Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond aims to satisfy fans of old
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba
Synopsis: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.
When J.J. Abrams re-launched Star Trek back in 2009, he embarked on a journey that was incredibly risky. He set out to bridge the gap between life-long fans of the show (and previous films) and new fans who perhaps weren’t familiar with the franchise. And if you ask me, he mostly succeeded in that venture. Star Trek: Into Darkness continued that trend but Star Trek Beyond was the first film without the Star Wars: The Force Awakens director. Instead, Fast & Furious veteran Justin Lin took the helm for Beyond. Additionally to that, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung took over the writing duties for this third installment. Depending on who you ask, that may be a good thing. New fans of the franchise may be disappointed in the departure from Abrams and company but many pure Trek fans were calling for this new iteration of Star Trek to get back to its roots.
Regardless of your expectations and experience with Star Trek, one thing is clear. Star Trek Beyond is a completely different animal than its predecessor. Sure, it has the same characters and actors but overall Beyond is much more contained and tonally very different. In fact, it doesn’t feel like it’s even a part of this rebooted series.
Beyond opens with the USS Enterprise crew halfway through their five-year journey when they come across a new Federation base called Yorktown. After an unknown entity breaches Yorktown, the USS Enterprise crew is sent out to find answers. This leads them to an unknown plant that results in catastrophe for the Enterprise as well as its crew. From there, they must use their resilience and determination to escape the planet and save Yorktown from imminent doom.
The small-scale approach to Beyond is sure to work for die-hard Trek fans, however Pegg and Jung’s script is overly calculated and intensely precise. Instead of focusing on characterization, or God-forbid continuity, Beyond‘s narrative is mostly concerned with setting up call back’s and delicately manufacturing the next action sequence. As a result, the film relies heavily on artificial contrivances. The attempts at inserting character drama, such as Captain Kirk’s potential promotion, is laughable and forced. The touches of heart behind Spock’s conflict is affable on paper, but again, in execution it’s rather unearned.
Similar to Into Darkness, Beyond has antagonist problems as well. Idris Elba’s Krall is sadly dull and his motivations are lacking coherency, to put it nicely. Even Elba’s vocal work, which is usually riveting, is underutilized in this film. The twist with Krall in the film’s climax is sympathetic, but in context of the film, it simply misses the mark.
That said, Star Trek Beyond does have some fun and for experienced Trek fans, this will feel like an elongated episode of the old Trek you love. The interactions between Spock and Bones is really great. Karl Urban is hysterical as ever in this film. The scenes between Checkov and Captain Kirk will keep you on the edge of your seat, as well as the “Sabotage” fight sequence. The visuals depicting Yorktown is quite stunning and will leave you wanting more.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t a bad film by any means, but its contrivances and off-focused writing stifles the film’s momentum and kills all continuity from the previous two films. Again, some fans will like that and others will struggle to invest in this third installment.
Overall Grade: C+
Hear our full review on Episode 179: