James T Kirk

Stark Trek Beyond is a peculiar movie. A cursory glance of the screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung would seem to have all the makings of a great adventure for the Enterprise crew. The problem, however, is that it is missing a certain level of intellectual gravitas that long-time fans of Gene Roddenberry’s creation have come to expect.

J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise in 2009 and then followed that up with the solid Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. Both movies pushed the creative pendulum more towards an action-oriented audience, but Beyond seems to fully embrace the “mindless summer fun” designation. Director Justin Lin of Fast & Furious 6 fame is happy to oblige, which is either horrible or great news depending on your allegiance to Mr. Roddenberry’s original vision.

Here is what you need to know about Beyond:

  • Chris Pine as Captain Kirk; Zachary Quinto as Spock; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura; and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov all look comfortable in their roles. Everyone has at least a brief moment to shine, and most of the humor hits the mark. The crew is scattered across a planet far out of reach of the United Federation of Planets, which allows for character development between Bones and Spock that should pay off in future movies.
  • Sofia Boutella is convincing and entertaining as Jaylah, a warrior who lives alone on a deserted Starfleet ship. There is one problem: She seems in many ways like a knockoff of Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Simon Pegg may deny lifting aspects of Rey from J.J. Abrams while on set filming his role as junk parts dealer Unkar Plutt, but the similarities are a bit too convenient (i.e., young, fiercely independent woman who lost her parents is great with mechanical devices and a staff. She is also intelligent, witty, and quick on her feet.)
  •   Idris Elba does a fine job with the script he was given as the villain Krall, who is after an ancient artifact in Kirk’s possession for reasons unknown for most of the movie. Elba’s problem, however, is that the character is underdeveloped. For the most of the movie he remains an enigma, and by the time his true nature it is revealed the audience reaction isn’t shock and awe, but, “Sure. I guess. You could have disclosed all this in the first act and then spent the rest of the movie making him a better foil.”
  • The Beastie Boys. I say this as someone who grew up in the 90s and has nothing but love for the song Sabotage: “Why, Simon Pegg? Why?” I do not want to spoil anything in the main body of this review, but I will gladly talk about the song’s role in the comments section below.

Is Beyond worth seeing in the theater at full price? The short answer is yes. It is by no means a bad movie, but at the same time it will be a bit frustrating to fans who expect something a tad more cerebral from their Star Trek fare.

This third installment of the rebooted franchise is the weakest in terms of exploring philosophical conundrums, and as a result the movie suffers. It is an enjoyable film, but it is not something that would capture Spock’s interest for longer than five seconds. That seems like a significant failure to this blogger.

Jaylah

Did you see Star Trek Beyond? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below. I’d love the hear what you have to say.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

12 comments

  1. I loved the movie. Despite my utter distaste for Simon Pegg’s behaviour and the fact that he’s another comedi-tool for the left, this was a great script. Not near perfect, but enjoyable and carrying quite a bit of heart.

    The intellectual theme in Star Trek has been a failure to bring to the big screen. It’s better off without it. The shows can do it, a general film audience doesn’t want it’s time wasted. The best Trek movies so far have been the ‘dumb’ ones. Yes, even Wrath of Khan…I mean especially Wrath of Khan. It’s the movie’s heart that sells it, and Justin Lin was going for that in this movie while also blowing everything up in big action sequences.

    I know your not a big Trek guy, but a lot of trekkies are less interested in actual intellectual engagement and more interested in appearing more intellectual. This is by far the smartest ‘nu-trek’ yet, if for just not insulting our intelligence with interstellar transporters and destroying worlds with Raspberry syrup.

    The characters are much better here, I couldn’t stand JJ’s Kirk, and Spock seemed to change the definition of the Vulcan into a race of very angry people that pretend to lack emotion. Somehow they managed to return McCoy to prominence at Uhura’s expense without pissing off the SJW crowd…but I’m pretty sure it will happen soon.

    Looks like the gay family story with Sulu was really just an excuse to put him in a corner too,

    Jayleh was great, she’s an insertion of ‘I wish we had *insert badass girl* in this movie!!’ but she’s vulnerable and likable enough to make it work

    There’s a theme of Brexit and unity and liberal garbage in the film that made me laugh, including a not too subtle message of ‘military bad!’ ‘starfleet not military even though we meet every damned definition of a military!!!’ …really, it’s the perfect liberal future…we are armed to the teeth, blow up anyone that gets in our way and end up eliminating species that don’t see the world the way we do…but we are unarmed and come in peace…LOLOL.
    there are no conservatives and libertarians in the future..we peacefully murdered them. Live long and prosper!

