Star Trek: Beyond

'Star Trek - Beyond' movie poster

Release: Friday, July 22, 2016


Written by: Simon Pegg; Doug Jung

Directed by: Justin Lin

If this is the movie in which we go where no man has gone before, why does it feel like we’ve been here already?

Star Trek: Beyond, a beautifully crafted feel-good blockbuster, the third such film in a post-modern interpretation of the world’s second most popular star-themed science fiction property, is undeniably an impressive visual spectacle and a lot of fun to boot, but if it had any interest in remaining a topic of discussion amidst all the excited chatter about the year’s two other significant event pictures — Suicide Squad this August and Rogue One (ya know, that Star Wars spinoff thing) in December — it needed to do more than just rely on old-fashioned cast-and-crew camaraderie. Despite a solid 120 minutes of action and intergalactic intrepidity, each aspect strong enough to elevate a lesser narrative on their own, the new adventures we’re sent along in Beyond just aren’t enough to send the film into another dimension of greatness.

The best thing that can be said about Fast-and-Furious director Justin Lin wrestling control of the captain’s chair from previous helmer J.J. Abrams is that he was at least willing to conform somewhat to the rules and pre-established formula. More crucially, he manages to avoid inflecting the wrong intonations, such as those found in a universe in which car enthusiasts with criminal records end up doing favors for government officials unwilling to get their own hands dirty. This franchise’s sense of identity is also not lost in the hands of writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, an impressive feat considering how often the former is writing out of his comfort zone — though let’s not kid ourselves, these new Star Trek films aren’t exactly the stuff of bonafide sci-fi drama — and how little experience the latter has in writing for the screen, particularly at the blockbuster level.

In Beyond events accumulate in a way that proves to be, so far anyway, the ultimate test of the moral, emotional and psychological fibers of the crew and leadership of the mighty USS Enterprise. It also poses yet another challenge to the structural integrity of that very ship, subjecting the iconic vessel to one hell of a spectacular crash sequence that is sure to remain on everyone’s minds come the end of the year. Halfway into a five-year exploratory mission, James Kirk (Chris Pine) has grown restless and jaded with his captainship. He’s thinking there could be other ways in which he can distinguish himself from his father, the great George S. Kirk.

When they dock for supplies and some much needed rest at a nearby hub called Yorktown — a floating city protected from the vacuum of space by a transparent spherical shield — Kirk seeks the counsel of Commodore Paris (Shohreh Aghdashloo) as well as a promotion to Vice Admiral. It is here that Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) receives some life-changing (and potentially mission-altering) news of his own. Their uncertain futures become inextricably linked, leaving us to question whether one could survive, much less function, without the other. It’s entirely too easy to answer that.

Fortunately the considerably more intense, more tangible crux of Beyond does a lot of the heavy lifting. Beyond has a great big baddie in Idris Elba‘s menacing warlord Krall, on the hunt for some macguffin he needs to fire a weapon large enough to pose a serious threat to the continued existence of the Federation. After the Enterprise encounters and rescues a lone alien named Kalara (Lydia Wilson) who claims her ship has been stranded and needs help getting back, the crew are ambushed by a swarm of vessels that all but dismantles the Enterprise in one of the year’s most compelling attack sequences. There’s little you can do to prepare for these 15 minutes of pure drama. Even more impressive than the sheer scale and graceful movements of Krall’s battalion is the fact that the moment never disintegrates into a pixel party. State-of-the-art graphics rendering, the polished gem of a massive collaborative effort, makes you feel as though you’re swimming through stars and nebulae. (I didn’t see the film in 3D and now regret that decision.)

In the aftermath the crew find themselves disoriented and spread throughout the thick jungle of a nearby planet that they jettisoned to in their cute little individual escape pods. Not all of Kirk’s crew have remained out of Krall’s clutches, however, and the majority of what turns out to be a protracted second act finds the splinter groups trying desperately to reunite. Admittedly, the set-up allows us to become privy to a few conversations between characters we otherwise might never get, particularly between Spock, whose sense of humor is improving, and Karl Urban’s sardonic Bones.

