Star Trek Beyond Movie Review
Beam me up, Montgomery Scotty, because Star Trek Beyond is an entertaining, fun and fast-paced action-adventure that offers a welcome reprieve from a pitifully bland summer movie season. The most Trek-esque Star Trek movie since well before the franchise was rebooted in 2009, Beyond takes the best of what J.J. Abrams injected into the series--top-flight visual effects and lively action--while presenting a more classic Trek story of exploration and new alien species.
Star Trek Beyond looks a lot like the previous two Star Trek entries, with grand visual effects and an ever-moving camera that still seems to be trying to shake the vibe of the older films and TV series. Once again, the film seeks a delicate balance--between catering to a diehard fan base that is capable of sinking a stinker if they so choose and appealing to broader audiences who simply want to have a good time. Unlike the disappointing-and-sometimes-infuriating Star Trek Into Darkness, Beyond maintains that balance much more often than not.
Fast Five director Justin Lin seems like an unlikely choice to take the franchise back to its roots, but he pulls things off surprisingly well. Even though we’ve seen the Enterprise get destroyed so many times now it’s much ado about nothing, Lin delivers an intricate and heart-pounding sequence as Captain Kirk (Chris Evans), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew barely survive. Several other action sequences are also quite exciting, barely missing a beat in the transition from J.J. Abrams.
The story isn’t particularly memorable, but after the silly-serious, Earth-based plotting of Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond beams up a perfectly decent one, a fast-paced but slightly more thoughtful tale that does remind you a bit more of the various TV series. A voice-over sequence where Kirk discusses the challenges of being in deep space for over three years is one of the best moments of the rebooted franchise, and Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung manage to insert enough of this kind of thing throughout without messing with the film’s overall pace or tone.
Star Trek Beyond still offers a fair amount of humor--some of the jokes work, some don’t. The dialogue is a bit choppy in places, but overall consistent with past efforts. The movie is still a bit haphazard with character developments and plot points at times--newcomer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a nice addition, but is really just a female alien who can kick butt (why do aliens fight the exact same way humans do?) without much depth otherwise. And the villain Krall (Idris Elba)... more on him in a minute.
One of the most “controversial” aspects of the film will be the use of a Beastie Boys song. You’re either going to love it for being a “fun, screw-it” moment or you’ll roll your eyes in agony at how stupid its use is. I waffle, because it was fun in the moment but I expect it to be head-shake-inducing on future viewings. Granted, this new breed of Star Trek films has suffered from a variety of fun-but-stupid stuff that shouldn’t work but still does, at least sort of.
In a traditional sense, Star Trek Beyond’s biggest weakness is its villain. Elba is a terrific actor, but stuck behind a plastic-surgery-gone-wrong mask the entire movie and forced to say a lot of one-liners, his villain won’t stand among Trek’s greats. But more importantly, the movie does not do a good job of developing him or even explaining what he is or why he is. There’s maybe one sentence that tries to explain what happened, but it’s not enough. When the climax comes about, it was hard to get too worked up about the guy.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t perfect and a few moments will surely piss off some moviegoers, but the movie is a blast of a good time if you allow it to be and one of the better summer blockbusters this year. It’s not quite as good as Abrams’ 2009 reboot, but it’s a much more worthy successor than Into Darkness ever was.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.