VOD Review: Star Trek Beyond
The third entry in the rebooted Star Trek film series makes warp 9 past the first two movies, arriving at a movie that feels like vintage Star Trek (for good and ill). It takes the baton from the work Star Trek ’09 did with its new characters, Vulcan neck pinches Star Trek Into Darkness, and gives the crew something fun to do.
The films in Nu-Trek have been streaky. The actors in the first film carried a ho-hum lens-flared affair by how well they inhabited their iconic characters. The second film just plain sucked. This third outing takes those characters on a classic Trek adventure, warts and all. While not perfect, Star Trek Beyond is fun.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
We rejoin our crew of the USS Enterprise halfway through their five year mission. The time spent all alone in uncharted space has left many with mental fatigue. Especially James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), who thinks maybe it’s time to trade the captain’s chair in for a desk job. Spock (Zachary Quinto), is thinking of departure as well, but for different reasons. The death of Spock the Elder (a posthumous farewell to the recently departed Leonard Nimoy) has made Spock reevaluate his allegiance to star-fleet.
Neither gets the chance to express these sentiments to each other. They receive a new mission while docked at the deep space outpost Yorktown (gee, I wonder if Yorktown will the be site of an historic battle, you guys). A civilian vessel has been critically wounded inside a nebula that only the Enterprise is equipped to navigate. Admiral Ackbar, what could this possibly be?
You guessed it. The trap leaves the crew stranded on a hostile planet, separated from each other to boot. The crew must reunite to thwart a threat with old ties and deep animosity for the federation.
Hail, Hail, the Gang’s all Here!
The second Nu-Trek film gambled on an iconic villain to make a compelling film. Then they forgot to write any compelling characterization for him. This movie gets back to the crew. Through separating them and having them work in cells, they all get time to shine (Except, tragically, Chekov. Anton Yelchin definitely gets the short stick in this, his last Trek film.). They bicker. They banter. We get vignettes that further flesh out these characters that have been at each other’s side, all alone in space for 966 days. It was a logical decision.
A Familiar Trek
Star Trek Beyond has all the ups of classic Star Trek. Something defeats the Enterprise early, and the crew must play catch-up/underdog. Their is plenty of corny humor to break up the tension. Each character pitches in, showing that the strength of the Enterprise isn’t it’s cutting edge design, but the bonds of its crew. But don’t forget about the ship. I like Star Wars better than Star Trek, but Trek always won when it came to ship to ship combat. The first fight in the film is good, and it manages to be mostly view-able, as J.J. Abrahms is the producer, not the director this go around.
It also has all the downs. A reliance on cliche to be funny. Dumb pop culture references (Sabotage? Really?). Laughably bad science. A McGuyver’d McGuffin that saves the day. Lastly, it also has my number one sci-fi pet peeve: if you are an African-American (or in Sofia Boutella’s case, African/French), you get to play a painted-up alien. Blech.
Writing the Ship
Simon Pegg was given the task of writing life into the Star Trek films after Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan left the viewers with a film best served cold. He does an admirable job, and doesn’t take the bait of hogging the limelight as Scotty. The film moves along briskly without too many lulls or shit-blowing-up fatigue setting in. Idris Elba is a decent villain, but nothing new or compelling. Old enemies with axes to grind is a well worn Star Trek cliche, and it doesn’t elevate or detract from the film that much.
The final feel of I got of this film was similar to The Force Awakens. It serves up comfort food to get the taste of a cinematic misstep out of your mouth. The film did solid business in both the US and China, which pretty much guarantees a fourth voyage. And much like with Star Wars, I’d like to see them do something novel now that they have fans beamed back on-board.
Star Trek Beyond is currently available free to view for Amazon Prime members.