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The post in which I like "Star Trek: Beyond" and complain about the other movies' scripts again

One of the special treats Steph and I reserved for ourselves over the holidays - when we had time to ditch the kids - was to watch Star Trek: Beyond.  It was the first proper movie night we've had in something like six months.

(And if that doesn't sound like first world problems, let me give you context to make it even worse: the kids usually get all the focus / choices, and I still manage to average 2-3 new movies a week.  As it turns out, other than residual medical debt, I have no actual problems.  You'd think I would complain less.)

I'm pleased that we chose ST:B as our movie, since it was not only one that we both enjoyed, but a major surprise for me.  These last few years, I was starting to feel like there wasn't much hope for Star Trek anymore.  The 2009 reboot was a mixed bag - good actors, good director, terrible story, and absolutely shit writing - so I was optimistic, but on the fence. And then came Into Darkness, which is not only a bad movie, but among the worst I saw that year.

I complained about Into Darkness quite a bit when I first started this blog, but I'm not going to link to that stuff because any of my posts before roughly November 2014 or so embarrass me.  Here's the short version: the screenplay was utter garbage.  The story is over-wrought and needlessly complicated with a lot of irritating, smug dialogue tossed in, and any time you thought you might be seeing something fresh or innovative, the movie would recycle an old story line and pass it off as some oh-so-precious "aren't we clever for merging two timelines" jerk-off.

And while I'm at it - trust me, this is relevant to the point I'm eventually going to make - it's one of the problems I had with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an otherwise decent movie.  TFA is largely just a rehash of the original Star Wars.  There are those who'll defend that choice, but I see it as part of a more widespread issue: franchises targeted toward milliennials just don't respect us enough to try anything new.

And I'm not talking about the "salt the Earth and start over" kind of new. I just mean new as in "not the exact same story you heard already."  We're still talking about reboots and sequels here, so my expectations are tempered.  I'm going to see Star Trek, so obviously I want to see the familiar characters - but I want them to go on a new adventure now, go do something I haven't seen.


And that's exactly why I liked Star Trek: Beyond so much.  Beyond is not revolutionary.  It's simply a new Star Trek episode that's told well.

Sure, they retread some ground.  (I think the Enterprise has been destroyed like, what, six times now?)  And sure, there's echoes of old episodes and movies.  But it's an original plot and it feels new and exciting.  The actors are comfortable enough to just relax and serve the story instead of the other way around, and the result is by far the best Star Trek movie since First Contact.

For those keeping the score: First Contact came out twenty years ago.  Hope you enjoy feeling old now.

I give most of the credit for this movie's success to its screenplay.  Past entries of the rebooted universe have been meandering and nonsensical, to the point that I can't even explain what happened in either of them despite having watched them multiple times.  I've only seen Beyond once about a month ago and I can still give you the gist of it: the Enterprise goes to a distant planet to investigate an anomaly, their ship is attacked by tech-harvesting drones, they crash, they find out the planet is home to a war-thirsty dictator who traps passing vessels, they meet a plucky young tech lady who helps them fix up another ship that was trapped there, and they work together to escape and stop the dictator from unleashing a terrifying terrorist attack on a metropolitan Federation hub.

See how easy that is?  There's nothing overly complicated in there.  You have an evil villain, you have a unique threat, you introduce some conflict, then you resolve it.  It's really not that hard to tell a good story.  You just have to stop winking at the audience and putting in stupid sub plots.

I'm excited to see the next one.  That's a feeling I haven't had in years.  To bring up the TFA comparison again - there's people out there who saw that and felt like their franchise was reinvigorated, and that's exactly what I feel like now.  Guys... Star Trek can be good again.  Who knew?