Star Trek Beyond – A Review

In the past couple days, I re-watched 2009’s Star Trek and the 2013 sequel to it, Star Trek Into Darkness, just to see if I remember them fondly for the right reasons. Shockingly, I ended up coming out appreciating Into Darkness more than the initial ’09 reboot, primarily because J.J. Abrams played for comedy an awful lot in the first go-round. And despite the obvious sideways-remake elements borrowed directly from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I felt Abrams understood the story and more importantly the villain better with Into Darkness. I still have no previous attachment to Star Trek prior to the rebooted movies, so the fact that they didn’t explore as much in Into Darkness didn’t bother me either. I’m sure I’ll get many in-depth explanations as to how wrong I am for thinking Star Trek Into Darkness is not only enjoyable, but a good film, and I look forward to hearing it. But onto what’s “Beyond” said “Darkness.”

It’s fair to say that the trailers for the 3rd entry in the officially-titled Kelvin Timeline movies haven’t been all that gripping. They showed us to expect decent space and terrestrial sequences with a rather current soundtrack maybe, accompanied by some rather cliched action dialogue (“Hold onto something!” – Sulu; “Let’s never do that again.” – Kirk). Regardless, I still felt an elevated level of excitement for this 3rd movie just because this cast’s chemistry and the charisma of the 1st 2 movies in this series are off the charts. And the most crucial part to these new Star Trek’s has been the characters, regardless of what anyone else says. That being said, Beyond certainly delivers more of what we loved in the first 2 in terms of character work. It makes complete sense that after 3 years in a 5-year mission, a person would become burned out with the daily routine, despite being surrounded by beautiful space (which isn’t all that rare for this generation anyway). So seeing Chris Pine’s James Kirk or Zachary Quinto’s Spock traversing these quadrants of space and feeling lost or without purpose worked for me. This movie became more about a personal journey for the crew and how much they lean on each other very early on in the story.

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Sofia Boutella as newcomer scavenger Jaylah

As it relates to older Star Trek movies or TV series (I’ve seen a few of the movies for reference), they include things that were just straight up missing in the last 2 movies. Kirk is making entries into the Captain’s log and having a drink in the Enterprise’s lounge with Karl Urban’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. These are familiar sights to long-time fans and I think the personal moments will be appreciated by those individuals. What the newer fans will appreciate is the thrilling action sequences, which are captured effortlessly by director Justin Lin, who at this point has to feel like an action movie expert after consistently delivering actually-watchable and fun Fast and Furious sequels. The distinct difference here though between the Fast franchise and this one, is the writing of Simon Pegg and his writing partner Doug Jung in this entry. These are 2 guys who really fully understood the characters in this universe and how each relationship should be portrayed. The writers even give us couplings we never had in this rebooted series yet. We have Bones and Spock together rather often here, in what will probably be everyone’s new favorite friendship even over Spock and Kirk, which is supposed to be the actual foundation of the series. These 2 actors just clicked in their scenes together. We saw Simon Pegg’s Scotty land on a foreign planet all by his lonesome and introduce us to Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah, who is an ultimate scavenging badass (probably sounds familiar *cough* Force Awakens). Jaylah was a welcome completely original addition to the team, as much as Idris Elba is as a villain.

Elba plays Krall, whose motivations are really not explained until the last 20 minutes of the movie. It might feel a bit taxing to sit through the entire movie waiting for a reason to understand why the villain wants to find a weapon of some kind and destroy everything, which aren’t that original, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and this type of adversarial story is tried and true, even in the Star Trek universe. But when you do find out the reasoning to Krall’s actions, man, does Elba bring it hard. That shouldn’t surprise anyone though. The man is unstoppable in terms of acting ability. He’s a juggernaut. Just go watch the TV series Luther for further proof of that.

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Idris Elba as the menacing Krall

Some other items from the movie I felt worth mentioning were the thought-out designs in the varying environments. And I’m referring to environments that were even on the same planet. I also really dug how this movie struck a fine line between the jokes and the heaviness of what’s happening. It wasn’t just back to back jokes that I felt 2009’s Star Trek delivered, but it certainly wasn’t a completely humorless, joyless DC movie. It found that middle ground rather well, which is another thing to commend writers Pegg and Jung on. Also before I forget, keep an eye out for Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” as hinted at every so subtlely in the first trailer. It may not have worked in the trailer, but rocks seriously hard in the movie. (Yes, “subtlely” was sarcasm.)

For me, I’d place Beyond above Star Trek and Into Darkness in terms of the balance between Star Trek movie, action sci-fi movie, and providing character interactions we hadn’t seen before in this rebooted film series. This summer movie season has been experiencing a pretty heavy drought in terms of blockbuster quality since Captain America: Civil War, but I’d say the rain has arrived by way of Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond. It also felt great seeing the late Anton Yelchin in his last time playing Chekov, a role you can tell he was more than happy to play in these 3 movies.

