Star Trek Beyond (2016) is a solid, but generic space adventure Star Trek Beyond (2016) is a solid, but generic space adventure
....and not one lens flare in sight! Star Trek Beyond (2016) is a solid, but generic space adventure

The Plot

The “Enterprise” and its crew is reaching the third year of its “5 year” mission of exploring the lesser known realms of the galaxy. Several diplomatic setbacks made Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) reconsidering his destination, that’s why he is now applying for a safe and trouble-free position as Admiral. Of course, as the classic rules of Greek drama demand, that doesn’t work out and soon the Enterprise, following an emergency call, is getting attacked by a swarm-like ship armada of an unknown alien species and crashes on an undiscovered planet hidden in a nebula. Kirk, Spock (Quinto) and Scotty (Pegg) now have to save the crew that was captured by the evil Krall (Elba) and his minions. They get unexpected assistance by the stranded alien warrior babe Jaylah (Boutella).

elba

Beyond the Reboot

Beyond is easily the best out of the three movies of the dreadful “Nu Trek” reboot, which is admittedly not a high bar to cross after the loveless franchise recycling excess of Into Darkness.

For starters, this movie has actually a proper structure, means a  beginning, a middle part and an end. Also, the story does, simple as it is, make sense most of the time. But the most important changes have been made regarding the personnel behind the camera.
Fast & Furious– veteran Justin Lin replaced J.J. Abrams as director and he proves to be the far more confident and versatile craftsman, actually showing a sense for compelling visuals, scale, scope, geography, pacing, choreography and design which has been sorely missing in the new Trek movies till now. Ignoring the grotesque transformation Simon Pegg’s public persona went through for a moment, one has to admit that his script for this movie is a noble attempt at course correction that -mostly- works. The cringe-worthy elements of the predecessors, like the ham-fisted “political” post-9/11 allegory of Into Darkness “writer” and conspiracy-nut Robert Orci shoved down our throat with a bathlet or the whiny New Age- armchair psychology “men have feelings too” angle – “Kirk has Daddy issues, Spock has Mommy issues”- that was only missing Pacey coming around the corner and telling us smugly how we all have to get over our own demons, have been either suspended or reduced to a bearable minimum. Pegg replaced that with some dry humour that surprisingly also (mostly) works, another first time in the new series. Goodbye smarminess!

A lot has been changed design-wise as well. Finally the Federation got rid of the shiny running shirts and dressed their members properly with stylish, Mao-collared uniforms that are very reminiscent of the ones in the original series from the 60s. The infamous, often cited “Apple store” elements of the bridge of the Enterprise have been toned down, making it less of an eyesore. Most importantly, the flashy, ugly af Nu Trek bling-bling Enterprise, whose design was only three plastic wheels away from a Hong Kong knock-off toy, gets crashed in the first third in the movie and is replaced with a subtly updated version of the 60s ‘prise in the end. Another charming throwback is the look of the planet the crew is stranded on. With its angular rocks it looks like a glossy, roided-up variety of the papier-mâché backgrounds in front of which Shatner & Co. had to (over-)act.

The standout design of the movie might be that of the space station/city Yorktown though, a truly phenomenally realized homage to Syd Mead- paintings that makes Elysium from the eponymous movie look sad in comparison. I’m not though sure why they had to make actor Greg Grunberg, a leftover from Felicity who was already squeezed into the cast of the last Star Wars, its main operator. How many times is producer Abrams going to try to sell us this presence-less, family-friendly version of Seth Rogen?

Yorktown

Unfortunately, there are some downsides that hamper the enjoyment, hence my frequent use of “mostly” in the paragraphs above. Main weakness of this film are the bad guys. Elba’s character, some sort of moog-voiced space-vampire (!), is more silly than intimidating and his motives are both generic and muddled. It doesn’t help that he and his rubbery minions look like an unholy cross between the villains and Rickman’s character from Galaxy Quest. The straightforward, stripped-down adventure story approach of the story proves to be both a blessing and curse. While it manages to omit a lot of ballast from the preceding films, the lack of substance causes the almost too generic plot coming to a screeching halt at many points during the middle section, particularly the “rescue the crew”- mission and I had a hard time feeling engaged with what’s going on on the screen. On top of that, the dirtbike scene and the use of the Beastie Boys song “Sabotage” reveal to be as cringe-worthy and clunky as they are suggested to be in the trailers.

Thankfully, the film gains back some momentum in the second showdown, with a spectacular no-gravity ballet inside Yorktown.

urban

Resume

Star Trek Beyond is a solid and well-made, if rather generic space adventure with clever nods to the original series that feel surprisingly organic.  A lack of substance, an only mildly engaging plot and some outlandish interludes prevent it from becoming more than an entertaining time-killer. Nonetheless, definitely a step into the right direction.

 

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DetectiveDee

Detective Dee reviews movies and sometimes TV-series. He likes to indulge in the Asian cinema, exploitation flicks and the horror genre but is no stranger to Blockbuster culture either. He writes whatever he wants, but always aims to entertain.

  • Stalkeye

    I’m shocked that you liked it!! was those lame ass trailers misleading???
    What say YOU Asi? X)

  • Cannonball

    Sounds good!