    FDICC…finite diversity in a controlled combination

  2. The original series was sometimes character-driven drama, sometimes a message-oriented morality play, sometimes both.

    Today, kids are a big part of the audience, and science fiction movies are effects-driven, with the emphasis on fast-paced action. The new series has more in common with Indiana Jones or Fast & Furious than with Star Trek.

    Chris Pine would be OK in a flashback or a prequel, depicting Kirk’s early days as a newly commissioned, inexperienced ensign or lieutenant junior grade. But Star Fleet would have to be stupid to promote a reckless frat boy to naval captain (equivalent to army colonel) overnight, and then assign him to command a major ship.

    Chuck Haynes is right. The claim that Star Fleet is “not a military organization” is hypocritical. In the original series, and in the sequels and spin-offs, it was stated that their primary mission was exploration. But it was also clearly demonstrated (more than once) that they could, and did, serve as the Federation’s defense force when necessary.

    The movie’s message (such as it is) about “unity” may be intended as some kind of anti-Brexit moral. But I’m not sure if the film makers were really thinking even that deeply.

  3. I really like JJ Abrams and was mildly entertained with the Star Trek reboot.

    Then, I tried watching “Star Trek: Into Darkness”. By the time they arrested Khan and the had the umpteenth lens flare flash across the screen, I was done.

    Never had I ever turned off a Star Trek film while watching on TV before this.

    Despite the change in director (I actually liked how Justin Lin reinvigorated the F+F movies and legitimately turned them into a record breaking franchise), I can’t bring myself to watch this movie.

    I’m a big fan of the original Star Trek films and TNG. At their core were themes of friendship, duty, sacrifice, and space exploration. And, they also knew when not to take themselves seriously.

    These new films eschew most of those themes in favor of big CG effects and idiotic dialogue by characters who haven’t truly won the audience over.

    The distinct advantage the older Star Trek films had was being able to mine ideas from their respective TV shows, using well known characters with personalities fans had grown to love.

    The new Trek films contain characters that are mostly pale imitations of the originals. But, they expect us to feel for them because they look similar and their names remain the same.

    No thanks. I’d rather watch Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. A film so hilariously bad, it’s good.

  4. It’s kind of like an episode of Voyager in it’s better seasons (not that Voyager had too many of those), it sort of breaks the toys, but glues everything back together and there’s little emphasis on the things we take for granted outside of that one moment they pay tribute to Nimoy’s memory.

    Anyone feel they missed an opportunity with the USS Franklin? I would love to see more of that ship.

    1. “It’s kind of like an episode of Voyager in it’s better seasons (not that Voyager had too many of those), it sort of breaks the toys, but glues everything back together and there’s little emphasis on the things we take for granted outside of that one moment they pay tribute to Nimoy’s memory.”

      I feel very much the same way. It felt like a glorified version of something you might see on television, which isn’t a good thing to say, given its $185 million budget.

      “Anyone feel they missed an opportunity with the USS Franklin? I would love to see more of that ship.”

      Maybe they’ll come up with a graphic novel on its final mission… 😉

  5. I took my gf opening weekend, and I agree with your assessment 100% Doug. The cast is good, the movie is mostly easygoing fun. But I find this new ST franchise to be not a lot more than gloss and flash. That’s can be enough sometimes for a sci-fi film, but I hold ST to a bit higher of a standard. I also found the Beastie Boys scene to be rather cringe-inducing, though they wrung some laughs out of it.
    I also liked Jaylah a lot more than Rey in Force Awakens. The similarities are certainly there though, and that was the first thing I thought.
    I had been watching old episodes of TNG, still my favorite Trek incarnation, in the week up to this film coming out. Yes, they were cheesy at times or slow-moving, but they really captured the profundity of what Trek can be as a concept the best with that show, IMO.

    1. “I took my gf opening weekend, and I agree with your assessment 100% Doug. The cast is good, the movie is mostly easygoing fun. But I find this new ST franchise to be not a lot more than gloss and flash. That’s can be enough sometimes for a sci-fi film, but I hold ST to a bit higher of a standard. I also found the Beastie Boys scene to be rather cringe-inducing, though they wrung some laughs out of it.”

      I apologize for the delay in responding, Cheesedique. Yes, I think “gloss and flash” is a great way to put it… I was kind of surprised by Jeremy Jahn’s review. He gave the film glowing reviews and usually he is pretty good at diagnosing a flim’s problems.

      “I had been watching old episodes of TNG, still my favorite Trek incarnation, in the week up to this film coming out. Yes, they were cheesy at times or slow-moving, but they really captured the profundity of what Trek can be as a concept the best with that show, IMO.”