Grade: B+

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5 thoughts on “Star Trek Beyond – A Review

  1. Another great review.
    As a long-time Trekker who watched most of the Original Series in syndication in my middle-school days, and watched all of the other series when first aired, I have always been somewhat lukewarm about the reboots (Kelvin Timeline, you say? Where did you get that?). In my mind, I’ve always felt that there was plenty of room within the franchise universe to introduce Chris Pine, Zachary Qunito, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, and the rest of the crew as unique, never-before-seen characters, and still pull off what they did. It’s the same reasoning that I apply to other ‘controversial’ castings. Idris Elba as 007? I would LOVE to see Elba as a superspy. But why not make him 006? Why does it HAVE to be James Bond, specifically, which will cause some fans (not all) to have to do mental contortions to wrap their heads around it. Jason Bourne has proven that we can add a brand new superspy character and be successful. Ghostbusters reboot? Why did they opt to make it a reboot, instead of just having the female ‘Busters appear in the same ‘universe’ as the original? How much would that have mitigated the backlash that the producers and distributors received for doing a she-boot?
    But, I digress. Despite my reservations about using a new group of actors with pre-established characters, I have largely enjoyed the first two movies, and I expect I’ll like this third one, based on your review. That said, when you really want some pizza but you get a big, juicy burger, you’re still going to enjoy the burger, even though you lament the lack of pizza.
    Last but not least, the new movies DO stray from the source material in a rather significant way. All of the TV series dealt with the intricacies of interstellar diplomacy, mankind attempting to improve the world/galaxy, and generally depicting a reasonable vision of a possible utopia. There was a message behind the shows, a message of hope that doesn’t filter into the Kelvin Timeline. Granted, that’s significantly difficult to portray in a 2 hour movie, compared to TWENTY-EIGHT seasons of Star Trek television. Nonetheless, the way Starfleet and the Original Series characters are portrayed in the reboots is notably different in the Kelvin Timeline than in the original Gene Roddenberry series. So, like many other reboots, I really wish they had just created entirely new characters/ship and built on what was already there, rather than taking a right turn and creating the perplexing concept of two Kirks, two Spocks, two Bones, two Enterprises, etc…

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    1. The thought legitimately never crossed my mind that the series would’ve been better suited with new characters instead of a re-imaginings of classic characters. Solid argument.

      Man, you’re really clinging to that Bond example. Bond has been in film for over 50 years as an older white British dude. That image only recently changed over to a blonde-haired, blue-eyed older white British dude, which deviated from source material. Regardless, it was not only NOT the end of the world, but we got some of the best Bond movies out of the Daniel Craig era. Something as trivial as race or gender doesn’t matter as long as the story is remarkable and engaging. In the case of Ghostbusters 2016, the story was uninspiring, so that was the focus of my review on that (which is elsewhere in this blog). If you’re going to throw an outlandish example at me like “well, what if they change Bond to Melissa McCarthy?,” those aren’t the types of changes I’m referring to. Idris Elba is a very subtle cosmetic change to Bond that has no impact to the character’s skill-set or personality (since he’s suave as hell). Also, they already made Melissa McCarthy as Bond, it was called Spy, and it was pretty funny.

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      1. I’ll be honest–I had forgotten that we’ve had this discussion before. That said, Bond is a perfect example to discuss this point of contention. And to be fair, you didn’t answer the question, which, more succinctly rephrased, is “Why not do a spin-off in the same universe if they want to change things up?”
        So, let me ask the question in a very pointed manner: Do you feel the Daniel Craig movies would be diluted, lessened, or otherwise diminished if he portrayed 006 instead of 007?
        And I respectfully disagree with your assessment that race and gender is trivial compared to the issue of whether the story is remarkable and engaging. I will fully acknowledge that race and gender are trivial when assessing a *person’s* worth and personality, but I do not believe the same is true for *characters* from pre-existing source material. Those characters are usually described or portrayed with very specific, deliberate features. Gandalf was described as an elderly yet powerful wizened old man with a long white iconic wizard-beard. That character was brought to life by Sir Ian McKellen in a manner that was faithful to Tolkien’s description and was one of the many aspects of Jackson’s films that made it so successful. The more iconic the character, the more of a disappointment it will be for SOME of the fans when the writers/directors/producers opt to go in a completely different direction. I’ll certainly agree that the story being remarkable and engaging is the driving force behind a good movie, but to say gender and race are trivial and don’t matter is doing a disservice to those fans who are seeking to have their favorite book, TV show, graphic novel, or comic book come to life in a live-action movie that mirrors what the fan came to expect via the description/depiction from the source material. I’m still on board with the idea of mixing it up and trying new spins on a given formula–for example, Iron Man being a female [although it should really be called Iron Woman, unless the female flying the suit is masking her identity and trying to disguise herself as male], but I still have yet to hear a valid argument why a reimagined character SHOULD remain the same character, and not be a spin-off in the same universe.
        Idris Elba’s appearance may not have any impact to Bond’s skillset or personality, but Bond’s appearance is classically defined, notably so compared to other characters who have been reimagined, such as Chris Pines’ Kirk. Daniel Craig strayed from that definition as well, but not as much as Idris Elba would. You claim we got some of the best Bond movies from the Craig era, but that’s subjective. Personally, I was not as entertained by the Craig movies as previous entries, as I had grown up with a different Bond, the archetype superspy who completed his missions through finesse, guile, and amazing tech. Craig’s Bond was more about parkour, close quarters melee fighting, and sheer force of will/strength. GREAT qualities for Jason Bourne. Exceptional departure for James Bond. But that brings me back to my original question–why shift the Bond character so significantly when A) that’s not how the author defined the character, and B) such a move is certain to alienate at least some fans, when they could satisfy all conditions by simply creating a complimentary character?
        I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument for changing a character from the author’s vision and the fanbase’s established connection. The best I can get is “It’s updated for a modern audience now. Just deal with it.”
        Which, of course, STILL doesn’t answer the question.

