks Kirk and they decide to just piss off and leave things be for now. They drop the artifact that was sent to be a peace-offering into their archives, and head off to Starbase Yorktown to resupply and let the crew get some much-needed rest.
There, we find out that Kirk has applied for a Vice-Admiral position like his Prime Universe counterpart did, and has recommended that Spock (Zachary Quinto) take his position. Meanwhile, Spock gets news from New-Vulcan that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has died.
Before anything can really be made of the situation they're in, an escape-pod emerges from a nearby nebula with a lone survivor on-board. She tells the Starfleet commander in charge of the Yorktown that her ship crashed on a planet within the nebula, and they need help rescuing the crew. Naturally, The Enterprise is sent in to rescue the crew. Best ship in the fleet, best crew in the Federation and all that.
Upon approaching the planet, they find that it's actually an inhabitable Class-M planet. While scanning for the crash-site, The Enterprise is ambushed by a swarm of small fighters, which lay siege to the ship. The first thing they target is the warp-nacelles, which are sheered off from the ship. They then begin invading, and abducting crew. Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship, and prevents the invaders from stealing the artifact they had previously stored in ships holds.
The escape-pods are intercepted by the invaders, but Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban) commandeer one of the invaders ships and manage to evade capture.
Among the few who escaped are Kirk, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and the woman from the escape-pod, Kalara (Lydia Wilson). Kirk confronts her about the ambush, and she admits that she knew it was coming, that Krall (Idris Elba), the guy who led the attack, threatened to kill her crew if she didn't lead them into the nebula.
Meanwhile, Scotty is ambushed by Krall's men, and rescued by Jaylah, who is about as close as this planet comes to a "native" inhabitant. She takes him to the derelict of the ship she grew up on, The U.S.S. Franklin, so he can fix it.
Spock and McCoy crash-landed, and Spock has a piece of metal jammed in him. McCoy stops the bleeding, and begins dragging Spock to cover.
Sulu, Uhura, and everyone else who survived the crash of The Enterprise are led to a camp run by Krall, and begin hatching a plan to escape. Meanwhile, Kirk, Chekov and Kalara sneak into the wrecked saucer of The Enterprise to retrieve the artifact that Krall was looking for, and use the ships sensors to track down the locations of the crew. Inside, Kalara seizes Kirk's phaser and calls in to Krall about the artifact, but Chekov comes up behind her with his weapon, and they reveal that Kirk suspected Kalara was in league with Krall, and didn't lead her to the artifact. Chekov and Kirk use the thrusters to dislodge the saucer and cause a distraction to escape. The saucer flips onto Kalara and some of Krall's men, killing them. The two of them then explore the planet a bit more, homing in on the data from the ship to find Scotty, and they stumble upon on of Jaylah's traps. Scotty sets things straight, and she sets them free.
Spock determines that the artifact that Krall was trying to steal must have come to this planet, but the warlords men surround him and Bones, but Scotty beams them out with the ships cargo transporter.
Together, they fix up the ship and hatch a plan to rescue the rest of the crew and escape the planet.
Sulu and Uhura find out how Krall knew how to take apart The Enterprise, and that he's planning an assault on Yorktown. Krall finds them outside of their cells, and tortures Sulu until the crew-member Kirk entrusted with the artifact hands it over. The artifact is a key to activate a biological weapon, and Krall plans to unleash it on Yorktown, allowing him to kill the people on the starbase and use it as a command-center to lay siege to the United Federation of Planets.
They rescue the crew of The Enterprise and pursue Krall to the base. They figure out how to disrupt the drones, and do so by blasting Sabotage by The Beastie Boys over the radio.
They find that Krall is actually the captain of The Franklin, Balthazar Edison, having extended his life with the technology he and his crew found on the planet. Edison returns to his original form, and attempts to unleash the bio-weapon, but Kirk vents him and it into space.
Kirk decides against taking the admiralty, and Spock decides against retiring from Starfleet to continue Ambassador Spock's work. Starfleet builds them a new Enterprise so they can continue their mission.
All in all, while I liked the last two Star Trek movies, I loved this one. Into Darkness was a damn good film too, but this one was downright phenomenal. It strikes me as something akin to a multi-part episode of The Next Generation, or one of the really damn good Star Trek movies, like The Wrath of Khan, or First Contact. Except, it's actually better.
Performances as with the previous two films were spot-on. Portrayals are spot-on too. The essence of all of the characters is captured directly from the original series films and distilled to purity. I can believe that Chris Pine is Starfleets greatest hero. I can believe that John Cho would be a three-time president of the United Federation of Planets. I can buy Zachary Quinto as Spock. Simon Pegg is believable as Starfleets greatest engineer. Karl Urban totally sells it as Dr. McCoy, the curmudgeonly country doctor. Zoe Saldana is great as Uhura. And of course, Anton Yelchin nailed the role of Chekov.
Something interesting to note is that Zachary Quinto's fellow Heroes alum, Greg Grunberg is in this film, playing exactly the same role he did in The Force Awakens. Apparently he is to J.J. Abrams what Bruce Campbell is to Sam Raimi, since Grunberg has been in most of the things Abrams has worked on.
The only real issue I can really bring up is the one everyone knows of. As well as one that's tangentially related. First off, there's the fact that Sulu appears to be gay. This wouldn't be too much of an issue if it wasn't for the fact that this is the series that spent a good portion of the first movie debunking the last fifty years of fan-fiction. As well as the obvious fact that Sulu's original actor, George Takei objects. If he says that it goes against Gene Roddenberry's vision, then we've got very little reason to question him.
Then there's the related issue of the age of his daughter. The Original Series takes place in the 2260's, the movies take place in the 2270's, and his daughter made her first appearance in the beginning of Generations, in 2293. At that time she looked to be in her twenties, but at the age she is in this movie she would be in her late thirties, early forties. Unless of course he has another younger daughter. Going back to Generations though, there's no evidence that he does.
Aside from that though, there's nothing else that really made me scratch my head, and plenty of things that were very well done. The tribute to Leonard Nimoy and the cast of The Original Series actually brought tears to my eyes. There aren't that many of them left, and as much as I like The Next Generation, I grew up with the crew of the original Enterprise. I idolized them, Leonard Nimoy especially, and it's a shame that he's gone.
As far as tributes to The Original Series go, it's leaps, bounds and light-years ahead of Generations. As a Star Trek movie, it's up there with Wrath of Khan and First Contact. As a film? We might be looking at one of the movies of the year here. In the end, I give it a 10.1* rating.

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