Thursday, July 28, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Expectations!

The training wheels are well and truly off the warp nacelles now.

Perhaps I better clarify before I mangle another metaphor.

The 2009 Star Trek rebooted movie used time travel to add a great many connections to the original cast timeline.

Star Trek Into Darkness was a reinterpretation of the most famous and successful Star Trek cinematic villain with multiple situational references and repurposed direct quotes.

Star Trek Beyond stands on its own with a new opponent and fresh storyline, with more subtle nods to the past than the previous outings.

The new crew of the Enterprise is firmly established in their roles now. They are the characters, but not the previous actors’ interpretations of those characters.  Within those interpretations, however, the key core elements of each bridge officer have been retained.

And before anyone gets their Starfleet issued pantyhose in a bunch, showing Sulu’s husband doesn’t affect the original timeline, doesn’t grossly transform the character, and doesn’t take away from anything that happened before.  It serves as a tribute to George Takei, the actor who originated the role. Plus the movie showed Sulu’s child, Demora.  That means a large amount of the cool bits in Peter David’s The Captain’s Daughter  could still exist in the new continuity.

I'm sorry I missed this one in 3D, and not only for the amazing space battles that already instilled a sense of motion to the viewers in "flat" mode.  The three dimensional non standard gravity design of the Starbase Yorktown was outstanding already.  To have seen it in a more immersive way would have added considerably to the already impressive WOW factor.

In true Star Trek fashion, Idris Elba’s Krall tries to prove that the bonds the Federation, and more explicitly and powerfully the Enterprise crew, have formed with each other is a sign of weakness not strength.

Our heroes, who all start out doing some incredibly awesome things individually, prove him wrong by upping the awesomeness ante geometrically when they work together.  This happens in small clusters at first, and then more so when they act in concert for the film’s final confrontations.   The movie’s structure plays into this well.  The initial catastrophe split the main cast into sections.  Each of those sections faced challenges that would have worked for an away team in a single episode.  Since cinematic adventures need to be on a grander scale, their stories interweaved and then combined at an “Event” level not achievable on the small screen.

Since it wouldn’t be me without a brief aside:  If anyone is interested in seeing how this crew operates in standard “non major movie event” story-lines, check out IDW’s ongoing Star Trek comic book series.  It’s phenomenally well written and truly captures the new crew’s versions of these characters on their continuing mission.

Besides the main foe being new, his method of attack was also different from what this genre has led fans to expect.  With Star Wars as probably the best known example, normally we get outnumbered heroes in small, under gunned craft going against an evil enemy’s large, warship filled fleets.

Krall’s forces were made up entirely of what in the “Galaxy Far Far Away” lingo would be Snub Fighters.  The difference came from his nearly inexhaustible supply of them.  They’re basically the starfighter equivalent of Orcs –weak and expendable, but making up for that individual ineffectiveness with staggering numbers. 

It’s not skill, luck and the ability to “let go and trust your feelings,” that wins the day in the Star Trek universe.  It’s the ability of the crew of a technologically superior ship to think intelligently and creatively, pull on each member’s area of expertise, and take out a vastly superior military force.

In other words…it’s Star Trek.

Another new character was Jaylah.  Speaking as the father of a daughter, her role as a butt kicking, technically competent intelligent woman was a fine addition to the cast that has only featured one main and a couple secondary female characters in fifty years. 

Speaking as an old Star Trek fan, seeing the crew welcome a member of a race they’d never met before into their group and be incredibly supportive and encouraging of her in order to increase her own bravery and self worth turning  her into a valuable part of the team was a fine representation of all the best that Star Trek is supposed to represent.

The score was another stellar (ha!) effort from Michael Giacchino.  He has created a musical world for the new Trek.  There were occasional brief hints of the original theme when the references applied, but he wove them perfectly into the pieces he created allowing seamless blending.

As an old geek, I feel the need to dwell further on references to the original timeline.  They were both more subtle, and more interlinked with the plot.  Co-writer Simon Pegg’s lifelong fandom may have something to do with it this time around.

It also may be the reason behind Scotty having a meatier role this time around, and there’s absolutely nothing bad about that.

Spock Prime’s hints and suggestions were continuity nods in the first two movies, but they could have been left out without much effect on the story.  The tributes to Spock Prime’s passing (and therefore to Leonard Nimoy’s passing) were not only poignant and beautiful, but they formed the core of Quinto Spock’s character arc in this adventure.  Initially, the irreplaceable value of Spock (again, therefore Nimoy) to the franchise was highlighted, but it was New Spock’s discovery of what was most important to his predecessor that anchored his emotional journey.

His arc also developed alongside the “three who are one” bond of Kirk-Spock-McCoy, which had the strongest showing of all the connections between the crew, as it should be.  The three actors have worked out a relationship that is all their own, yet true to the roles they have recreated.

Since that was the only other Star Trek television show, after the original and animated series that felt, to me, like real Trek, I greatly appreciated the Enterprise references as well.

Note to other rabid fans of the Original (and best) Series.  Pay close attention to the call back to that show when they’re running through what they thought happened to the USS Franklin.  Then watch the sweeping space shots during the closing credits for a quick appearance of it.

I’m very happy in this new Trekverse…they know me here!

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