It seems like every couple of years an executive at Paramount Studios looks over the books, sees that they are a few hundred million dollars light of easy money, and then proceeds to green light another Star Trek movie. That is about as passionless all of these modern day Star Trek movies have felt. Top that off with franchise janitor extraordinaire J.J. Abrams and his cadre of Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof, and you are guaranteed some success at the box office.
Nevertheless, it is in that Abramsization that a lot of the soul of the Star Trek series was washed away in lieu of a glossy sheen, vacuous scripts, weak villains and lots and lots and lots of lens flare. Star Trek Beyond attempts to transcend that with a new director Justin Lin and a script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, and it largely succeeds.
Gone is the egregious lens flare, the extreme close ups of peoples faces for no real reason, the glossiness of the future is toned down, and there’s actual Star Trek in a Star Trek movie instead of a bland action movie dancing around in a skin of stitched together Star Trek tropes and the other (better) movie plots stealing nonsense.
In addition, no Spock ex machina to be found! Hooray!Sadly, it all seems a bit too little too late, as aside from what was stated earlier, there’s largely nothing here on display either. Star Trek Beyond is the kind of summer movie that you see and then as you’re walking out of the theater is slowly leaves your brain. Therefore, when you decide to reflect on it, or hell, even try to recommend it to someone, there’s nothing noteworthy to say about it. Which is great for a movie in the summertime, but not so much if you’re a Trek fan?
However, that’s been the issue with this entire crop of modern day Star Trek movies, they’re largely empty affairs that are only meant to keep the Star Trek franchise name relevant and nothing more.
If you’re the kind of Star Trek fan that loves masturbatory shots of the Enterprise, you’ll find much to love about Beyond, as there are several shots lovingly draped around the ship as it docks, and later on, rebuilt. There’s also a fair amount of space action, but it’s largely one-sided affairs with the villain possessing a hive-like swarm of ships at his command that are meant to overwhelm and destroy, not hang out and chit-chat with humans.
The acting continues to be the strongest part of this franchise as by now all the actors have their parts down, and what I suspect a lttle nuance, with Chris Pine affecting a little Shatner in his captain logs. Keith Urban’s accent is still a little all over the map, and I swore I heard him try a little southern in an end scene. Idris Elba falls in to the age’s long Star Trek trap of trying to act around a lot of makeup and mouth prostheses that make his lines indiscernible at times.Elba is fairly standard as the movies antagonist, Krall, an entity bent on destroying Starfleet Academy for betraying him long ago. His primary point in the plot is to serve as a duality with Captain Kirk’s own burgeoning dissolution in the idea of his five-year captaining of the mission he is currently on. Days are blurring together, the alien races are unfriendly to the notion of Starfleet’s goal of planetary unity and he decides to apply for a vice admiral opening. This even goes to the hilarious symbolic heights of an end fight between Kirk and Krall who is wearing a yellow uniform top. This would be something worth knocking the film for had the last film not had that ham-handed Kahn scene.
At a little over two hours, Beyond moves at a good clip, but still maintains its Star Trekyness in a sort of shorthand. Beautiful actresses in alien makeup, some macguffin that will do cataclysmic damage to something important, Captain Kirk self-sacrifice nonsense, Spock wet blanketing, Bones curmudgeon grumbling through scenes, Scotty bungling through cramped spaces, you get the idea. Nevertheless, that it stays compelling and not bog down the film is a credit to Justin Lin’s deft hand at directing.
I do hope that Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have a bigger hand in the scripts going forward, which looks to not be the case currently. Pegg and Jung were able to sprinkle just a little more Star Trek in to the modern day franchise that has been sorely lacking.
The more tired elements of the film are more a modern day movies problem than the films. Too many movie fights are the same tired martial arts laden affairs that are just there to provide “action” or make a character look “badass” or some other nonsense that fits poorly in the Star Trek franchise. Sulu is given more “dimensionality” by being gay now, which is somewhat useless and serves no real plot point. It perhaps giving the film stakes as his family lives on the station that Krall is going to destroy isn’t bothered with or even mentioned by the character. Just a picture of a little girl on the console and a couple of shots of Sulu’s husband running around looking scared as it is beset by Krall’s minions is it.In fact, a lot of the drama and deeper plot elements set forth in the first moments of the film are quickly jettisoned in favor of the main thrust of Krall’s plan and the action therein, never to be heard from again. Perhaps the next movie will pick those up for further examination? Probably not.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t nearly as flashy as its predecessors are, but it’s certainly just as entertaining in addition to being much more of a “Star Trek” movie. Justin Lin is proving to be a fantastic director with an ability to bring a clean action movie aesthetic (ridding the modern day Star Trek franchise of it’s glossy extreme close-ups and nausea educing shaky cam action), and still allow quieter moments to resonate in the film. Here’s to another three-year wait for the inevitable sequel.