Star Trek Beyond is a pretty good entry into the now thirteen-film-long series. It feels like it’s part of this new JJ-verse film set, but it also hearkens back to some of the best of the other films.
In this one, Kirk is feeling restless and out of sorts (as in The Motion Picture and in Wrath of Khan), while Spock is feeling the pull of his Vulcan heritage (as in TMP). After a hilarious, nearly Douglas Adams style cold open, the main task is revealed. A Federation ship has crashed on a planet in a mysterious nebula and is in need of rescue (Insurrection).
I won’t spoil any more of the story, but there are direct nods to Search for Spock and Voyage Home as well a visual echo from Undiscovered Country. There’s even another geektastic-shout out to the unfairly forgotten Enterprise series.
The reason this film works so much better than the pale rip-off of Wrath of Khan that was the last movie, is that this one feels more like homage than plagiarism. And, thank goodness, this time around they give Bones something to do. The relationship between Spock and Bones was front and center in the Shatner movies. It was hinted at in Star Trek, but largely missing from Into Darkness. In Beyond, they’re careful to make that dynamic a big part of the film, while pushing Spock’s romance with Uhura to a back burner. Though, thankfully, they don’t jettison the romance altogether.
I’d say this is lots of fun and definitely an above average entry.
So, now, on to the ranking! I don’t think I’ve ever ranked Star Trek films before, so this should be fun…
- The Wrath of Khan — It’s an obvious choice, but not one I make lightly. There are lots of great Trek films, but this one fires on all cylinders. What else is there to say?
- Generations — Many if not most Trekkers would say this is insanity, but I love this movie. It has a charismatic villain, a very subtle use of time travel, and the way they highlight the dichotomy between Picard and Kirk could not have been done better. Also, Data gets emotions.
- Star Trek — Yes, there are some laughably convenient coincidences and a not-too-interesting villain that drag this film out of first place, but man, the characterizations are spot on for every bridge crew member, the romance comes out of left field and really works, and I dare anyone to not tear up at that opening.
- The Voyage Home — This movie gets points for just going for something totally nuts. They made a film that was mostly a comedy, they stuck in a cheeky environmental message before that was cool (and therefore before it was overdone) and they did it all while flying around in a stolen Klingon ship. Awesome!
- The Undiscovered Country — Maybe this would feel awkward and out of place if it wasn’t made in the wake of the dissolution of the USSR, but the political angle of the film is interesting, the detective work Spock employs is out of the Trek norms, and Christopher Plummer and Kim Cattrall both turn in great supporting performances.
- Star Trek Beyond — See above.
- The Motion Picture — I don’t mind the long effects sequences, or the special effects. The acting is largely subpar, but that ending is trippy!
- First Contact — “Sacrilege!” cry the trekkers. Well, sue me. The Borg are kind of boring, and giving them a queen undercuts their basic premise of mindless equality. But the Cochran stuff is pretty funny.
- Nemesis — The old Picard/new Picard scenes are fantastic, but the rest of the film is a little more “meh.” It would also be higher on the list if not for the perfunctory way they killed Data. He deserved better. But I still love the fact that they actually crashed two ships together. Never saw that before or since.
- The Search for Spock — It’s less a movie than a diverting interlude between films 1 and 4 on this list. Still, watchable.
- Into Darkness — Such a disappointment after Star Trek. Some of the logical problems really got under my skin, and that ending just makes me angry every time I think about it.
- Insurrection — This is the worst kind of Trek film. It’s boring. And the stakes are incredibly small compared to others on this list (even the one below it). Entirely skippable. In fact, most TNG episodes are better.
- The Final Frontier — Frick this is a bad movie. Not Trek-bad. It’s like bad-movie-bad. Deserving of active ridicule. There are about three lines that impressed me in the whole thing.