Star Trek Beyond (2016)


J. J. Abrams successfully rebooted the Star Trek movie series by making movies for those who do not necessarily like Star Trek.  Thus, they were sci-fi action films rather than tempering the action with thoughts on how humanity will evolve in the future and the challenges it will face.  That meant that while a decent cast was put together to represent younger versions of the well-known Original Series crew very little remained of Gene Roddenberry's original vision.  In fact a good part of the Enterprise crew spent time getting over their personal grudges with each other in the first Kelvin Universe film in order to deal with a vengeful, but ultimately dull, villain.

The second movie saw Abrams try to remake Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only to spend a decade getting yelled at for showing Alice Eve in her underwear.  For the third film Abrams, who was deeply involved destroying what legacy Star Wars had left at the time, left the director chair to be filled by Justin Lin, who is best known for directing several of the Fast and Furious movies.  I guess it was pretty much at that point that I knew the series was over; I kind of figured Star Trek Beyond was going to feature the crew of the Enterprise fighting poorly choreographed space battles to dubstep.  Unfortunately I wasn't too far off the mark. 

The Enterprise is about halfway through its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations.  However, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is getting tired of going where no man has gone before, and is considering settling down in a command position.  Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having similar thoughts about his place after he learns that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), his alternate universe doppelganger, has passed away.  While on leave at a new space station called Yorktown a ship suddenly appears with an alien begging for help in rescuing her crew that are stranded on a planet within a treacherous nebula.

The Enterprise answers the call and, for their trouble, ends up stranded on the same planet with an alien named Krall (Idris Elba) who is in pursuit of a piece of an alien weapon Kirk has in his possession.  While Uhura (Zoe Saldana) attempts to reason with Krall, Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock attempt to find their captain and reunite with Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).  The latter two have joined forces with a stranded woman named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who may be able to get them off the planet and stop Krall before he can launch an attack on the Yorktown.  

Simon Pegg cowrote this one with Doug Jung, and unsurprisingly Sulu (John Cho), Chekov, Uhuru and Scotty have much more to do than usual.  Sofia Boutella is a welcome addition as a skilled warrior whose parents were murdered by Krall, but the problem is Krall himself.  Idris Elba may be a great actor, but unfortunately all he seems to get are bit parts or undeveloped antagonists like Krall, who ends up following a familiar and well-worn path for Star Trek plots.  

That may work for an episode of the show and, in fact, Star Trek Beyond attempts to throw a bone to traditional Star Trek fans by making it a bit similar to some of the movies that pretty much are expanded episodes.  It even feels a bit like it when the Yorktown is first shown, even though it borrows heavily from Valerian and Mass Effect.  Unfortunately, this is undercut by Justin Lin, whose directing style is bland and features a lot of flash and quick edits.  While most of our crew has something to do it never slows down enough to let them interact and, after three movies, I still don't feel any real comradery between Kirk, Spock and Bones.  Urban has improved on his DeForrest Kelley impression, but that's really about it.  There is a lot of talk about what great friends they are but nothing that indicates it. 

Honestly, I kind of knew how this movie was going to go once I saw Chinese studios pop up as contributors.  This movie was not made for Star Trek fans, nor even for an American audience.  It may have the brand slapped on it but it is just another half-baked action film made for Chinese audiences, with all the compromises that come along with that.  And as for my fears about those space battles - the finale at least features the Beastie Boys instead of Skrillex, but a joke that was used in Futurama two decades ago resurfaces.  I can say it was funnier back then. 

Although there is still some talk about another movie in 2023 or 2024, the truth is Star Trek is alive and well on television.  Whether the new Trek shows are any good itself is up for debate as Alex Kurtzman, who was a writer on the first two reboot films, continues to be the showrunner.  The spirit of The Next Generation still lives with The Orville as well.  As much as it sounds like Simon Pegg would like to see a fourth movie with the remainder of the cast - Anton Yelchin unfortunately passed in 2016 - the truth is if any future movies are made they are most likely to follow on from Discovery or Picard rather than this.  Despite the controversies surrounding those two shows that is probably for the best.

Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Time: 122 minutes
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba
Director: Justin Lin



 

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