Star Trek Beyond Guest Reviews

 

Star Trek Beyond

Synopsis

Stardate not given: Spoilers abound

Commentary

Star Wars Beyond.

Yep, you read it right. It may have our favourite characters (or pale carbon copies thereof), but when they said the original script was "too Star Trek-y", they fixed that. Other than the characters and the name of the ship, it's a generic high-action "sci-fi" movie. The characterisations were... OK, but the plots and storyline? Dumb generic blandness, and they even managed to make the Beastie Boys' Sabotage a plot point.

I may have put in a spoiler alert, but I can't spoil the movie any more than Pegg, Kurzman, Abrams and Lin did. The JJPrise is made short work of by the teeny-tiny alien buzz-saw ships, and the NX-0h0h Frakkin' must save the Yorkylon 5 station and with it the entire Federation from Idris Elba's Big Bad Alien (sorta). The non-stop action was confusing to watch, and while they got rid of the harsh over-lighting and lens flares on the Bridge, they forgot to actually light most of the attack on the JJPrise at all. The infernal combustion motocross bike apparently was on the Frakkin' for no adequately (or indeed even inadequately) mentioned reason, and is still fueled up and good to go in a story twist equal to the 1000 year old Harriers in Battlefield Earth. The Babylon 5 wannabe station is the most ill-designed piece of crap to be rejected by MC Escher, showing that someone's read too many copies of 2000AD.

Pure generic SF, but slapping Star Trek on it violates the Truth in Advertising concept.

Rating: 0 (Owen E. Oulton)

 

Star Trek Beyond

Synopsis

Stardate 2263: Synopsis in main Abramsverse listing

Commentary

Following the exhilarating reboot of 2009's Star Trek, the franchise was set for a bold new direction. Star Trek Into Darkness squandered that promise, relying on shallow rehashing of better material. Early trailers for Star Trek Beyond suggested that the latest movie would be more of the same; a fun sci-fi actioner, but with little of the spirit or thought of Trek. It's a huge relief that the finished product, although far from perfect, proves to be one of the best Star Trek features to date, balancing action and excitement with strange new worlds and a message of hope and unity.

The movie begins with an unexpectedly humorous scene, one that has, with its comical CG creatures, more in common with Star Wars than Star Trek. There's no denying the influence that Star Wars has had on the current version of Trek, and while this opening is very enjoyable (and genuinely funny), I'm glad that it soon settles down into more Trek-like territory. Three years into their five-year mission, the crew of the Enterprise have become a close-knit family, but Kirk is questioning his role within Starfleet. While it's gratifying that the script acknowledges both the tedium of a long voyage, and the strengths and strains of a crew living together for so long, it does fall a little hollow. We've jumped directly from the launch of the mission at the end of Into Darkness to questioning its worth, without seeing any of that mission. Kirk notes to himself that his life has become "episodic," and while that's a fun gag, it doesn't quite work without any actual episodes to to fill the gap.

Still, this is a better, nobler version of Kirk that we've previously seen in these films. Having finally gotten past his recklessness and irresponsibility - the lesson he learnt in both the previous films - Kirk is now wiser and more capable as a captain. However, with this new awareness has come a questioning of his role in life. As with his older self in the primary universe, Kirk is considering leaving shipboard action and taking a desk job, something we know he will come to regret. Much of this comes from his defining trait: his need to live up to his father's legacy. With the announcement that Chris Hemsworth has been signed to appear in the next movie, it's clear that this will continue to be a major part of the character. Chris Pine excels at portraying this more mature, more thoughtful version of Kirk.

It doesn't take long before the action kicks into high gear, with an astonishing sequence that leads the Enterprise to be torn apart by a fleet of "bees;" one-man fighter ships that rip through its hull and allow it to be boarded. Destroying the Enterprise is old hat now - this is, what, the fourth film to do that? - but by enacting it so early on, rather than as the climax, the dynamic of the story is changed. The Enterprise is a character in this movies, and her loss is felt keenly throughout. It brings another level of jeopardy and vulnerability to the characters, while splitting them up into small groups over an unknown planet gives us an interesting mix of interactions. Kirk is paired with Chekov for much of the action, allowing him to play the father figure to Pavel's young ensign. It's achingly sad to see Anton Yelchin playing the part, knowing how soon after he was killed. Obviously the creators of the film couldn't put anything in the script to commemorate him, in the way they so beautifully did for Leonard Nimoy, but there's a moment at the end, where Kirk mentions absent friends, that seems to linger on Chekov for a moment longer than everyone else.

