REVIEW: “Star Trek Beyond”

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I’ve come to terms with the fact that this new series simply isn’t the Star Trek of old. Despite their numerous callbacks it was fairly evident when the first film landed in 2009. 2013’s “Into Darkness” made it even more obvious. The third movie “Star Trek Beyond” more or less casts aside any doubt. This isn’t a series targeting the old school Trekkies. This series was clearly rebooted with the summer action movie crowd in mind. But that doesn’t mean Trekkies can’t have fun with it too.

A lot has happened since the release of the last movie. The sad passing of Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy and the tragic death of cast member Anton Yelchin adds a sobering layer to this picture. Yelchin had finished shooting at the time of his death. In “Beyond” he is given a good hunk of screen time and has fun with it. Nimoy gets a fitting tribute that isn’t just shoehorned in. It’s smartly written while offering due reverence.

Several changes were made for “Beyond”. Justin Lin of “Fast and Furious” fame takes over the directing duties from J.J. Abrams (now the head honcho of the “Star Wars” franchise). In addition to his role as Scotty, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung make up the new writing team. For the most part this new installment stays in step with the previous two films. But there are moments where you do recognize the new influences. Sometimes it’s for better but not always.

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The movie’s opening one-third is its best. With origin stories behind, Lin and company jump right into the story they want to tell. The USS Enterprise is now three years into its five-year mission to boldly go where no one has gone before. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) has grown tired of his diplomatic duties. Feeling that he and his crew need some time off, he docks the Enterprise at Starfleet’s newest most advanced space station called Yorktown (maybe the coolest and most visually impressive thing in the entire film).

As for the crew, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having a personal crisis which has effected his relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Bones (Karl Urban) is still surly and cantankerous. Scotty (Pegg) is still neurotic and high-strung. Basically everyone could use some down time. But that doesn’t happen. An escape pod lands at Yorktown with a lone distressed survivor who tells of an attack on her ship. The Enterprise is sent out to investigate but run into a vicious alien warlord named Krall (Idris Elba).

Lin amps up the stakes after the crew finds themselves stranded and seperated on a nearby planet. It’s here that we get some of best character interactions. Spock and McCoy are especially fun. The writers do fine job of giving every character their moment and making them feel significant. We even get an interesting new alien character named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

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But the further the film goes the more it seems to lose its footing. One big action set piece after another make up the entirety of the final act. There are some really impressive scenes during this run but there are also a couple that aren’t that well conceived. And then you have one particular sequence that is beyond silly and preposterous. I won’t say anymore but trust me, you’ll know it when you see it.

It should be said that the special effects are often spectacular. But there are a few instances where they are surprisingly generic. Also Lin knows how to shoot action as evident by many of the bigger set pieces. His shooting of fight scenes are a different story. Lin’s dizzying handheld cameras and quick cuts make some of the fights a chore to make out. Thankfully that only represents a small chunk of the action.

The bombastic ending is another clear reminder that this is a very different Star Trek series. But now we sit three movies into it and these films have earned the right to be judged on their merits and not those of past movies. “Beyond” is a fun and satisfying installment that fits nicely within the new franchise vision. It finally feels like the crew is exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations. At least until it turns into a fairly standard sci-fi action flick in the final act. Still it’s fun to be back with these characters and to see each of them given important roles within the story. That can often be difficult with such a large cast.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

3.5 stars

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37 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Star Trek Beyond”

  1. Yesterday I was out-voted and saw BFG instead of Star Trek. I thought about your review and your love for BFG. Mark Rylance was fantastic. As far as Star Trek goes, I will have to wait and see it next weekend. I’ll keep your rating in mind and the others who seem to rank it in the middle of the things. Not bad. Not outstanding. Very good. Since I’m a huge fan, I’ll probably enjoy it more than most.

    • I did like BFG even with its issues. It hasn’t gotten a ton of live though. I think you’ll have fun with Beyond. The is a lot to like there. I was particularly impressed with its ability to give every character valuable screen time. And Pine has steadily got better as Kirk. But my favorite is still Karl Urban as Bones.

  2. I thought Lin did well here, and didn’t make this feel like a Fast and Furious in space. But as you stated, his hand to hand work is a little disappointing, especially since we’ve seen him be more than good with fight scenes in FF4 (Dom vs Brian), Fast Five (Dom vs Hobbs), and F6 (Dom/Hobbs vs Owen, Letty vs Riley).