      Agreed. We’re definitely on the same page when it comes to TNG. 🙂 Are we about the same age? I’m 37.

    2. as a TV show it was good. To be honest, the cast was incredibly boring and lacked conflict. Which is just the way Gene Lucas…err I mean Roddenberry wanted it. The plots were good and saved the show for me. I loved Ro Laren, and the second to last episode where the overbearing Picard is sitting in his chair seething after Ro decides that some things are worth fighting for was great. ‘All good things’ is something JJ would have made. I don’t put that show in a pedestal, it’s good, but like these movies, not all that great.

      They tried to do TNG TV in a film: it’s called Insurrection…and though I personally actually liked the movie, no one remembers it. Theres only one good TNG film and it’s First Contact and it’s full of holes too.

      Sorry I like the new movie. I like the characters and the idea that the movie should have been some kind of slow intellectual masterpiece a la 2001 just makes me laugh.

  6. The Sulu thing was moderately low-key.

    It was a little odd for Simon Pegg to portray Scottie as a comical wimp, if you know that Jim Doohan was an actual WW II RAF fighter pilot who could have killed Bill Shatner with just his hands (and probably wanted to!). But given that this is an alt-u ST, it worked, I thought.

    SEMI-SPOILER: I don’t think the film explained how the villain, at the climax, was able to revert himself back to something close to his true physical form, did they? He just suddenly was [insert actor’s name].

    I would say Krall had more of the true spirit of Khan than Khan from “Into Darkness.”

    Karl Urban did a great job. McCoy tends to get shortchanged in these movies.

    Even Spock laughing at McCoy’s comment was okay, I thought, since Spock was under so much physical duress; and these movies have made it clear that this is an alt-u Spock as well. I wonder how far they can go with these alt-u changes, before the characters start changing too much.

  7. Hey, a little late to the party, but whatever.

    I really hated the original two reboot movies, largely because I didn’t like the new tones and themes that they used, changing the franchise into something different. The canon changes and discrepancies were also very annoying.

    However, this one, I think, worked. The characters felt much more in line with the TV show personas. They also felt more like real people, wondering about their place in life and trying to figure out where they go from here. (It’s a little perfunctory, but I did find mrather than distancing themselves from the roots of the franchise, they embraced them, with the ENT era providing a great deal of backstory (and, amazingly, it fits 99% with the original canon, and even the last 1% can be easily fudged). Also, I think the action was “smarter.” Instead of just going for the big explosions, we got to see the characters using cunning in their tactics (this is Captain Kirk, after all). It’s not a thinking piece, but I think it captured the stuff that made me a “Star Trek” fan in the first place; the characters and interesting places they visit and the problems they have to solve.

    So, is it as good as the prime universe Trek (TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT, and the first ten movies). No, but, for the first time in the reboot series, it feels like something that’s trying to stand alongside them, not supplant them. Time will tell if movie four will continue this promising trend, or revert back to the flawed premises of the original two reboot movies.

    Out of curiosity, Doug, what did you find off about the use of the Beastie Boys song in the movie? (That hasn’t come up yet, and you got me really curious.)

    Some random stuff:

    – I don’t think Jeylah and Star Wars’s Rey had that much in common, beyond the coincidence of them both trying to fix an old starship (and even that was for very different reasons). They may be a similar archetype (the scrappy survivor), but they have different personalities. I did like both characters (Rey more), though. (Also nice that they didn’t try to stuff a love story into the mix, too.)

    – Considering how much flack the idea of Sulu being gay (despite the fact that prime Sulu is not) cause, it’s really funny that it’s so muted in the final film. In fact, you cannot canonically prove that the Abramsverse Sulu is gay! (Also, I was on some Trek boards where there was a lot of discussion about Pegg’s comments about a new time travel model for the movies, which was inconsistent with the franchise and previous movies without the right circumstances. That also was not relevant to the movie either!)

    – FYI: Starlet has never been a military. ENT showed its roots are not military (the MACOs, as mentioned in this movie, filled that role). We have confirmation of that in “Peak Performance” (TNG), too. (It does act as a defense line in times of war, but that is not its reason of existence.)

    – Spoiler about Krall (why he suddenly turned human at the end): They mentioned that he and the other two Franklin survivors found an essence transfer machine with all the other leftover tech they wanted to use for their war. They used that to extend their lives (we see him using it on two prisoners after re-capturing Sulu and Uhura). As a side effect, the user gets mutated and absorbs some of the DNA of their victims (hence why Krall, the officer that Jeylah killed, and the woman who tricked the crew in the first place, turned alien). When he began absorbing humans again, Krall was getting dosed with human DNA, and so began looking more human again.

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