Pairing Spock and McCoy is a stroke of genius; so obvious in hindsight, but the previous two instalments have failed to make the most of the fractious relationship between the two. Both Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are spot on in their roles, making the most of a script that plays up to fond memories of the characters without ever descending into parody. John Cho's Sulu and Zoe Saldana's Uhura don't get as much of the limelight as their co-stars, but each owns their scenes. The new aspect of Sulu's character - his same-sex relationship - is actually a very minor part of the story, but a very welcome one, although I do understand why George Takei disagrees with it. I'm equally pleased that, while Uhura and Spock's relationship is a part of their story, it is not the dominant part of that story.

The surprising standout team of the movie is Scotty and new addition Jaylah. There's the definite impression that, making the most of his script-writing duties, Simon Pegg has given himself most of the best lines. Scotty is on top form throughout the film, with Pegg giving his best performance in the role, and has great chemistry with Sofia Boutella. Jaylah is a revelation; she could have been nothing more than an ass-kicking alien, but Boutella brings great sympathy and depth to the character, as well as excelling at the ass-kicking. What's especially gratifying is that this attractive female alien has no romantic subplot, and Kirk doesn't once come on to her. Another cast member worthy of special mention is Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Persian-American actress who plays Commodore Paris. It's good to see such a variety of ethnicity throughout the cast, with the production team taking the opportunity to cast non-white actors in major new roles.

The villain, though, lets the film down considerably, which sadly seems to be a pattern in recent blockbusters. There's no question that Idris Elba is an excellent, classy actor, who has a talent for rousing speeches, but as Krall, he spends too much time growling through overwhelming make-up. Krall had sounded, from initial descriptions, like a potentially interesting villain. The writers had described Beyond as an examination of the Federation, questioning whether it is in fact a force for unity, or a colonising power. Sadly, very little of this comes through in the finished film, with Krall's anti-Federation stance having a more prosaic and straightforwardly militant root. The villain's identity brings with it some twists, but even as more unexpected elements are revealed, the plot meanders in the action-oriented final third. That's if you've managed to avoid the final trailer, which blows much of the impact of the film's final twist. Even without that, it's underwhelming.

Visually, the film is an absolute treat. Most impressive is the gigantic space station, Yorktown, a vast city in space. It's a quite remarkable visual experience, and gives the film a major setting to put in peril without going back to Earth for the nth time. Both Yorktown and the Enterprise are populated by crowds of new aliens; indeed, apart from recurring characters and a couple of Vulcans, I don't think there's a single recognisable alien species to be seen. It's wonderful to see strange new worlds and new civilisations again. Combiningsome remarkable location work and visual effects, the planet Altamid that provides much of the setting for the film is also visually impressive. I'm also keen on some of the new conceits in Starfleet's technology. The new warp drive effect, while a departure from the star streak of the past, gives an impression that the ship is actually warping space. I also like the new universal translator, which translates and plays over alien languages instead of simply magically making the aliens speak English.

The script is peppered with references to the Original Series, and the series Enterprise (the history of the film's setting), but they are infrequent enough, and subtle enough, to not feel intrusive or contrived (apart from, maybe, the giant green hand). I'd be interested to read the original treatment, which was considered "too Star Trek-y" by the studio, and I'm still holding out for a modern take on the more thoughtful, philosophical side of Trek. (The just-announced Star Trek: Discovery may provide this wish, of course.) Nonetheless, Star Trek Beyond is a beautiful, exhilarating movie, brought to life by some excellent performances. While occasionally muddled, it has a strong, worthwhile message: that unity is better than division, and that we should embrace our differences, and that is Star Trek.

Rating: 8 (Daniel Tessier)

 

Star Trek Beyond

Synopsis

Stardate 2263: Synopsis in main Abramsverse listing

Commentary

Star Trek Beyond was not completely offensive like STID, which is not meant sarcastic in any way. They largely avoided to insult the fans this time and they also avoided to insult the intelligence of any average viewer (fan or not). Unfortunately they avoided doing a Star Trek film at all.

I'd like to start with the positive things about Beyond. First of all I liked the first ten to fifteen minutes. It was rather calm and thoughtful and Captain Kirk reminiscing about his father and struggling with life in space was quite a promising way to start the film. (I can forgive the rather racist opening scene in which he serves as a mediator.) The scene between him and Bones drinking was quite touching and reminiscent to "The Wrath of Khan". Unfortunately the writers didn't convert that into a leitmotif for the movie. On the contrary, they abandoned it at all (and I refuse to count the Vice-Admiral scenes). This is definitely a missed opportunity to give the film and the characters more depth and credibility. What a pity.

The story: The story itself lacks of coherence and doesn't show any cohesive ties even though they had the chance (see above). I never felt like they had a real message or a working idea. The motifs of Krall are exchangeable and implausible. He also reminds me of Khan in the second movie (and now that I'm thinking of it, also of Nero in the first one).

All the writers did was reversing the revelation that Krall is a former Starfleet officer. The fact that Krall has a grunge against Starfleet and wants to destroy the entire Federation just because he "felt forgotten" is ludicrous and the revelation itself comes across quite to casual to make an impact. That is simply bad writing, to be blunt. Sadly, it just seems that those are the best ideas Pegg, Jung & Co. could come up with. It's a shame. Pegg who calls himself a fan of the genre couldn't do any better than that?