    However, I enjoyed this a lot. Liked the freshness it carried. No one looked to be tired in their roles in my opinion. Would love for the rebooted Star Trek to push more philosophical themes, but that isn’t the goal of this reboot, but just to have fun. Looking forward to the next one.

    • I enjoyed it too. I have a lot of respect for Lin. He basically made me care about the Fast and Furious series when he made Fast Five. I think he does a good job with a few small exceptions. I’m onboard for another. It does look like the box office results didn’t meet their projections.

      Anxious to get over and read your full take on it.

    • I gotta say I did enjoy the character work. I do agree on the villain. I kept listening for some type of bigger explanation for his actions. I think it works well enough but certainly more could have been done. Still enjoyed it as a whole though.

      • In terms of character I meant I felt no sense of peril or that our leading characters had a rival or much to lose. Breakneck action and jokes were preferred to drama. But hey it’s a popcorn movie so I don’t mind that. This just had no meat. Why hide a formidable actor like Idris Elba for so long? I would have liked his backstory at the start as a catalyst for peril. Even then the “rogue agent” has become the go to plot device in a lot of franchises.

      • Agree. I think that is been the biggest adjustment for me. Seeing Star Trek as a big, CGI-laden action flick is quite different. And this one definitely spends a lot of time on that which could have been spent on the characters.

  3. I love this new series, and it continues to stay great with each passing film. And I agree, Leonard Nimoy’s tribute was worked in quite well due to some brilliant writing.

  4. Nice review. I must be one of the few who thought Beyond was the most similar to the originals. Felt more concentrated and personal than the others. Not being a big fan of the Fast and Furious movies, I’m surprised to find that Beyond may be my favorite of the new series. And I thought Jaylah was an excellent addition and hopefully she grabs a permanent spot on the roster.

    • Thank you! I think you make a good point. The character interactions were among my favorite things about it. And it does feel like they are actually out exploring worlds and seeking out civilizations. For me the final act seemed to pull away from that and became more reliant on lots of CGI popcorn action. But I still liked it quite a bit and I’ll definitely see it again. How did you view the first two films of the series?

  5. I enjoyed this, but it’s definitely an exercise in water treading. 3 films into the series and I’m not sure where it’s going, or if there’s ever been a plan. But fine in and of itself…some really good sequences early on, some nice callbacks to the 1960s production values, a funny bromance between Bones and Spock (though at the expense of Spock and Kirk being together), and a fine tribute to Leonard Nimoy, but I agree the faults you mention are there too.

    • It’s a good movie. It caves in to the trappings of these big budget popcorn flicks, but at the same time it is a fun romp. As for its franchise vision, you make a good point. I don’t know if I could tell you where it’s heading or what it’s aim is.

  6. We’re pretty much in agreement here Keith, I thought the space battle sequences were pretty great but somehow Lin didn’t do a good job when it comes to the hand to hand combat. I really like the fact that they’ve decided to lighten up the tone of this film, even though I enjoyed Into Darkness, it’s way too serious for its own good and I hate the fact that it’s a remake of Wrath of Kahn!

    • Did you get the sense that they were trying to make it more about exploring new worlds and seeking out new civilizations? I did get that vibe which I think is a really smart direction. Hopefully that is something they will latch onto and do more with.

  7. Hey Keith, it seems you fall in the middle between Ted and I. Our double reviews is up tomorrow. “One big action set piece after another make up the entirety of the final act” Yep, the action is dizzying for me, it’s fun for a while but it overstays its welcome as it keeps piling up.

    • It gets a little nuts at the end, doesn’t it. What frustrated me was that they had something that felt a little different but then it turns into a boisterous CGI-fest. Not bad but it did take the wind out for me.

  8. Pingback: The Star Trek Movie Franchise Part 5: The Reboots | The Vern's Video Vortex.

  9. Great review! Really looking forward to seeing this one, eventually. I do hope they can find a way to keep the franchise going in a good direction (not on life support like so many other franchises).

    • Thank you! I too hope they can keep the series lively and moving forward. They have a pretty good thing in place as long as they can keep it from feeling repetitive.

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