I’m not a huge Star Trek fan personally. I was always rather indifferent to the series (even though I admittedly quite love The Wrath of Khan) but when the series hits its highest points, it’s usually rather interesting what pops out. With Star Trek Beyond I was admittedly rather skeptical because I was not particularly fond of J. J. Abrams’s takes on the series and now with Justin Lin behind the camera, there were only two things that I could expect knowing that a radically different approach were going to be made with the series. Either it could go down the path to which Lin chose to suit the Fast and the Furious films (which I’ve never been to fond of) and in turn head down a much worse route or bring a kick of energy to the franchise that could grab my interest. Thankfully, Star Trek Beyond leaned toward the latter, even if it suffers what the previous reboots suffered through at the same time.
J. J. Abrams’s approach to the Star Trek series, while they tried to capture something towards the original series at least stylistically, failed to bring something compelling script-wise. It seems as if the moment in which Simon Pegg (who also plays Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott) had taken over writing duties together with Doug Jung, there’s a dash of humour to be found given Pegg’s proficiency with comedy. Pegg’s script ultimately becomes the very best asset that Star Trek Beyond is relying upon, and substantially improves upon the bad taste to which Star Trek Into Darkness had left upon my mouth. Whether it comes from how Pegg works around the interactions between the main cast or the moments of humour to arise, the script is always ready to provide something entertaining.
Mixed together with Justin Lin’s eye for action and set pieces, there’s never a moment to which excitement is lacking because Lin’s direction keeps everything moving even at much slower scenes that establish the roots of the story. Lin balances out moments of action together with moments of exuberance, something which I had been waiting for long since The Wrath of Khan. It’s not something that lives all the way up to that height, but looking at what Justin Lin has managed to provide under his own eye compared to what J. J. Abrams offered, this new turn for the series feels rather refreshing. There’s an extent to which I find watching some of the original films can be a bit monotonous (another aspect about Abrams’s films that does bother me), but Lin gives the Star Trek series life all around.
Where at least Star Trek Beyond rises above the previous films it also suffers some of the most fatal flaws that bog down the prior reboots to a certain extent. One of the biggest ones that comes about is a weak villain, something that disappointed me with the radically different turn to which Justin Lin and Simon Pegg had been aiming for. While Krall is a threatening figure all throughout and is magnificently played by the wonderfully talented Idris Elba, the reveal behind his motif in the third act feels so rushed. The twist certainly was one thing that didn’t come by, but it also felt ineffective as Krall never had so much presence to create a villain who would leave so much of an impact on the overall product. If the series is set to continue in the future, my biggest hope is for them to fix such an issue because it really bogs down all the well-built tension that had arisen as it fell down so quickly then. Some of the paths are indeed predictable as is with the previous reboots, but never down to the point of monotony.
It was also touching that Star Trek Beyond had taken a moment to pay tribute to dedicated members whom have been lost before release. Anton Yelchin, who reprises his role as Pavel Chekov, passed away one month ago inside of a car accident and Leonard Nimoy, who famously played Spock for the original series, died a year before the release of Star Trek Beyond. There’s one moment in the film that also pays honour to the original crew, heightening the emotional resonance to which the film carries and Justin Lin in turn forms what also can work in some manner as an homage to what made the original series so beloved. When it came to paying a tribute to Anton Yelchin, Lin leaves a fitting farewell note for the victim of such an unexpected occurrence – something already hinted by the delivery of Chris Pine’s final lines in the film before the credits roll.
Star Trek Beyond is what I was waiting for with the series reboot from J. J. Abrams’s take on the series, and while it may not have reached the very heights of the Star Trek franchise – what is left behind is something satisfactory when it comes to recent blockbuster fare and quite surprisingly, it also leaves an emotional resonance when it acknowledges its lost crew members. After falling down to quite a low with Star Trek Into Darkness, what had came out from Star Trek Beyond is a good step forward to where the series needs to go in the future: always exciting and snappy then and there. Some of it could be done better, but what matters anymore after that, it was a fun ride and that’s all it really needed to be.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Paramount.
Directed by Justin Lin
Screenplay by Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, from the series by Gene Roddenberry
Produced by J. J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Lindsey Weber, Justin Lin
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 122 minutes
Good review. I agree with most of your points, particularly your criticism of the villain and his motivation. Trek films have been stuck in the vengeance seeking villain with the doomsday weapon since Generations and it’s become very tiresome.
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Thanks, I feel like it’s a recurring thing to occur with the Star Trek films unless it’s Wrath of Khan – something I wish that the films could really move away from.
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Me too. The other thing these other films miss is the sense of weight Wrath of Khan has. The film isn’t just about revenge, but also ageing, mortality, and failure. None of the other Trek revenge plots have been able to capture that level of depth.
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