Star Trek Beyond

 photo star_trek_beyond_ver2_zps1pnn4doa.jpg photo starrating-2stars.jpgI suppose two out of three ain’t bad. After director J.J. Abrams’ spectacular reboot on the franchise simply titled Star Trek in 2009 and his equally thrilling follow-up Star Trek Into Darkness, the series takes a giant leap backward with Star Trek Beyond. How giant? Well, this is the weakest chapter in the franchise since Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). J.J. Abrams is still listed as one of the producers but this entry has different writers (Simon Pegg, Doug Jung) and a new director, Justin Lin of The Fast and the Furious 3–6 fame. Lin is unquestionably a talented filmmaker that has brought much life to those car racing films, but his broey aesthetic is a clumsy fit for the Star Trek universe. The philosophical intellectualism that usually inhabits Gene Roddenberry’s creation is tossed aside. Less thinking, more destructive action is the primary agenda here.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team are 3 years into their 5-year mission to explore the ends of the cosmos. Kirk’s upcoming birthday has him wistfully thinking about his deceased father. He is seeking the position of Vice Admiral and requests that Spock be made captain of the Enterprise. Kirk has become rather bored by his duties. The disinterest is contagious. His colleagues are dispassionate too. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura’s (Zoe Saldana) relationship continues to play out in tedious exchanges. The two unduly concerned with the soap opera of their lives rather than their mission.

Things finally get shaken up when a distress signal leads them to an alien named Kalara (Lydia Wilson), who asks for help in rescuing her people on the far side of the galaxy. On the way there, they are attacked by more aliens led by Krall (Idris Elba). It’s hard to pinpoint how an acclaimed actor such as Elba could become such a dull villain, but somehow he manages that unimaginable feat here. His raid causes the crew to be dispersed as they abandon their beloved USS Enterprise. Scotty lands on a forest planet and is saved by another alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). More stuff happens. Little of it memorable.

Star Trek Beyond is an odd creation. So safe, so boring, so utterly devoid of anything new or innovative – it feels like the mandatory enforcement of a contract to release another Star Trek film. Check. Obligation fulfilled. The movie is at its best when the personalities of the esteemed cast are highlighted. After the Enterprise team abandons ship during Krall’s attack, the crew is dispersed. Spock and Bones (Karl Urban) are isolated together and it is during their interactions on a foreign planet that the script momentarily springs to life.

What does Star Trek BEYOND mean exactly?  Even the title lacks definition. May I suggest Star Trek: Generic Space Action Movie. Sadly, most of Beyond plays out more like a Fast and Furious movie with visual effects here substituting for much needed depth. The adventure is shockingly routine for a production of this magnitude.  The story is just too insubstantial for a 2 hour motion picture. This develops like a rejected plot from the 60s TV show expanded to feature length. Then the music of the Beastie Boys makes an incongruous appearance in one key scene. The song’s arrival is eye-rolling to say the least. What in Gene Roddenberry’s name is that song doing here?  However 24 hours later, and it’s the only thing that still stands out in my mind. At least I remember they played ‘Sabotage’ really loud. What a shame that it’s all I remember.


34 Responses to “Star Trek Beyond”

  1. I didn’t have high hopes after the first trailer, but I had more anticipation after the second. I’ve kinda given up on the rebooted Star Trek’s being philosophical, which would be great, but I do like their dialogue, plotlines (this is a glorified MacGuffin plot but I was into it), and action. The action is sparser than other action blockbusters, but they make it count.

    I actually thought this did feel fresh with the new villain and character, and somewhat eagerly awaiting Star Trek 4.

    Now, I will acknowledge that perhaps a small part of my pretty large appreciation for this is that Summer 16 has been a massive disappointment as far as live action goes since Civil War 🙂

    • That’s funny. Krall’s motive is so ill defined, I didn’t even realize it was just a MacGuffin. That sort of thing doesn’t matter to me either though.

      I agree summer 2016 has been a letdown as far as big budget Hollywood blockbusters are concerned, but there still have been some great little movies released. Hunt for the Wilderpeople for example is fantastic!

  2. smilingldsgirl Says:

    You do realize one of the most praised of the series involves saving whales and going back to 1980s San Francisco? I wouldnt put Star Trek on too high of a scifi intellectual pedestal.

    Anyway I had a blast with this film. I liked how it split the team up and characters like Scotty and Chekhov got more time. The writing I thought was great, funny yet full of heart. This feels like a team of friends that care about each other despite differing personalities.

    To me the other 2 JJ films were trying too hard to be copies of earlier films especially the last one which despite my love for Cumberbatch was a mediocre version of Wrath of Khan. This gave some energy to the reboot. I dug the action scenes both space and on the ground. I thought they were well done.

    As far as the villain I certainly think he was better than Nero from the 2009 film. Sure there is a Mcguffin but that didnt bother me.
    I loved Jaylah and that she wasnt just a tough girl but admitted real fear in confronting Krall. Plus her banter with Scotty was great.
    To me this felt a lot like a Marvel movie. Star Trek has been a lot of things and so for me I dont mind this iteration of it.

    • I’d say Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country rank higher than The Voyage Home. The whales are fun, for sure, but it’s a fluffier sci-fi comedy, unlike others in the film series. In terms of intellectual high points, those are mostly found in the various TV series.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I actually agree with your ranking but Star Trek 4 is very well loved and far sillier than this film was my main point. I think Star Trek has had a lot of different iterations over the years and so this works to me as another take. I enjoyed the heck out of it

      • Very true! Star Trek 4 was my introduction to the franchise, so I’ll always love it 🙂

      • Yes the TV series was more cerebral. Although The Trouble with Tribbles? Well we’ll just kind of gloss over that episode.

