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Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Finally a bit of Star Trek spirit again
With rather low expectations after the last two movies, I went into the theater and was actually pleasantly surprised. The exchange of script writer and director really was to the movie's benefit. You can tell that Simon Pegg, who wrote the script, is a fan of the old Trek and tries his best to bring back at least a bit of what made the old series and some of the old movies great.
There is still lots of fancy Abrams-style action (which can be enjoyable), but this time it is balanced out by quiet and slower moments for each character to be explored, for team working, for thinking and solving problems with one's wits and not (just) with a phaser. The climax of the movie is an example of this.
Also the Kirk-Bones-Spock triangle from the original series is put more in focus again, after Bones being put aside in the last movies in favor of Uhura. She on the other hand feels a little more redundant this time, but every crew member gets their moment of course. The villain isn't explored in too much detail though and the final revelation is not totally satisfying. Sofia Boutella's bad-ass character is a refreshing addition to the cast, she and Pegg bring a lot of humor into the movie.
There are again a lot of references to the other series and movies (a ship from the "Star Trek: Enterprise" era; a planet that hints a bit at the TOS paper rock sets; the Enterprise in "Search for Spock" and "Generations") and this time they don't just feel like fan service, but do actually make sense in the plot. It is also nice how Leonard Nimoy's real life passing is mirrored in the movie.
Some call this an expensive TOS TV-episode and they are partially right. But that is actually a good thing, because Star Trek was always best on the small screen, when it tried to tell stories about exploration, science, working together across boundaries and settling things diplomatically if possible. But even though "Beyond" does a better job than its two predecessors, it is still a long way to how Star Trek was in the old series. But let's also remember that most of the old movies where more action orientated and/or featured a villain instead of a scientific or cultural problem like in the TV shows. Overall, if you had your problems with the new movies as I did (though I could still mostly enjoy them as popcorn movies), give this one a chance.
Score as a Star Trek story: 6/10
Score as an (action/popcorn) movie: 8/10