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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look61.54%
Average: 15.38%
Pretty Bad: 15.38%
Total Crap: 7.69%

1 review, 7 user ratings

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Star Trek Beyond
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by Jay Seaver

"Changing course back to why 'Star Trek' worked in the first place."
4 stars

2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of "Star Trek"'s first broadcast, an occasion that would normally be the time for retrospectives and a special event that brings back old favorites. The thing is, the incarnation of "Trek" that has been running for the past seven years has been built on so many of these callbacks that more would not be special. As a result, the 2016 film is forced to go the other direction, doing a stand-alone adventure that looks to recall the unshackled nature of the original series even as it maintains the relentless action of the current film incarnation. It's not always a perfect fit, but that's okay - New "Trek" is better when it's being a bit reckless.

Things pick up midway through a five-year mission to explore uncharted space, and U.S.S. Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) finds that it is starting to wear on him even before a diplomatic mission goes bad, though in a mostly harmless manner. He and the crew can use some downtime at Federation Starbase Yorktown, but they have barely left the ship when an escape pod arrives, with its alien survivor Kalara (Lydia Wilson) whose ship disappeared deep inside a nebula. When the Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of small fighters, they're forced to abandon ship, with the bridge crew sent in different directions: Kirk, Kalara, and navigator Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) trying to recover the artifact Krall is searching for; Doctor Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) tending to a wounded science officer Spock (Zachary Quinto); chief engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) meeting former prisoner Jaylah (Sofia Boutella); while helmsman Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and communications officer Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and the rest of the crew are held prisoner at the camp of protean warlord Krall (Idris Elba).

Justin Lin takes over in the director's chair from J.J. Abrams, who shepherded the first two films of the new series and is still on board as a producer, while Doug Jung and cast member Simon Pegg take over writing duties from Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, and while the film looks the same at first glance, it is clearly playing to the new team's strengths. Lin, the veteran of the Fast & Furious series, gets a lot of slam-bang action to work with; this movie is full of things smashing into other things or chasing each other down, and that's probably the thing that will rankle the long-time fans the most; Star Trek evolved from an action-packed show that nevertheless couldn't afford truly massive battles to something more overtly utopian and pacifist over time, and while I'd argue that Lin's fast-paced, large-scale action would fit the original series just fine if that show had had a couple hundred million dollars to play with, and maybe fifty years of people growing used to faster pacing. He mostly retains Abrams's "bright future" aesthetic, although he'll play with it - you can see the corridors of the Enterprise grow darker as Krall's boarding parties make their way through. He doesn't have quite the natural comfort with 3D that Abrams does, though; see this one in 2D.

Pegg & Jung, meanwhile, take the same basic template as the previous movies - a madman with a beef against the Federation gets hold of a superweapon and attacks - although the way they deploy it is interesting. In Krall, they have a villain who has literally been twisted by the power he wields in ways that have brought him far from who he once was, and it allows them to make a broader case for co-operation and unity than the previous films went for, coming at it from both directions: Krall is an old guy who sees weakness in the Federation's multiculturalism while Jaylah is young and needs convincing to leave her safe space. They also do a pretty good job of finding a use for a cast of characters not really designed for this kind of production, breaking them into smaller groups so that nobody gets lost in the crowd, although some still either get lost in the shuffle or placed in spaces where they don't quite fit. And while this isn't nearly the tightly-constructed script that Pegg's collaborations with Edgar Wright tend to be, there's still a clear love for the material and a delight in having potentially one-note characters bounce off each other in ways that are both expected and familiar, especially now that the iconic Kirk/Spock/McCoy trio has eased into something resembling familiar territory.

Indeed, it's fun to watch the no-longer-new cast just enjoy playing these characters, as the time that has passed since the first movie has allowed them to both grow into the fully-formed versions audiences remember even though they now have enough of their own history for the actors to have made the characters their own. Chris Pine is the best example of this as Kirk. No longer playing the young hot-head with a chip on his shoulder, his Kirk doesn't feel like a simple reprisal of what William Shatner did fifty years ago, but he does now feel like a guy we believe as a natural leader, even when he looks a bit silly, rather than someone who needs to be propped up by other people mentioning his potential. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban make a terrific odd couple as Spock & McCoy, with Urban nailing every barb he's given while Quinto continues to play Spock as having a ton of passion beneath a placid exterior. Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin all have their share of good moments - it's a crying shame that Yelchin will never get the chance to shine in this franchise, though he makes every scene he's in livelier. Pegg can be forgiven for the big, fun part he gives himself as Scotty - the previous two movies held off on introducing the character until late or sidelined him, and with nothing to keep him off-screen, his energy winds up permeating the film - especially since he also gave himself a great foil in Sofia Boutella's Jaylah, and Boutella makes the character a confident, vulnerable delight. The classic collection of heroes does mean that once again there's not really a lot of room for a villain to shine, leaving Idris Elba the third pretty darn good actor to play an antagonist who just isn't given a lot of great material.

The film had a bit of a troubled history - Orci was supposed to make his directorial debut on the film, but was replaced as both writer and director as the studio got nervous about the fiftieth-anniversary production being helmed by someone directing for the first time and as his particular contributions to Star Trek Into Darkness were the ones that soured most - and in some ways, they wound up playing it safe in a lot of areas, letting everyone play to their strengths in a story that is true to the basics of Star Trek but isn't terribly complex. It's not a bad way to go - both the action and character work is fun, and the visual effects crew doesn't give half-effort either, making for a beautiful, movie that pops in just the right places, even if it seldom stuns the audience with something entirely new.

On the other hand, those external pressures - the time crunch and the difficulty in going further with delving into "Star Trek" lore without blunting the current film series' appeal to those that don't know the shows' history - allowed "Star Trek Beyond" to buck today's trends toward complex serialization and be what the show was when it started fifty years ago: An exciting sci-fi adventure featuring characters the audience liked seeing on a regular basis. It may not be the most momentous way to celebrate a half-century of entertaining people with the promise of a better tomorrow, but it may be the most fitting.

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originally posted: 07/30/16 03:08:56
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User Comments

2/14/17 Alex J Diaz-Granados Not as great as Nick Meyer's Star Trek films with the TV cast, but better than expected. 4 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell a letdown the first 2 are alot better 2 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell disappointing the first 2 where alot better purists can gripe now 2 stars
10/01/16 Loop A mixture of good and bad, typical "new trek" 3 stars
8/01/16 Koitus I liked it. Had some very clever lines / good writing. 4 stars
7/29/16 Flipsider The worst in the series so far, sadly. A total letdown. 1 stars
7/23/16 mr.mike An improvement over Into Darkness, good not great, 3.5 stars 3 stars
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  22-Jul-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-Nov-2016


  DVD: 01-Nov-2016

Directed by
  Justin Lin

Written by
  Patrick McKay
  J.D. Payne

  Chris Pine
  Zachary Quinto
  Zoe Saldana
  Simon Pegg
  Karl Urban
  Anton Yelchin
  John Cho

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