The concept of Yorktown is a little bit more profound but still doesn't make any sense. Why should the Federation bother to build such an enormous installation on the edge of nowhere instead of colonizing a planet? Ironically this question is asked by Dr. McCoy in the movie but never gets an sufficient answer. Maybe I missed something here.

The storyline about the Enterprise heading directly into a trap is similar to the first film when the ship flew directly into the debris of a destroyed fleet in the orbit of Vulcan. The action sequences are nothing less but epileptic and a real pain to watch. (I was glad not to watch the whole thing in 3D). It is impossible to recognize anything and the pace of the scenes and the directing are so fast that it is no fun at all. But, on the other hand, that seems to be the fashion today. And just a word about Kirk and his crew. Did nobody even bother a little bit to take into account that the whole thing could possibly be a trap? I can hardly believe that.

The story on the planet itself is okay. It has a good pace for the most time and doesn't come across as too stupid at all. Still it lacks any cleverness and has no really interesting surprises. It's commonplace. A good idea was to split up the main crew to give everyone enough to do. The character of Jayla is as uninteresting as it could possibly be and her whole presence in the film is pure contrivance. Same goes for the Franklin and the fact that the ship can easily be repaired. What I didn't like was the blatant use of violence and brutality (e.g. the torture scenes or the execution of poor Ensign Syl). That's nothing I want to see on a Star Trek movie. The whole motorcycle subplot is well above the usual silliness presented in Star Trek movies. The fact that it actually works as a distraction is another example of bad writing, just like the incredible incompetence of Krall and his men.

The showdown aboard Yorktown between Kirk and Krall is nothing more than business as usual. We have seen that in the previous films and it doesn't get any more interesting here. The scene also sports some surprisingly bad special effects and is again largely stolen from its predecessor.

The resolution that the aliens can be defied by rock music is quite silly but does fit into the film at all so I don't find that too dumb. (It is not very creative as well)

The characters: I have to say a few things about the characters that bear the names of the cast of The Original Series but (for the most part) nothing more.

Scotty was really annoying this time. Did he even have any serious line in the whole movie? I don't think so. Nothing against some comic relief but that wasn't clever it just got on my nerves and gives Scotty the appearance of a clown with a fake accent. (Pegg's limited acting skills don't help.)

Speaking of fake accents, Chekov with his nervous gesturing and Yelchin's constant overacting go into a similar direction. Also he doesn't contribute anything useful to the story.

Quinto plays the role of Spock with latent aggression that doesn't fit the character as well. I also don't believe any of his lines because his deliverance is so contrived. He has nothing of the natural charm and wit of Leonard Nimoy. The same goes for Zaldana who just can't decide what to play. The whole Spock/Uhura thing still is far from being credible which wouldn't be a problem for me, but it just doesn't give the story any significance and is another example of "empty" characterization.

Chris Pine and Karl Urban (as usual) are the best actors of the cast. They manage to give their characters a certain decency without constantly trying to be either funny or overly dramatic. They have some good chemistry and the scenes between the two of them are the only ones who reminded me about their predecessors. I also like that Pine really improved as an actor.

John Cho was so unimportant and insignificant for the movie that I almost forgot about him. Sulu's coming-out doesn't make any difference and the way it was presented is far from being bold.

What I missed most about the characters was the self-irony, the charm and the dignity that I'm used to from the original crew. There's not a trace of that here. But even if I don't compare the new crew to the old one I find them to be a bunch of people I don't care about, without any special qualities and characteristics, absolutely interchangeable and generic... (Well, maybe that's a bit too harsh.)

Conclusion: There is one big problem with the whole film.

It lacks of dignity and grace. There is no clear idea behind the script and to be blunt, this is definitely NOT Star Trek.

For me, it also is not any "new" kind of Star Trek, it just is a generic, action-driven, absolutely unimpressive and disposable sci-fi-film and I'm quite sure that no one would even be talking about it if it had not the name "Star Trek" in its title.

Personally, the greatest disappointment is Simon Pegg who claims to be a fan of The Original Series. I don't care for the weak story and the blatant lack of creativity but I hate that he didn't manage to give the characters any of their original charm or self-irony (except for Urban to a certain extent) that made any of the old films at least watchable (including V!) Maybe its unfair to blame him specifically but he was quite outspoken about his fandom in the past and now I find it hard to believe any of that.

So, nevertheless I give it two points. One for the first ten minutes, where I really got the feeling that this could be leading to something and one for the very, very rare good character moments and the avoidance of to much insult to the fans.

Rating: 2 (Kilian T.)

 


Back to Abramsverse Movies index

TopShare
View as gallery