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Star Trek Beyond but Not Quite There

I saw the new Star Trek movie on its opening night, and I went to the theater with a completely open mind. In fact, I hadn’t even seen the trailer. All I knew was that it would be the last time I’d see the late Anton Yelchin (Chekov) in a movie and that the film had generated some mild controversy in its choice to make the character of Sulu gay. This review does not cover either of these aspects of the movie.

Instead, as usual, here are the good and the bad about the film, as I see it.

StarTrekBeyondFirst, the good. The CGI and the artistic vision are both stunning. One of the most impressive things in the movie is a mega structure in space that is kind of a combination of a Ring World structure (Niven) and a Dyson Sphere (um…Dyson), minus the whole sun in the middle thing. Oh and if any scientist or engineer out there sees the movie and wants to tell me why my explanation of the structure is wrong…well, don’t. Let me enjoy my lie.

Aside from the fantastic “look” of the movie, the acting and the interaction among the main characters are also well done. The relationships seem a little more personable and familiar, and a few of the dialog exchanges are reminiscent of the original series in a good way.

Speaking of the crew, this movie adds another character to the side of the “good guys.” I won’t give anything away other than to say I think she adds nicely to the ensemble, and I hope to see her in future additions to the franchise.

I will end my discussion about the good parts of the movie with something that is also one of the things I don’t like about it very much. Clearly, the movie was engineered to elicit cheers from viewers. The good part of this is that the filmmakers give the audience, in large part, what they want to see, which makes the film really fun to watch. The bad side is that the movie is fast-paced and fun at the expense of the plot and often in very cheesy ways. No spoilers here, but one of the scenes of which I speak involves a motorcycle. ‘Nuff said.

Now on to other things that interfered with me really enjoying this movie to its fullest. Most of my problems with the movie, other than the previously mentioned pandering to the audience, stem from its plot. I found the storyline to be pretty straightforward and simplistic. Although after speaking with others who also saw it that night, they thought the story to be a little hard to follow at times. Actually, both of these things are true.

The story is simplistic, but because it makes the audience take so many leaps of faith, one often has the sense of being “lost” in the story, when actually, one is simply confused.

Along the same lines, the major plot points suffer from a big dose of happy coincidence and Deus Ex Machina (God from the Machine). About two-thirds of the way through the movie, I started shaking my head as scene after scene offended my brain. Be ready for this to happen and prepare to either ignore the lack of internal logic and continuity or embrace those things and remind yourself that it’s just a fun piece of science fiction entertainment.

The other disease from which the film suffers is what I call the “Independence Day” syndrome. Without spoiling the movie, it’s not easy to explain exactly what I mean. However, let’s just say that this movie makes liberal use overused solutions to complex foes and dilemmas. Back in the 80s, when WarGames was first released, the concept of a computer program having a “back door” was new and unique (to be fair, this solution was not used in this movie, although it was mentioned). That type of simple solution to a problem that should be insurmountable irritates me and makes me think that the filmmakers either couldn’t come up with a better way to wrap things up or that they didn’t think a more complex answer would play well with audiences.

Of course, as I was thinking this very thing in the theater, several people hooped and hollered for joy a few rows in front of me. So, what do I know, anyway?

Take my opinions here with a few grains of salt and decide for yourself if you want to see this one in theaters or not. If you know that you’re a discerning viewer of sci fi, be prepared to find a lot of holes in the movie, especially in the last third of the story. If you don’t care about that kind of thing and like to see things blow up, accompanied by a really loud soundtrack, then you should run, not walk, to the theater right now and buy a ticket.

One last thing. Although the movie is dedicated to Nimoy and to Anton, there are no special credit scenes after the credits roll. So, you don’t have to wait around unless you really want to.

In general, I give this movie 3.5 out of 5 pointy Vulcan ears up. I believe it would be logical to see this in the theaters for the effects and the vision of the Star Trek world alone. However, I suggest that you leave your detail-oriented side at home on your couch, or you might find yourself being let down by this otherwise action-packed, futuristic adventure that audiences seem to really enjoy.

Live long and prosper, Mike.

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