Elsewhere, an isolated Scotty (Simon Pegg) encounters the mysterious Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). Boutella, covered in a striking combination of starkly colored make-up, instantly bolsters an already strong cast. As a warrior with a lot of pain and loss in her recent past following her own encounter with Krall, Scotty thinks she will be integral in helping the crew not only reunite but escape the planet. Despite her vows to never go near the prison camp Krall has established on this planet, Jaylah finds herself with no choice but to be brave, soon carving out her own role in the fight back against Krall’s plans to wipe out the Federation.

One thing that’s certainly surprising is how difficult it is to watch the film without thinking of the untimely passing of young Anton Yelchin, who has for three films enthusiastically embraced the spirited, brilliant Russian ensign Pavel Chekov, a character that in the long run is fairly minor. He has a significant role to fill here though and there’s no denying the tragic circumstances of his demise change the way we interact with him whenever he is on screen. We don’t so much watch him continue to build upon an innately likable persona as we do savor the opportunity.

Of course there’s more to cherish than the stereotype-shattering Russian who enjoys Scotch as opposed to vodka. In spite of itself Lin’s epic space saga often finds the time to thrill on ambitious new levels while paying tribute to the legacy that precedes it. If it can find ways to eliminate some of its more annoying habits like recycling boring clichés and hackneyed storytelling devices, then I see no reason why this franchise can’t live long and prosper.

Anton Yelchin and Chris Pine in 'Star Trek - Beyond'

Recommendation: Not the most inspired event film ever but it gets the job done and in style. Star Trek: Beyond works hard to deliver the fan service and in so doing tends to become something that will be harder to fall completely in love with for anyone who completely misses the significance of the unearthing of the USS Franklin. It is the beneficiary of some exemplary computer graphics technology and the action setpieces are universally thrilling, especially the final battle. If we’re to judge each of these entries based on that alone, this may be the best yet. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 122 mins.

Quoted: “This is where it begins, Captain. This is where the frontier pushes back!”

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28 thoughts on “Star Trek: Beyond

  1. Hey Tom! Will that’s a bit of a relief. Had heard some less than complementary things about this, but your favourable review counts for a lot in my book. Will get to this when I can find the time. Movie watching has been a bit of a luxury recently!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Mark! Well I stepped out of it in a better mood than I was anticiatping. Esp considering the pall Anton Yelchin’s untimely passing seems to have casted over the release. I found a lot to like about it, but you’re right the response has been sharply divided. I’d say for many it’s going to be just another sleight against the summer of 2016. :/

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    • I liked it a lot, that I have to say. There were a lot of things it could have done better but I felt the getting stranded on a foreign planet and splintering up into groups felt like a classic episode. “The one where they all get lost and find their way back to one another” sort of thing. Probably not enough for diehards but this time I actually got along with a Star Trek movie.


  2. I liked this one more than I thought I would, and I liked the previous two quite a bit. This one was probably the most enjoyable and straightforward of the three so I’m looking forward to the fourth. Very sad that Anton Yelchin won’t be a part of it.

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    • I’ve been hit and miss with them all but I found more to like about this one than previous outings. I’m not a Trekkie or anything like that but I can see why this new age stuff is upsetting to diehard fans. It really is a generic reboot with a high value placed on name brand recognition, rather than the actual material that made the series and the old movies so iconic. I find that ironic but it seems to happen with every major movie made these days


  3. Man, it seems this movie is better than I was expecting. The trailers left a lot to be desired, and I was so worried because I really enjoyed the previous installments of this reboot franchise. Probably still won’t rush out to see it, but will definitely get to it as soon as it is released on DVD/Blu Ray.

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    • I have a hit-and-miss relationship with this series, so really this could have gone either way! 🙂 Sometimes that’s not such a good thing but it turned out to work in my favor here. 🙂 Hope you enjoy it if you do see it Zoe

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  4. I was largely unimpressed. Lots of action but little else to distinguish this from any generic space action movie. There was the Beastie Boys song. That was unexpected. I liked the scene where Bones and Spock are separated together on that planet after Krall’s attack. More of that, please, and less conventional action sequences.

