It’s coming up to 50th Anniversary of Star Trek and after so many years it becomes hard to define exactly what the fiction means to any one person. For many Star Trek is about exploration and deep science fiction dilemmas and yet for others, it was the joke about the nerd in the room. This was of course until JJ Abrams made it cool again. Taking the loveable characters from the original series and casting new actors, moving away from the sci-fi and more towards the adventure akin to Star Wars. While these newer movies have felt fresh they haven’t exactly set the world on fire especially for older fans. This being especially true of Star Trek: Into Darkness. The good news is Star Trek Beyond is a more confident and interesting film than its predecessor. The not so good news it still is very familiar territory. Find out whether it works this time in our review.
Three years into the five-year mission, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself questioning his role on the USS Enterprise. While a promotion to Admiral is considered he is sent on a search and rescue mission for a small crew of scientists. When they arrive at their last location the ship is attacked and a number of the crew taken prisoner. The remaining members of the Enterprise must find out who attacked them and what and who is keeping them on this unexplored planet.
The world of Star Trek Beyond is instantly familiar and comfortable. This idea is both a good and a bad thing on different levels. The most obvious thing is a natural chemistry that exists between the returning cast. From Chris Pine as Captain Kirk down, there is a natural rhythm whether it be humour or emotional beats and even if everything else was terrible this would be something to watch. It’s a little bittersweet too in light of the untimely demise of Anton Yelchin who reprises his role as Chekov here.
There are those who were disappointed by Star Trek: Into Darkness and its somewhat generic plot and cheap twists will find that Star Trek Beyond a far deeper and more interesting experience. The reveal of who our bad guy truly is, is far more compelling than in previous movies. Also the usual dynamic of relationship and their respective conflicts is mixed up to pleasant results. Kirk/Chekov, Bones/ Spock and even Sulu/ Uhura. Even Kirk’s need to find fulfillment away from the Enterprise/away from the legacy of his father feels well thought out. His emptiness and lack of purpose seems at first surprising and may even be something that drives further movies.
Newer cast members fit in nicely here and most of the attention will be given to the delightfully wicked Idris Elba as Krall but untrusting Jaylah as played by Sofia Boutella is also an asset.
Despite what works so well here there are some things that Star Trek Beyond doesn’t endeavour to change whatsoever. Those old school fans longing for a return to the more cerebral science fiction will have to remain still disappointed. This is still more the adventurous tone and while I have no personal problems with it, it still isn’t’ going to win back old fans. In fact, there is a strong undercurrent of we know what works and we don’t have any real desire to change. Stale it isn’t but there is nothing ground-breaking here either.
My problems with Star Trek Beyond bear a striking resemblance to problems created in previous movies and continued with this one. There is a frenetic quality to the way in which JJ Abrams shot the previous films and Justin Lin continues this in his debut for the franchise. It’s a chaotic space combat that is presented with lasers and explosion and with little sense of coherence. Surely Justin Lin who can focus so meticulously on the beauty of a car could do the same for Federation class space ships. He chooses not to.
Generally, there also appears to be some questionable visual effects here, some creatures looking particularly fake. The opening scene where Kirk negotiates with a hostile alien race has some of the worst creature design and effects I have seen in a blockbuster for a while.
There is a number of things that offset the problem, firstly there is an exciting story being told so you tolerate the visual mess. Secondly and more importantly most of the problems are limited to space combat and this is not a film about the ships but the crew. This is a movie set more on land than in space and the film seems the more likable for it.
Star Trek Beyond Review Cheat Sheet:
The reality is Star Trek Beyond is entertaining, solid and fun. It doesn’t exactly feel like anything fresh or new in the world of the JJ Abrams Trek Universe but that isn’t exactly a slight against the movie. Moving away from the Enterprise, focusing on different relationship dynamics and a deeper mystery to unravel make Star Trek Beyond at least a worthy addition to the franchise.
+ Strong Returning cast
+ Deeper story with more interesting dynamics.
+ New cast members fit in well.
– Frantic visuals.
– Occasional Bad Effects