There were two things very clear to me after I saw Star Trek Beyond last night. One, that movie is freaking amazing. And two, it is was definitely a rebuke of Into Darkness, whether it was intentional or not.
Now, before I go into this, you don’t have to research very far into my writings to know that I wrote a fairly positive review of Into Darkness. But you don’t have to look much further to see that that afterglow wore off very quickly.
That being said, while I had a little doubt about whether I would enjoy Into Darkness a second time, I have no such worries with Beyond. I will always love this movie because it was everything Into Darkness tried to trick me into believing it was.
Into Darkness told me the movie was about the crew but not showing it. It made me think it was a film reveling in Trekkie canon with shallow references. They were all smoke and mirrors, and their illusions are shown to be just that in the light of Beyond.
In Into Darkness, much ado is made about “doing anything for your crew”, but the movie just followed Kirk and Spock around being action stars. The crew, while there were some notable highlights (Sulu in the captain’s chair will always get bonus points with me), were essentially accessories to the movie.
Beyond is… well… way beyond that.
Throughout the movie, we see each member of the crew competently getting shit done toward a mutually shared goal that never discussed: the survival of the whole crew. A Captain’s Log at the beginning detailing their relationships over the last three years of isolation in space really hits their closeness home. Their actions all beautifully weave together to create a plot that is believable solely because the crew knows how to work together without actually being together.
After all, it was why they were sent to the planet they were sent to. It wasn’t because the Enterprise had the best technology. No. It had the best crew, and nothing was more evident than that as their world came crashing down around them in a matter of seconds.
Khan’s words of “Is there anything you’d not do for family?” cling to every action by every character in Beyond that was only evident for Kirk in Into Darkness.
In my review of Into Darkness, I said
The movie basically groveled at my feet, and offered me inside jokes and canonical references to appease any wrath I may have had towards story.
But I hadn’t realized how shallow all that was were until I saw Beyond. Beyond had very little in the way of references and inside jokes. Yes, it mentioned the Xindi, the Mako, and introduced an ancestor of Admiral Paris, but it was all in such subtle ways that the Trekkies in the opening crowd barely noticed (but thank you for the Enterprise references, that poor series needs a little more credit than it gets).
The strength of Beyond however was not in trying to recycle old jokes and old emotions from the old days of TOS, but rather give us a whole new experience along the same lines of what we love. When people tell you that Beyond was a real Star Trek experience, this is what they mean. They mean they got a new story that felt Roddenberry-esque, but still fresh. It involved diplomacy, understanding alien cultures, and self-criticism. It had adventure elements without relying too heavily on action, gut-wrenching tensions, and strong characters. The music even hearkened back to old 70s TV soundtracks but was still modern (with a few throwbacks to JJ Abrams’ love for the Beastie Boys)..
In short, it was the reboot movie Star Trek fans have been agitating for, and in doing so, it gently rejected many of the precedents Into Darkness had tried to set.
Oh, and random bonus. Women get to have rank on their uniforms now. So, yeah. Fuck yeah, Beyond.
Thank you Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, and Justin Lin. Just thank you.