Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

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During a five-year mission in deep space, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a new enemy.

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Justin Lin, 2016

Out in the far-flung reaches of space, the crew of the Enterprise is starting to feel the strain of their five-year mission. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to question his own commitment to Starfleet, while first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is shaken to the core by troubling news. When they answer a quest for help that goes awry, Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew end up marooned on a planet full of secrets, separated and broken. They meet a new ally in the brittle Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), but they also encounter a new enemy: the bitter, volatile Krall (Idris Elba), who is determined to use secrets held by the crew of the Enterprise to launch an attack on Starfleet itself. The Enterprise must regroup and become stronger than every in order to defeat this new threat.

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The fact is, the recent Star Trek films are not the shows. They have a completely different aesthetic and a different approach to storytelling, whether you like it or not. With Beyond, it feels like Justin Lin and the writing team of Simon Pegg and Doug Jung are really trying to return to the feel of the TV show. There are some really nice moments that come out of that – there’s scenes between characters who have had fewer interactions in the movies, and there’s a greater sense of wonder at the universe. However, there are some very real flaws with this approach. The problem with Beyond is that it plays way too much like an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, with an upgrade to 2010s technology. Even the sets sometimes look too styrofoam-y. Part of this is the rather disappointingly Earth-like planet that the crew is stranded on for the bulk of the film’s action. There’s far too much of the crew plodding around in their little separate teams on the planet, waiting to get back together so the plot can move forward. Spock and Bones have some lovely scenes together, though, digging into the themes of Star Trek in touching scenes, balanced with humour. It’s sad to see that Chekov still doesn’t have much to do, since this was Anton Yelchin’s last chance to be in the franchise. There was a real missed opportunity in pairing him with Kirk; they could have bonded, but instead Chekov mostly follows Kirk around like a lost puppy. The crew of this alternate universe¬†Enterprise are characters I love deeply, so I was sad about the lack of connection.

Lost opportunities are littered through this film. Idris Elba’s performance is hindered by makeup and voice modulation. A lesser actor would have drowned in the part, but Elba is strong enough to make an impact despite this (and despite a fairly obvious twist). Spock, Bones, and Scotty fare the best from the split, and Karl Urban in particular relishes the new opportunities the film offers, putting in one of its best performances. After complaints about Into Darkness, Beyond still has some unpleasant sexism to it. Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is awesome, but needs saving once too often, as does Uhura. Meanwhile, there are some incredibly nasty deaths to new female characters as punishment for their duplicitous actions, which is pretty unpleasant. The best stuff in this movie happens off the planet. There is a featured space station that is imaginative and intriguing, full of possibility. The sense of wonder as the Enterprise flies down a tunnel below a glass-bottomed canal is fantastic. The Giacchino score continues the tradition of being brilliant, and some of the film looks beautiful – there are some great alien designs. The opening scene echoes the fun and breakneck action of the Abrams films while also giving Kirk some fun with awkward diplomacy. The pacing from there on is a little lacking. There are still some great actions scenes (the two scenes with the bug-like alien spaceships are wonderfully terrifying) and beautiful scenes, though. Star Trek: Beyond will probably be the favourite film in this series for original Star Trek fans, but for nu!Trek kids like me, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

Star Trek Beyond on IMDb

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