Review: “Star Trek Beyond” – There and Back Again

Written by Matt Butler July 25, 2016

star-trek-beyond-trailer-screengrab-59Remember back in December when the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond landed, the one with the Beastie Boys’ song? Remember how most everyone flipped out and called the film a sellout, months before its release? It’s times like this that I have trouble understanding fandoms. They come off to me like a bunch of whiny children who only want to see the same crap they’ve seen before (just to be clear, I’m not knocking Trekkies, I’m knocking all fandoms, so it’s okay). Sure, Sabotage is a weird song choice for Star Trek -even though kid Kirk did blast that same song while joyriding in the 2009 film- but I wonder if Trekkies even understand their own movies. I mean, did they see the first two? We can all complain that J.J. Abrams took Star Trek and turned it into action schlock, just don’t act like Beyond is the first strike. But truth be told, even though Beyond has Justin Lin in the captain’s chair (director of Fast and Furious 7-Whatever), Beyond is the slowest and trekkiest of the trilogy. But as far as it travels beyond the reach of Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, Beyond still returns to the same tired conflict, climax and conclusion.

In any other situation, I’d be pretty indifferent to this type of repetition, but not here. The Star Trek reboot series, for all its big dumbness, is still legit fun, and the way Beyond opens, you’re convinced the fun isn’t over. We find Kirk (Chris Pine) standing before a council of frog-goblin alien things, attempting to form a kind of treaty by way of a small trinket. We get the above/below perspective shots to show the frog-goblins standing atop 50-foot podiums are the party in command. But when their leader bounds down to Kirk’s level, he’s revealed to be the size of a guinea pig. They don’t attack with size, they attack in numbers. This is the funniest and cleverest part of Beyond, and it hardly has to do with anything. It’s an offhand Indiana Jonesian adventure that sets the tone for Beyond as the comedic entry in the series. Apart from a few stunning visuals, the comedy is what sells this movie. Better yet, it’s a comedy formed between character relations. Star Trek has always been about the unity of race, culture, and species, and as always we feel that unity in the cast, especially between Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). Looking at the 2009 film, it’s clear a dynamic between Kirk and Spock was more appropriate, and central to introducing the characters’ polarity, but that was a more dramatic story. Beyond calls for a lot more levity, so pairing Spock with Bones is entirely logical.star trek beyond

“To use a parlance with which you would be familiar, Doctor, I have just confirmed that theory to be horse-shit.”

Something I did not find logical rests in the plot (as is the norm with this trilogy). So the Enterprise receives a distress call that turns out to be a trap, leading to the Enterprise’s destruction and the entire crew’s stranding on a foreign planet. It’s only with the help of Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who just happens to come upon Scotty (Simon Pegg), and just happens to live inside a beat-down Federation ship, that the crew is able to fly home. Shouldn’t be too hard to see that my issue with this is convenience. It’s the same kind of coincidence as in the 2009 film, when Kirk lands on the totally-not-Hoth planet only to come across Old Spock, and later only to come across Scotty, who just happens to possess technology capable of teleporting Kirk back aboard the Enterprise. It’s not nearly as coincidental, yes, but for a reboot film that finally sinks its teeth into some real sci-fi jargon, why do we have to fall back on old lazy habits?

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And that’s the big issue with this movie. Beyond seeks out new life and new civilizations, but at the end, returns to the same-old same-old. We get another delusional villain, Krall (Idris Elba) out for vengeance against the Federation, and another Earth-like city nearly destroyed in the climax. It’s a new means to the same ends, a story stuck halfway between the old and the new. I agree with the critic’s consensus that this is, in the best sense, an extended Star Trek episode, but it’s hardly an exciting movie, especially this far into the series.

We will find hope in the impossible.

Star Trek Beyond splits me down the middle. I couldn’t help missing Dan Mindel’s cinematography, but everything else that was great about the reboots so far is still present in Beyond. Unfortunately, so are the things we could live without, like the lacklustre plotting, and predictable climaxes. Star Trek Beyond goes boldly in the right direction, but somewhere along the way, it veers down the same route we’ve gone before.

My Rating: 6/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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