MOVIE REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

STAR TREK BEYOND (2016 Paramount)

Directed by Justin Lin

The “Kelvin era” or “JJ-verse” Star Trek movies have been more “miss” than “hit”.  There was a time when you could count on every even-numbered Trek to be excellent, but Star Trek Into Darkness (#12) and Star Trek Beyond (#13) were two rotten movies in a row.  What went wrong?

Too.  Much.  Dumb.  Action.

Specifically, there is one modern action motif that is freakishly common today and it drives me insane every time.  It’s when a vehicle or body hits a wall or other obstacle, going right through, and keeps going, and going…minimal damage and zero loss of momentum.  This happens far too often in Beyond.   Hell, the bad guy Krall (Idris Elba) has a swarm of spaceships completely based on this physics-defying visual.

Every time Beyond feels like it’s going somewhere, the movie devolves into meaningless, dull action.  The shame of it is, there are other scenes that are character-driver and almost vintage Trekkian.  Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) caring for an injured Spock (Zachary Quinto) felt right.  Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) tiring of his daily space-grind was reminiscent of the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, and also colours in a little bit about how the prime Kirk eventually became an Admiral.  These slower, more contemplative shots are then succeeded by numbing action, so far removed from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision that you can hear his complaints in the back of your mind.

Idris Elba is unfortunately underdeveloped and buried under layers of makeup.  His character Krall has cloudy hatred for the Federation, believing that their mission of peace and exploration weakens humanity, who must instead be prepared to defend itself.  Krall is not all he appears to be, of course, but the reveal is far less interesting than it could have been.  Ultimately, the setup is never enticing nor is the execution.  Since the plot is based entirely on the motivations of the villain, the movie can’t hold together.  It’s just an alien looking for a superweapon so he can kill lots of people.  And it’s never made clear why he even needs that superweapon, since he can do plenty of damage on his own.

Case in point?  Krall [SPOILER] takes down the U.S.S. Enterprise only three years into her five-year mission.  Compare this to the original prime U.S.S. Enterprise, which only went down only in a last ditch attempt by her captain to keep his crew alive.  Only after 40 years in space, three television seasons, and three movies.  Its ending was poignant, and after saving the crew countless times, it was earned.  This ships’ ending was not earned, to use the words of Rob Daniels.  We’ve only known her in a few hours of screen time.  Her demise was not earned.  It was just a gimmick to sell tickets.  See the Enterprise go down!

A new character created for this movie, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a tough nut and good companion for Scotty.  Unfortunately, knowing the past history of female sidekicks in Star Trek films, that means you’ll never see her again.

Sadly, Anton Yelchin (Chekov) died tragically in an accident shortly before the film’s release.  J.J. Abrams has said that Chekov would never be recast by another actor.

Star Trek Beyond both gains and loses points for some real-world references.  The death of Leonard Nimoy in 2015 is reflected by [SPOILER] the death of Spock prime in this film, and there is a beautiful moment to reflect on that.  Less successfully, the character of Sulu (John Cho) is ret-conned as gay, to honour George Takei who played the original Sulu.  Even Takei found this ret-con to be strange since he never portrayed Sulu as gay at any point in the series.  It technically doesn’t directly contradict anything from the prime universe, but it feels so awkwardly shoed in.

Star Trek Beyond has, for the time being at least, ended Star Trek’s theatrical comeback.  Patrick Stewart has confidently returned to television in Picard, and so Trek never dies.  No thanks to Beyond.

1.5/5 stars

25 comments

  1. Beyond is definitely the worst of the three and I do agree with the complaint about all the movies having the Enterprise vastly outgunned+outsized/destroyed to be wearing very thin.

    However I do enjoy these films a lot. I do find the original Trek series to be too slow moving for my tastes, in most cases and the characters not interesting enough to hold my interest (Blasphemy, I know). I feel The Next Generation rectified this somewhat.

    Oh and it is my belief that the casting for Abrams Trek is absolutely spot-on. Bones, Chekov and Scotty being the pinnacle of this in my opinion

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw there was one comment and I knew it’d be you!

      1.5/5? Damn, that’s harsh! I didn’t like it much at all either, but you’re usually a lot more forgiving than I. J.J. needs to stay away from any more beloved science fiction franchises. He can water them down and destroy them.

      While we’re on about movies. You know who’s underrated as hell? Harvey Keitel. Here’s a man who cropped up even before De Niro or Pacino, but never gets the same respect or credit. Hell, I would take him over Pacino any day of the week, and I would say he’s equal to De Niro. Just watch the two of them together in Mean Streets.

      Harvey also took way more risks with his career. Signing on to do Resevoir Dogs when Tarantino was an upstart. Going full frontal and bearing his soul in Bad Lieutenant. Dude is a legend. I saw De Niro being interviewed on Fallon, and Fallon (Drunky the Fuck Clown) was listing off all the stars in The Irishman. He listed off everybody to thunderous applause each time, until he got to Keitel where only a few people made noise. Damn disappointing!

      Seemingly random rant over.

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      1. I suppose I have a reputation for being more forgiving than this, but I’ve really immersed myself in Trek lately and felt that the time had come to make my feelings known.

        Fucking Harvey Keitel man. Me and Harvey, we go way back to 1986 to a mafia comedy called Wise Guys. Been a serious fan ever since Pulp Fiction though. So pretty please, with sugar on top, clean the fuckin’ car.

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    2. Man I love a Harrison comment in the morning with my first coffee.

      But I do get it about finding the original Trek slow. I get it — styles have changed a lot in 50 years and even when I was in school, I knew lots of people who liked TNG but hated the original series.

      And you said it about Bones, Chekov and Scotty. In two of those cases, the current actors do the accents better than the original actors did. Karl Urban is very convincing as Bones and probably the most bang-on to the original Doctor McCoy. I like Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto very much as well. I don’t think this cast could have been assembled any better than it was.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do have a soft spot for original series Pike. He’s (strangely) probably my favourite character in the original series.

        Kelvin Pike is great too. I’m a fan of Bruce Greenwood, since I saw him in I Robot (incidentally one of the few Will Smith led movies I like)

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    1. Into Darkness was the one with Benedict Cumberbund. Who of course was great, but completely miscast. They should have had a latino or Indian actor to play Kahn, since the character is Indian and Ricardo was Cuban. I feel quite strongly about this. As good as Benedict is, to look at him and say “that’s Kahn” is utterly impossible.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Bendandsnap Carrotstick?
        Buckingham Cheddarcheese?
        Burgerking Scratchandsniff?

        (Not my original creations. My local CD store came up with these a while back

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  2. Oh man, 1.5 might be too generous. Kirk didn’t even fight to save the Enterprise. Even in STIII, I think Kirk only used the Enterprise the way he did because it was empty. And that stupid motorbike. Blah. It is action shlock for the casual audience. I could go on but the less said the better. PS, I gave up on Picard after two episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahah! Oh you. I really don’t wanna watch them again. But maybe for you, I will. I really do like Bumblebee. Hailee Steinfeld is pretty damn talented. I didn’t know she was the girl from True Grit.

      Liked by 1 person

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