Star Trek Beyond (spoilers, obviously)

GO AND SEE THIS FILM. MULTIPLE TIMES.

Ahem. Sorry about that. But seriously. This is my favourite experience of Star Trek for years. Since seeing the first trailer for the 2009 Star Trek reboot, I had a huge buzz, an anticipation of the sorts of feelings Star Trek gave me when I was a kid and a teenager. The hope and excitement of seeing people I could relate to in such fantastical and quite literally awesome circumstances made me look to the future and back to humanity with positivity and wonder which has shaped my outlook through to adult life. It widened my scope of view to the entire universe. The horizon of exploration and endevour became infinite.

Now: 2009’s Star Trek was an exceptional film. I enjoy very much, to the point of it being one of my favourite films. The casting, aesthetic and story were fantastically well handled, and it brought Star Trek to a wider audience than I’d ever seen it reach. However, it left certain things to be desired, such as weirdness, the awe of the new and the philosophical moral centre of the best of Star Trek. These are not necessarily criticisms of the film. It did a fantastic job of setting up a universe of possibility whilst grounding it in a raw humanity often absent from the television series.

Similarly with Into Darkness. Whilst it was still an exciting, fun film, I was still left wanting regarding exploration and weirdness. There were promising allusions to all that: at one point Scotty does exclaim, “I thought we were explorers”, when he discovers the aggressive nature of their mission. Still though, still very much based around Earth, still all about human problems.

It was with absolute delight, then, that I watched Beyond. From the absolute outset we are given the new, the alien, the… well, the crazy. And all that with a lightness of humane humour. A good beginning.

There were several wow-inducing sequences, such as the entry into then subsequently the exit from the enormous and complex Yorktown space-station, home to millions. The recklessly imaginative destruction of the Enterprise. The mind-blowingly, edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster madness of the escape in the Franklin. It was just… just amazing.

But my glee didn’t arise simply from spectacle. More than its two predecessors, this story felt so wonderfully grounded in Star Trek lore. There are numerous nods and direct references to previous series and films, including the first non-Enterprise reference to the Xindi war. It might not have been the greatest story-arc in Trek history, but it was nice to hear it being talked about. Also good grief the character-work in this film is marvelous. This is by far the best use of this new cast and, if I’m honest, any Star Trek cast in film. The scripting is flighty and interactive – very little talking-headery here. Every character gets a moment, too, and not just a super-power moment. Yes, Scotty gets his exceptional engineer moments, but he also gets a few lovely human instances of compassion. Similarly, McCoy gets to be a superb doctor whilst also very prominently being a friend and confidant for Spock and Kirk in a way last shown to this extent in The Undiscovered Country. As I said, all characters get this treatment, the result of which is not just simply increasing your investment in them; I was left with a much greater sense of reality and possibility for growth, both story-wise and character-wise.

Talking of characters, the way Leonard Nimoy’s death was handled was just wonderful and extremely moving. As you might imagine, it’s dealt with in universe as the death of Spock Prime with Kelvin Spock acting as the audience-surrogate, a task handled with genuine aplomb by Quinto. The moment when he receives Spock’s belongings, and opens the photo of the original, Prime Enterprise crew… sent a shiver down my spine. Absolutely beautiful moment.

Overall, this was just a great film, and perhaps more importantly for me right now, a great Star Trek film, which left me really extremely excited about the franchise’s future, especially in the light of the recent announcement of Star Trek: Discovery. Now go and watch it hundreds of thousands of times so they make more films. Thank  you.

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