Better than the second, not as good as the first, but the most fun of any of them.
Star Trek Beyond
Spoiler Alert: There are no spoilers in this review that were not already delivered via trailers and TV spots for the movie. That said, they gave up a lot of plot points in the trailers and TV spots so consider yourself warned.
Bechdel-Wallace Score: 1/3 – Two women barely ever shared the screen during the whole movie. Their character backgrounds, development, and activities were almost all centered around men. Even one point seems a bit high, but hey there was more than one named female character, so okay. Seriously though – it’s 2016 and this is a Star Trek movie. I expect better. That said, Uhura’s relationship with Spock was not an absurdity in this film as it was in Into Darkness and Jaylah is not seduced by, or seducing, any of the Enterprise crew. So that’s something.
Shukla Score: 3/3 – Well, okay, so there are at least two named characters that are people of color and they do speak to each other about something other than race. There is one sequence where Sulu and Uhura are working together for a minute, and that gets 3/3. The only other scenes that might pass the test are a few where Uhura and Krall (played by Idris Elba) are talking, but Elba’s face is hidden away for most of the movie underneath a great deal of makeup – including the scenes with Uhura.
Russo Score: 3/3 – Even if you didn’t see any of the hoopla about it online, the movie clearly identifies Sulu as a gay family man. No fuss is made about this and Sulu goes on to be pivotal to the developments of the film and in no way a caricature. Indeed, one of the best emotional moments of the film is a brief shot of Sulu as he realizes his family is in jeopardy.
Kittehs: 😺😹😻😺/5 – I enjoyed the movie a great deal, although it was not entirely engaging – the first and third act both had some uninteresting moments – so I score it four kittehs. The laughing and love-eyed kittehs are for the second act, which showcased the best of the new Spock/McCoy relationship and had the best action and story moments of the whole film. Folks who saw the first trailer for the movie and, like me, thought “oh no this looks awful” will be pleasantly surprised by how not-awful, and even good, Star Trek Beyond turns out to be.
Low points: *NERD ALERT* As a severe Star Trek nerd, I find stupid continuity errors hard to forgive. As you’ve seen in the trailers, the marooned crew of the Enterprise find an older Starfleet vessel – the USS Franklin, NX 326 – to use in the third act of the movie. The problem is that the Franklin is described as being one of the first Warp-4 capable ships from the beginning of the Federation. Now, I’m not saying anybody should watch Enterprise, but plenty of people did and maybe the filmmakers should have run this by one of us since we could have said “well, the NX01 Enterprise was pre-Federation and could go Warp-5, so maybe say “first Warp-6″ vessel instead and avoid a stupid error.” But no, they went with stupid error. *end nerd alert* If the movie had any other low points, they weren’t anything significant. I think it was a waste to put so much makeup on Idris Elba for so much of the film; I think the starbase shown in the movie is just completely preposterous, not to say the Federation couldn’t build it – I like that part – but just that it seems odd to put something so large and fragile and full of people next to a big, dense, chaotic nebula and then, you know, hope for the best.
Highlights: Well, so, that starbase is a highlight too. Even if the positioning of the thing is absurd, it is cool to see folks imagining the Federation as a bold venture of civilization into the vastness of space. Partly I’m sure due to budget and effects limitations in the past, Starfleet ships and bases always had a fairly standard military feel – especially the bases. Here the space station is imagined with all the resources and engineering skill you’d expect a multi-planetary space-faring alliance to be able to muster. And it looks like a beautiful place to live. An overall great thing about the movie is that they finally get the hell away from Earth, unlike the first two movies in the franchise that were very Earth-bound and suffered for it. Seeing the ship and crew in deep space was cool and gave me some serious nostalgia feels. Another highlight actually turned out to be the motorcycle sequence; not wanting to spoil it, but this looked like the stupidest thing in the first trailer and it ended up being the most fun of the whole movie. Last but not least, and again without spoiling it, the solution the crew devises for dealing with the alien swarm is absurd, hokey, and so simple in the end it is kind of stupid – classic Star Trek. I loved it. Into Darkness was so, well, into its own darkness. But in Beyond the franchise remembers how to have fun again. Yay!
Dad edits: Damnit, this was so close to being the first Star Trek movie I could take my son to, but not quite. Several people are shown during or after having the life drained out of them. Some folks are vaporized on screen. Many, many people are blown into space. A bit too much death in general, plus a dash of torture at one point, has me saying this movie earns its PG-13 rating.
Final Thoughts: I still haven’t quite let go of wanting a return to the less frenetic, more cerebral, Star Trek movies that I grew up watching. Beyond, if a bit too flashy and hectic for my preferences, was nonetheless a lot more enjoyable than Into Darkness and came much closer to replicating the near-total awesomeness of 2009’s Star Trek. I think the folks running this franchise now are learning from their mistakes and really getting the hang of it. I am relieved this movie turned out so much better than I expected and I am excited to see what they do in the as yet untitled Star Trek 4.