So I saw the 3D Imax showing of Star Trek Beyond yesterday and I was really impressed by it. Not to mince words: I loved it! It was a fun movie and harkened back to the things that made Star Trek such a global phenomenon in the first place. There are no spoilers in this mini-review as this is really more of “impressions” than a true review. Currently, this is sitting at an 84% (critics) and 86% (audience) score on Rotten Tomatoes and it is deserved. On a quick side note: see how closely critics & audiences scores are when one side or the other doesn’t have an ax to grind (i.e., Batman v. Superman or Ghostbusters).
Good Plot, Action, & Characterization
Why are both critics and audiences liking this movie? In short, it has a good plot, lots of action, and strong characterization. Again, with no spoilers, the plot is strong. It has a very well defined beginning, middle, and end. The beginning reacquaints us with the characters and starts the problem. The middle is tense and the end ratchets up the stakes in a totally believable way. It follows “Fryetag’s Pyramid” perfectly–in a way I haven’t seen in a while. The action is very well done, in fact, it is second only to Captain America: Civil War this year (so far). I was very impressed with several of the set pieces in the movie. If you can see this in IMAX 3D, do so! It is well worth the extra cost for the action set pieces. Finally, the characterization in the movie is also very well done. One of the most fun things about both Star Wars and Star Trek is the interaction between the characters. The script separates characters in a unique interesting way–it doesn’t stick with the “expected” pairings of characters and this allows us “fresh” perspectives on the various characters through their dialogue and actions. I really like the way the dialogue especially was written and this is the first Star Trek where I feel all of the characterizations “match” completely with those of the original cast.
I give this one a solid A (a 95-98 if I was grading it academically). Why so much higher than Rotten Tomatoes? Remember, I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader and writer. This movie was made for me–I’m its target audience. Does it have problems–a few small ones, yes. Some characters don’t get enough screen-time in my opinion, for one, but on the whole, this is a very enjoyable movie that has great action and great heart. It is everything that I aspire to when I write (or what I’m looking for when I’m reading/watching genre works).
Implication for my Writing
So this is a new section that I thought I’d add to (most) every review/mini-review of works as I learn things that I can try to add into my (creative/writing) life. One of the things that I noticed that I liked about this movie was the idea of inner conflict for the main characters. I’m currently stuck on “Project Storm.” I’ve written the first scene and have an idea where to go for scene 3, but scene 2 just won’t come out right–and now I know why. It’s the same reason that many of my characters are “ciphers.” The protagonist for Project Storm has no inner conflict. He has an outer conflict–to save his ship–but there is nothing inside him that he is struggling with. Several of the characters in Star Trek Beyond have a clearly inner struggle that they are struggling with and must find their answers through course of the plot.
I think that I start drafting too soon. I often know the plot (or most of it for short works). I usually have a good grasp of the setting. I don’t think that I often know what my main characters are struggling with when I begin the story. I know what they want or what their problem is (sometimes), but I often can’t say why it matters to them. I’m missing their internal motivations–why is escaping so important to my protagonist of Project Storm? “To stay alive,” would be my answer to that question, but that’s not really an answer. To be alive or to be free AND alive? Those are two entirely different motivations and they change the entire story. Scene 2 will play out much differently if the protagonist just wants to be ALIVE, or if he’s willing to die to stay FREE. And I don’t know yet which one my protagonist would choose. So, to my mind, I’ve started drafting without giving enough consideration to my character (& that to my mind is why I’m stuck!)
So, I’ve gone back and I’m trying to figure out what is the inner conflict that my characters are struggling with before I begin drafting to make the drafting process easier.