Star Trek Beyond, directed by Justin Lin, is a perfect balancing of elements that made the classic Star Trek properties so popular, and the elements that now make-up the J.J. Abrams Universe (better known as the Kelvin timeline). With a story that actually has you intrigued, characters with actual meaning, and an overall clear direction, makes for a Star Trek film worth your attention. But… not everything is as you’d perhaps want it to be. Let’s fully explore all of the parts, which make up this film. Let the review commence.
In Star Trek Beyond the crew is pulled into what seems like a simple rescue mission. However, upon arrival at the coordinates, the Enterprise is attacked by an unknown swarm of enemies and left crippled beyond repair and with the crew stranded upon an unknown planet. The crew must now utilise all of their expertise and the technology at their disposal, to escape imprisonment/capture. If they don’t, an unexpected threat will not only see them all dead, but also the entirety of Starfleet.
One of the most important elements to any Star Trek film is its characters. Star Trek Beyond continues to deliver a great cast of characters, with some really great performances. What this film gets right, that I think the other two didn’t, is that it gives meaningful roles to all of the characters. With everyone being stranded on this unknown planet, it means that they all have specific tasks that they need to do. Having everyone feel involved and playing a part, aids the ensemble nature of the film. It isn’t just Kirk who does everything, while everyone else hangs out on the ship. Bones and Spock – played by Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto – search desperately for other crew members, Kirk and Chekov – played by Chris Pine and the late Anton Yelchin – seek the McGuffin that played a part in stranding them, Scotty and Jaylah (an alien he encounters on the planet) – played by Simon Pegg and Sofia Boutella – attempt to repair a crashed ship, in the hopes of getting off the planet, while Uhura and Sulu – played by Zoe Saldana and John Cho – attempt to escape a prison camp and get a distress call out. Everyone has their role and everyone feels like an important part to the story.
But beyond (no pun intended, I promise) the large roles the characters all play in the main plot, there are the smaller, interpersonal relationships between everyone on the crew. The film does a really good job of setting these up early on, and then has them play-out well through-out the film. I feel more than the previous two films, this one really grounds the characters and has them feel much more linked and like an actual crew of people who have been traveling the galaxy together for a long time. This then aids the film going forward, having all the characters not only work together towards a common goal, but also have them feel like a family, makes for a film with characters who feel real and involved with one another. It all really helps to strengthen the character angle of the film.
So what about the performances: well as usual everyone delivers… except Zachary Quinto (Spock). I’ve never felt that Quinto really understood the tone of the character. He’s either to serious or is wildly emotional, and he always seems to fall on the wrong side of that spectrum, no matter the scene. But what I think is the largest issue with Quinto’s portrayal is the total lack of chemistry between Kirk and Spock – some of the blame can of course also be put on Chris Pine – but Pine works well with everyone else in the cast, whereas Quinto’s Spock doesn’t. The only relationship that works is the one between Spock and Bones, who bounce off one another greatly. Their banter is always laugh-inducing, and there is an almost brotherly connection between the two.
In fact Karl Urban’s performance as Bones is without a doubt the best in the film/overall trilogy of films. He both has the witty retorts and also the emotion in the more dramatic of moments. He bounces of Spock well but he also has that perfect chemistry with Kirk, which was also so prevalent in the original series/films.
In summary of the characters, Star Trek Beyond continues to do its characters a great service. While we didn’t get to the deep levels of development that I perhaps would have liked, we still get a lot of fun, endearing moments with them all.
So what about the films antagonist? Well… I was surprised by the journey of the films villain. Krall – played by Idris Elba – went from a pretty simple, bland bad-guy, whose motivations were poorly developed, and whose plan was pretty by the numbers… that is until. There is a moment of revelation in the film that completely upends the dynamic of the character. It is one I absolutely did not see coming and when it happened, my opinion of the character completely changed (for the better). It’s incredible how one little bit of information about the character was able to flesh him out in a way, that made him all the more compelling and sympathetic. Unlike the awful reveal in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’, of who Benedict Cumberbatch’s character actually was (he was Khan by the way, I know, who’d have thought), the reveal in Star Trek Beyond is surprising and crucial to the development of Krall as a meaningful character.
So what about the story? Well I’m confident in saying that Star Trek Beyond is the first film in quite some time that feels the closest to an actual episode of Star Trek. Think of this as a bigger budget, extended episode; the path that the crew take in this film, the events that unfold, almost feel like you’re watching a fun episode of Star Trek. It of course doesn’t fully nail it, but it does come the closest. If going forward, the other Star Trek films can do this, and perhaps do it to an ever greater degree… well then; we might get something really special.
One of the things that’s certainly more prevalent in this new interpretation of Star Trek, is the action. Star Trek Beyond continues with big spectacle action pieces, and I have to say, a lot of them are really well done. In particular is the attack and subsequent destruction of The Enterprise. It is a scene that is paced out really well and is certainly exciting to watch. But something that’s strange about the action in this film is how sometimes it is really well done; it’s easy to follow and you feel like you understand the geography of it all, and other times the action is incomprehensible and really difficult to follow. An example is when there is a chase/shoot-out happening on the crashed saucer section of the Enterprise – the whole scene takes place at night and it means that not only are you unsure of what is properly happening, but you also don’t know where any one is in relation to one another or where they’re going. It was odd to sometimes be really entertained by the action set-pieces in the film and at other times be completely disconnected from any interaction with the scene. Now the lack of consistency didn’t ruin my overall experience of the film – as some of the big moments in the film (the finale for sure) really make for a fun watch.
Something that I got a lot from in this film, were the references and nods to other Star Trek properties. You can tell that this film was written by, and handled by people who understand and enjoy Star Trek – primarily Simon Pegg, Doug Jung and Justin Lin. Whether it was a reference to the Xindi, or a shot that was reminiscent of a previous scene in Star Trek – the one that comes to mind is the similarities to the Enterprise crashing in, ‘The Search for Spock’ and when the Enterprise is falling through the atmosphere in this film. It then transitions from being reminiscent of that scene to then being reminiscent of the crashing of the saucer section of the Enterprise-D, in ‘Star Trek Generations’. But that’s only one example of that, there are many more. Yes, Star Trek Beyond is laden with little nods to other Star Trek films/TV shows, but the best part about how they are handled, is that not knowing they are references, in no way lessens you experience of the film. The two people I saw the film with don’t have any real knowledge of other Star Trek properties, and they never complained or felt like they were left out of the loop when watching the film. Some films (that have a huge nerdy factor to them) sometimes force in references that make no real sense in the context of the overall film, yet expect people to understand (*cough* Batman v Superman *cough*) and Star Trek Beyond doesn’t ever do that.
So in closing, not only is Star Trek Beyond the sequel the 2009 film deserved, it is also the most Star Treky feeling film. I really enjoyed my time with this film; I laughed, I was engaged and I was surprised.
I will happily recommend Star Trek Beyond. After the mess that was ‘Into Darkness’ this is thankfully a great return to form for Star Trek.
Side-note: If you’re interested, I listed all of the previous Star Trek films from worst to best. You can check that out, by clicking on the link here.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Star Trek Beyond! Feel free to leave any thoughts on the film or this review, in the comments down below. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on my other ramblings, you can either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read my work, I really do appreciate it.