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    • You have legitimate gripes. Some parts of this movie I thought I was going to roll my eyes out of my skull. But I actually found at least one or two of the main action pieces really compelling; namely the first time Krall attacks and the climactic battle. Ultimately the way they’re dressed up was what won me over; look at the difference in the effects in this movie and Independence Day: Resurgence lol


  5. Nice one, man. I too got a kick out of this one and I liked that they kept the story grounded in one location (mostly). It was at least something different from the first two. It’s been a solid franchise so far, though, so that’s cool!

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    • I’ve been less enthusiastic about it, cuz I see where it could be really great and most of the time, even since ’09, it has preferred going safer, more predictable routes instead of “going where no man has gone before” so I kind of find it ironic but your’e totally right — there’s a lot of fun to be had with these films, and this cast is just too damn likable to ignore. I also have consistently been impressed with the visual aspect which is obviously pretty key in a series like this. One of the good things that’s come out of the reboot that’s for sure

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    • Hi there Stranger! 😀 The Anton Yelchin thing is definitely sad. I can’t believe that all went down, life is f***ed sometimes.

      I ended up liking this quite a bit but I’m no Trekkie or anything, but even still I was put off a little by how little new or inspired this had to say. I’ll keep my eye out for your take on it

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  6. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, especially given that ‘Into Darkness’ irked me no end. That said, at least Abrams annoying lens flares didn’t give me a sense of vertigo as Lin’s spiraling camera views did — just because you can to do this digitally doesn’t mean you should, Justin. In my humble opinion, of course.😉

    Fine review, Tom.

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    • Why thanks, Michael. 🙂 I don’t remember much of Into Darkness outside of Cumberbatch’s presence; but I just looked back at my review and I apparently gave it the same score as this, so I gotta go back and see what’s up with that other one. I’ve seen other people mention its flaws but from what I recall it was a pretty solid (still generic) action installment

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    • Yeah man, Anton Yelchin is such an incredible thing man. Very sudden loss and a sad one indeed. Enjoy this movie if and when u get to it

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  7. Nice review Tom. I saw this yesterday and quite enjoyed it, but I totally know what you mean. It’s an exercise in water-treading, and now that we’re three films into this rebooted franchise it’s a shame that it isn’t actually going anywhere…it’s just not moving toward something. But fun in and of itself, and I thought bits of it (particularly on the rocky planet) harkened back to the old TV series quite well.

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    • That’s where I kind of lack some perspective; I haven’t seen many of the earlier episodes of the show at all. One or two for certain but I’m not sure which. I guess you could say i am a relative late-bloomer bc I do like what they are going for each and every time here but I will agree with the sentiment that’s going round that it does start feeling more like a Marvel feel-good kind of event film — not necessarily the worst thing you can be, mind you but there’s this sense of genericness that I can’t imagine diehard Trekkies are all too pleased about.

      But this is definitely fun enough. I loved the mega attack sequence. That shit was dramatic


      • Yeah that was excellent – despite the fact you know no-one important is going to die and they’ll all be OK somehow it was still very well done. I’m not all that up on Star Trek either…I’ve seen a few shows here and there over the years, but don’t think I’ve seen all of the films.

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  8. Well stated as always. I believe we are more or less in agreement, with be probably liking a bit more than you. I did find this fresh, with the original villain and new character, but the plot is MacGuffan reliant for most, if not all, of its runtime. RIP Anton Yelchin, gone too soon.

    At the end of the day though, I’m just so happy that we finally have a GOOD to VERY GOOD blockbuster. Been a minute since Civil War, which feels like ages ago.


    • I liked it. But yeah the plot is really macguffin-heavy as you say, and there’s just too many pedestrian things that go on here, persisting really since the 2009 film, for me to fully embrace this as an amazing adaptation. It’s definitely tragic about Anton Yelchin. Such a loss, such a talent.

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