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      2. I shouldn’t have to answer “why not do a spin-off in the same universe?” because my answer is clearly it’s not necessary just because the part is being played by a differing gender or race. Being updated for a modern audience DOES answer the question. Representation is important nowadays and that usurps some author’s decades-old vision, as long as the story is enthralling enough. We’ll just forever be in a stalemate on this. I can give you plenty of examples from the comic book world of where changing a race and gender in a movie or show completely improved a character’s role, but I don’t think it would matter at this point. Because opinions and beliefs and such.

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  2. I know it’s been a while, but I finally got to see ST:B yesterday.
    First, I need to clarify my last statement, based on your response: I stated “I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument for changing a character from the author’s vision”. I realize after you responded that it sounded like I was saying “I’ve yet to hear [FROM YOU] a compelling argument…” That’s not what I meant. I was indicating that I’ve not heard a compelling argument from anyone on the subject, so please don’t interpret my statement as an attack on you.

    I agree representation is important, and that’s why I desperately want to see Idris Elba as a superspy. But I have not been enlightened by any opinion on why it HAS to be James Bond.

    If a writer has Option A, which makes 75% of the fan base happy and alienates 25%, or Option B, which makes 100% of the fan base happy, why would they ever choose Option A?

    In regards to examples from within the comic book world where changing a race and/or gender improved the character’s role, that’s a little different, because it is a visual medium. The writers don’t have to describe the characters and lead the reader to formulate a mental image of that character, because the character is physically drawn on the page. Nevertheless, if there was a vast discrepancy between what the comic book writers had depicted and the actor chosen, some of the fans would go ballistic.
    Casting Charlize Theron as Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen would change the narrative significantly. Casting Danny Glover as Steve Rogers would strain the suspension of disbelief. And I believe that’s the crux of the issue. Casting Michael B. Jordan as Kylo Ren might be age-appropriate for the role, but biology tells us that’s not how reproduction works–a white father and a white mother do not produce a black child. Jordan might be fant4stic in the role, but it would pull the viewer out of the story with the suspension of disbelief that it causes. Again, though, it leads me back to the question of why a pre-defined character HAS to be reimagined as a different race or gender, when they can create a new character and not cause the cognitive dissonance in a portion of their audience. Finn is black–the first black stormtrooper ever seen in the Star Wars films–and no one had any problem with it at all (that I know of). Harley Quinn could have been played by Halle Berry, but Margot Robbie was the perfect fit. Idris Elba is NOT a perfect fit for James Bond because he does not match the description delivered by the author. Idris Elba IS a perfect fit for playing *A* superspy–he exudes charm, charisma, poise, and dangerousness in equal portions.

    NOTHING usurps an author’s vision–decades old or brand-new idea–except the author him/herself. That’s like telling someone “Your opinion is wrong.” There is a difference between a company having the rights to an intellectual property and an author’s vision. And thus, Eon Productions CAN replace the actor playing James Bond with someone who does not fit Ian Fleming’s depiction of James Bond, but that doesn’t change the author’s vision, and that will lead to many fans feeling betrayed. So, why do it, when there’s an option that will make everyone happy?

    I found Star Trek: Beyond to be simply OK. It had some nice visuals and some interesting threads explored on the side (feeling lost in the vastness of space; abandonment leading to revenge), but the main story was somewhat boring to me, and many of the ‘solutions’ the crew came up with left me indifferent. The inclusion of the image of the original cast seemed vaguely pointless and confusing to the casual viewer.

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