      • Oh and the Robin Hood episode of The Next Generation, “Q-Pid.” And “Bride of Chaotica!” from Voyager. Star Trek has always known how to lighten up and have fun.

    • The great thing about Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was that it showed audiences a fun time. It played up the lighter side of the series with wit and charm. Sure it was absurd, but it was also one of the most enjoyable because it emphasized their humanity. Audiences loved it. In terms of tickets sold, it’s still the 3rd most successful of the entire series.

      Star Trek Beyond is significantly less concerned with humor and character development. Sure there’s a little thrown in here and there but it’s mostly focused on just being a big-budget sci-fi action movie. There’s nothing wrong with that. People love action. The Fast & Furious movies are hugely successful. Ditto Transformers. It’s just that Star Trek Beyond could’ve been so much more.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I actually disagree with you on the humor and character development front. I felt splitting them up allowed for characters that usually get sidelined to get a lot of screentime and I thought the script was really witty. It’s not same broad humor as 4 but honestly that’s not really my cup of tea. I like 4 but find it to be pretty silly. I only mention it to show that Star Trek is not always intellectual scifi. I certainly think this is scores better than Transformers which objectify women and are much more poorly written but to each their own I guess

      • You misunderstood me. I wasn’t comparing this to Transformers. I merely used it as an example of a monetarily successful action movie.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Ah ok. I still am so surprised you disliked this so much. Oh well. Opinions are funny things. I’m going to see it again before my podcast on Wednesday and we will make sure to talk about some of your concerns. Always interesting

  3. Also, that’s totally not what a nebula looks like. I had flashbacks to the painful “It’s a lightning storm! In space!” moment from the first one.

  4. It sounds like we have the same problem with Beyond. For a film that’s supposed to go where no man has gone before, why does it feel so familiar? I didn’t really buy into the whole ‘what’s next for me’ motif they had going on with Spock and Kirk; I mean, that’s a narrative that is sure to come up in a story that’s now spread over three (and probably going to be more) films, but it felt lazy and tacked on. I got a pretty big kick out of the action thiugh, I don’t think I’ve seen an attack sequences quite like Krall’s initial takedown of the Enterprise in some time. I was riveted.

    • It was familiar…and predictable. For example, the minute they met that alien named Kalara (Lydia Wilson) who needed help, I figured she was leading them into a trap. Yet Kirk just blindly agrees to do as she says. Oh boy.

      • Yeah, that was pretty bad as was the way they handled essentially each big theme; Kirk’s career decision and Spock’s personal thing, and the relationship between Spock and Lt Uhura is totally unneeded and a bit tedious. I wonder if it’s in any way just how out of nowhere this movie came up for me that maybe allowed me to enjoy it some more. I’m not sure, but I do remember being caught off guard by it coming out last Friday.

      • I was aware of Star Trek Beyond. In fact during our Summer Movie predictions podcast ( I predicted it would be the 8th biggest hit of the summer. It’s still unclear whether that was a good pick. We shall see.

  5. I much preferred this to ‘Into Darkness’. Granted it took a while to get going (especially with the late villain motive reveal) but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

  6. As a life long Trek fan I was quite pleased with Beyond but agree that the Abrams films are better. I still don’t understand why Into Darkness gets so much flak!

  7. I’m a big Star Trek fan, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this new installment. All set to watch it yesterday and was vetoed by the people I was with. Bummer! Saw BFG instead. Sigh. Anyway, I was wondering what the script would be like with Simon Pegg having a say in the script. Sorry, Mark, you found it boring and formulaic. I’ll be keeping an open mind when I do get there.

    • Beyond is getting generally good reviews so you’ll probably enjoy it. Not horrible – just bland. Honestly I didn’t have high expectations. It’s just that about halfway through, I realized I wasn’t engaged. By the end, my feelings hadn’t changed.

  8. Benjamin Fastnedge Says:

    Mark, thank you for this excellent review of Star Trek Beyond. I like it when you remark what does ‘Beyond’ actually mean in the context of the film and I think this is a very observant point. It is one of those words that is just mysterious and other worldly, but Star Trek is supposed to be that anyway!

    • Oh most definitely. I totally agree. “Beyond” is otherworldly – that is, devoted to intellectual or imaginative pursuits. I only wish the movie had been.

  9. martin1250 Says:

    i thought this 3rd movie was a small step forward. the previous 2 were good but ‘Beyond’ has more humor and imagination.

    The movie “breathes” because it allows simple dialogue even if they are sometimes corny. it also allows the action to be daringly creative and preposterous.
    then in some moments, it reminded me of the older Trek movies (those with Patrick Stewart).

    Regardless, i enjoy reading your opinions Mark. great review.

    • Not a huge fan of the movies based on The Next Generation. Star Trek: Nemesis was probably the worst.

      • martin1250 Says:

        ok. but ‘First Contact’ is probably required viewing for those interested in Star Trek. it’s arguably the best of the whole movie series.

  10. The weakest chapter since Star Trek V?! Wow. That one was pretty bad. I was no fan of Into Darkness, so I suspect that I might appreciate this movie a tad more. A lot of my friends who didn’t care for the second one seem more positive on Star Trek Beyond. Bummed to hear that you found Krall to be a dull villain and the movie to be so boring on the whole.

    • Yeah it seems that if you didn’t like Star Trek Into Darkness, you might like Star Trek Beyond more. Funny how the box office is just the opposite though. This was a flop.

  11. This was not as good as I had hoped. It was very very predictable. A little slow too. It was just a few weeks ago when I saw this, and it’s already forgotten. 2 1/2 stars

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