Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Karl Urban
Directed by: Justin Lin (A few of the Fast and the Furious‘)
Synopsis: When the crew of the USS Enterprise are ambushed and stranded on a rocky planet, they must regroup and stop the nefarious plot of a madman bent on destroying the Federation with a doomsday device. In other words, basically the plot of the last 2 movies.
What works: Like the previous 2 Star Trek reboots, the cast is a delight to watch interact and grow together as a tight-knit crew. All the actors are top-notch. However, in this installment they are better because they are more established and had more room to grow into their characters instead of relying too much on the original characters’ interpretations. Chris Pine especially has progressed into a much more mature and reliable captain Kirk. And Spock, unlike in Into Darkness, is a much more composed and relaxed and not beating the pulp out of someone.
The action pieces are very well done. I have yet to see any of the dozen or so Fast and Furious flicks but Lin does a fine job in keeping the pacing, editing and areas of focus intact. I was never suffering from blurred vision trying to figure out what’s going on.
The humor and camaraderie of the crew that was so sorely lacking in the last movie is back and better than ever, probably in part because Simon Pegg co-wrote the screenplay. Also mainly because unlike the last one, Bones is a prominent character and easily the funniest and/or grumpiest of the crew.
What doesn’t work: Unfortunately, for me, everything that they did right wasn’t enough to make me love this movie. I was basically bored throughout the whole movie. I felt like I’ve seen this movie a 100 times before. Now I’m not a huge Trekkie. I’ve seen all the original crew’s movies but that’s pretty much it. I really liked the J.J. Abrams reboot in 2009 and was more or less happy with the cast and new verve Abrams injected into a tired old franchise. However, the stories they are telling are getting tired as well. For the third time in a row this story is about a very evil character with a device capable of mass destruction hellbent on vengeance on the Federation. With the original crew’s movies they are all about something different, whether it was protecting the Earth (like The Voyage Home) or questioning the existence of a higher being (The Final Frontier). They tried to be unique in their themes. This one started off great with Kirk questioning his joy or qualities of commanding the Enterprise, as well as being more or less bored with it and wants a promotion to stay on a space station instead. He even confides in Bones about his career. They go on a new mission to aid in some alien’s plight that ends up being an ambush by the nefarious villain,
Diana Krall. And basically the rest of the movie is they either outwitting or outmaneuvering Diana Krall to escape his clutches and stop his plan. Nothing really new brought to the table in my opinion.
Just a thought: Why don’t they make the plot theme something like a mutiny where the conflict is more internal with the crew. I know that sounds like I’m aping Captain America: Civil War but I would much rather see the dynamic of Kirk vs. Spock or Uhuru vs. Sulu because I know and you know that would really work well to have friends at ends for dramatic purposes. But whatever, at least it’s something other than crazy alien terrorist seeking revenge with a doomsday device.
I can even debate the character development of Kirk not being fleshed out enough from having doubt to how he realizes that staying as captain of the Enterprise is what he was born to do. It’s implied but in really no way expressed dramatically enough for me. All the side-plots or inner-conflicts are all weak to me. Spock ends his relationship with Uhuru because he feels that he should be with another Vulcan woman to make more Vulcan kids. (Which to me makes very little sense because he too is only half-Vulcan—but whatever, I wasn’t happy with the Spock-Uhuru relationship anyway) Bones is cranky and crotchety and stays that way throughout. Scotty is Scotty and you get the point. Poor departed Anton Yelchin had maybe 6 lines and really nothing to do in this whole movie.
The new ally character, Jaylah is basically Rey from The Force Awakens. She’s a scavenger living in an old abandoned Starfleet ship that uses a staff as a weapon and is very technically-handy. This is the first time I’m seeing Sofia Boutella in a movie and while I think she did a great job, her character basically had nothing much to do and was under developed. Idris Elba, played
Diana Krall and I know he could’ve been better if his character had more motivation other than revenge.
I just saw it last night, so I’m still on the fence whether the nods to the original crew were done well or not. On the one hand, having Quinto’s Spock getting the sad news that Spock Prime—Leonard Nimoy has passed away was nice because of the loss of Nimoy. However, I was like, Jumpin’ Jesus they’re still using the Spock Prime again! And at the end, Quinto Spock is going through Spock Prime’s belongings and he finds an actual cast photo of the original crew. I mean, give the new reboots their own identity for crying out loud. I’m getting very sick of nods, cameos and references to the original movies with these remakes. It’s getting annoying and insulting. Even look at the poster—it’s a homage to the first Star Trek movie’s poster! Move on Star Trek reboots because case in point, I’m reviewing this third installment and still referring to you as a reboot. Time to cut the cord.
I’m also on the fence about the [Spoiler-Alert—invisible text ahead:] use of the modern music used in the film. Jaylah apparently has a CD player and plays music from the 90s. If Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is still flourishing in the 23rd century that’s fantastic. The Beastie Boys “Sabotage” is used again (if you recall it was used in the beginning of the 2009 movie) but it was used as plot device to stop the villains. I love the song so I have no qualms about it being used, per se, but it just seemed kinda odd too. Plus, using it again only shows how unoriginal these Abrams’ produced Star Treks are with using the same song (Abrams is a huge Beastie Boys fan). But I’m also wondering if using the song “Sabotage” is a clever in-joke about Shatner mispronouncing the word “sabotage.” If that’s the reason then all is forgiven. However, having a scavenger have access to classic music is a little too much of ripping off Guardians of the Galaxy to me. I haven’t seen Suicide Squad yet but have heard that they do the same thing with the abundance of pop music. Enough Hollywood, you’re drunk and unstable.
Also I would like to point out the continual lame excuse of creature and alien design and make-up. Seriously, it’s getting really out of hand with how boring the creature design has become in the last decade or so. So uninspiring.
An’ another thing that annoyed me, they again, like the last movie, destroyed the Enterprise. How many times can a ship be destroyed and be rebuilt? Sheesh. That’s akin to Jason Voorhees dying at the end of every movie but coming back to life for the next one.
Overall: I may be in the minority with this movie as it’s getting high marks from the fans as well as critics but I’m sorry, I found it so middle-of-the-road and trite. Even the way Kirk resolves the movie is paltry and I read a spoilery article that talks in length about that, which again, shows how the character development could’ve been better. I can admit that I was let-down by this installment despite the great cast and action pieces and set design. I want a better story. I was bored and, sadly, just waiting for the movie to end.
Also why is this called “Beyond?” I fail to understand the relevance to the meaning of the title to the story.
Score: 6.5 Sabotages (out of 10)