  • Dee-abolik

    it was much better than expected, yes. Don’t expect TOO much though.

  • Stalkeye

    I’ll wait for a “proper” release. You boldly went where no Supernaught has gone before, and that’s taking one for the team! Glad you enjoyed it however.

  • Turd Has Escaped The Gravy

    Ummm…what? Not a disaster? Is this perhaps just a case of very low expectations making the movie appear better than it is?

    Can’t say I saw anything in the trailers that made it look more than mediocre.

  • Zed

    Why does Kirk ride a dirtbike, though? Could he not find a BMX bicycle or some Rollerblades lying around? Radical! Tubular! Reaganomics!

  • Dee-abolik

    Better make your own judgement. I bet it will divide the audience.

  • Dee-abolik

    The situation is rather contrived.

  • I_am_better
  • Toruk_Makto

    Awww….Shit.

  • Dee-abolik

    elaborate!

  • Toruk_Makto

    I was hoping this would be the final death-rattle for the shit-trek franchise but fucking Justin Lin had to go and try to make an entertaining movie…that little shit.

  • Dee-abolik

    I gotcha. I have high hopes for the TV-series.

  • Stalkeye

    So, Dee which Movie is better, this or Civil War?

  • Dee-abolik

    hard to compare…

  • Sagamanus

    Well that is as positive as a review you will get on this site regarding Star Trek, other than some of the old films. What we need is Willard to do a review as he just came back from it for another opinion. With a burrito recipe attached.

  • Dee-abolik

    The film makers have to convince me, it’s not my duty to shower them with goodwill.

  • Frimmel

    The film is not a disaster. I had a central air breakdown and the heat drove me to the movies where this was the least unacceptable option. This review is more or less spot on. I hate the cinematic travesty that is “Star Trek (2009).” I skipped the sequel except for a brief look at it on broadcast television. Turned it off more or less immediately. This is fairly mediocre in my book but it does have a few “I like it when the good guys win” moments. This review is pretty accurate.

  • Frimmel

    He is riding the dirtbike as a distraction. How he got the dirtbike (which when we see it up close is not a dirtbike) will give the plot away. Contrived is how I felt. When the larger plot point was revealed me reaction was, “I bet the dirtbike is here.” So on the one hand groan inducing. On the other Cpt. Kirk uses it to save the day.

  • Frimmel

    They are about the same level of style over substance. This story actually felt slightly less forced and less like things were yanked from nowhere than Civil War. It has its “wait what?” moments though.

  • Frimmel

    A breakdown in my central air sent me to this as the least unacceptable option for taking in a movie to get out of the heat. I hate JJ Trek. I think the 09 outing is a cinematic travesty before I even get to how it is bad Star Trek. The sequel was the first Trek film I didn’t see at all. So I had no enthusiasm for this. But it was this or “Ghostbusters (2016)” so…

    I was mildly entertained. The story is coherent though a fairly standard straight line “stop the bad guy bent on revenge”… errr… “stop the bad guy who wants to make a point about diversity” tale. Their efforts at world-building and sci-fi tech aspects tend to fit more around the plot than the characters and story are constrained by the world they’ve built. This makes it a bit uneven at best with several “just go with it” moments. “Mostly” not up to total abuse of it’s-a-movie cards.

    Karl Urban was the line high point of the 09 tale and is so again here. He seems to be the only one involved in these films who has watched the same Star Trek I’ve watched.

    Pine’s Kirk comes off slightly better here than before but gets a bit drug down by the angsty bits of being in command without being allowed to really demonstrate the “I don’t like to lose” arrogance that isn’t. It isn’t arrogance when backed by competency.

    That aspect of Kirk gets down-played to give the rest of the crew stuff to do. That is mostly by spreading exposition that could be given by one character across the entire crew. You might find it makes the crew seem “in sync.” You might find it transparent. You might find it fits into the “diversity is strength/we don’t do things alone” themes of the story.

    Quinto/Spock as written and played is just wrong. Don’t get me started there.

    The camera is hardly ever not moving for largely the point of the camera always being moving. There was a very try hard aspect to that. Like they wanted to make you understand there isn’t really an “up” in space but they don’t quite get there. I felt this was very noticeable with Yorktown station which is pretty neat. I think the scenes with that illustrate the “mostly” aspects of the review above.

    Action scenes are as coherent as can be expected with the modern shaky-cam and lots of cuts and waving the camera around style. Bouncy framing on stationary characters and in the “we don’t believe the audience will stick with us here if we don’t shake it up” is minimal. I won’t be rushing to take in any of this director’s other work but he is fuck-tons better at his job than JJ.

    Several scenes where it is just too dark but it does not have the overall “desaturated” or “could we get some color in our color movie?” look everything seems to have.

    The only lens flare I noted seemed an actual accidental lens flare.

    Final verdict: I didn’t hate it but expected to, it certainly isn’t total crap and does have “that’s pretty neat” moments. Film-making technical choices drag it down. Worth a look on Netflix/Premium Cable and might not be a waste of money if you’re curious and take it in on a bargain matinee to get out of the heat.

  • Tim XXL

    Is there anyone out there NOT seeking revenge?

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I am right there with you. Went in with the idea that it would suck, and came out having enjoyed what I watched. A solid entertaining film.