Star Trek Beyond – Movie Review
The summer film season is always a mixed bag of emotions for me. There’s the thrill of all the blockbuster films as the studios roll out their big guns to compete in the cinema royal rumble. There’s the excitement at seeing the next epic installment in that film series you love so much. There’s the anticipation at getting to see all the great kids films that drop as distractions to the weeks of summer holiday boredom. The trailers all release a good six months ahead of time. You get excited at the prospects and jump on board a few hype trains along the way. But what I love the most is that with summer films, you never know what to expect.
Every year I am surprised by certain releases. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise and a film turns out to be fantastic when I wasn’t expecting it. Other times I go into a film eager to see something spectacular, yet I come out horrified at the uninspired garbage I witnessed. Whatever the case, I actively try and see every summer film because part of being a writer is consuming media, both good and bad.
This year has been quite a bad one for summer movies. I think most people would agree that the films on offer this year have been quite poor. Then along came Star Trek Beyond. I will admit to you that when I saw the trailers for this film I groaned in frustration. The trailer was super slick, full of action snippets and Rage Against the Machine audio clips. It showed the Enterprise getting destroyed and some kind of swarming enemy made up of blurry CGI. I went into this film skeptical. The trailers didn’t excite me and I had little faith in the franchise after Into Darkness.
Star Trek Beyond sees us rejoin the crew of the Enterprise three years into a five year mission. The crew’s bored and a little jaded about what they are doing. There is even a great line of dialogue from Kirk about how life had become, “episodic”. We catch up with everyone to see how things have changed in the aftermath of Into Darkness. Thankfully that film’s influence is far from present. There is barely a mention of the previous film and I think that was a smart choice to distance itself.
The main story starts when the Enterprise reaches a super awesome Federation space station called Yorktown. It shares a lot in common with Elysium, but on a scale of the Citadel from Mass Effect. Shortly after, an escape pod arrives at Yorktown carrying a strange alien. She wants the Federations help in rescuing her crew trapped on a planet inside a dangerous nebula. Naturally, the Enterprise is dispatched to conduct the rescue operation. The Enterprise is ambushed on arrival by a strange swarm of alien ships. They obliterate the famous vessel, forcing Kirk and his crew to abandon ship. The action then takes place down on the surface of the mysterious alien planet and the story goes from there.
I won’t ruin the film for you as I believe it’s well worth your time and money to see. This film was what every summer movie wants to be. It was entertaining, funny, enthralling, action-packed, and enjoyable from start to finish. This film more than any other since perhaps, First Contact, encapsulates what Star Trek is all about. I attribute a lot of that success to Simon Pegg, self-confessed Treky and all round super nerd. Pegg was the perfect choice to write this film. He has a background in excellent comedy (Sean of the Dead, Spaced, Hot Fuzz) and he loves the source material with an obvious passion.
The script for this film was great. The dialogue was quick, funny, and engaging. Every element of the narrative was present and capitalized on to great effect. For example, a necklace is introduced into the story, a simple gift from one character to another. Later on in the film, the necklace was tied directly into the actions of the main characters, thus justifying the earlier scene to set it up.
Even the new character, played by Sofia Boutella, who is introduced during the second act, became an integral part of the story. She didn’t feel like an odd addition to an already legendary cast of characters. She fit right into the mix and she was never once used as a goal or love interest for another character. She was a new character with her own arc and place in the story and I loved it. I hope to see her return in the next installment.
Every scene in the film was used to its greatest effect. It felt like the writers worked with the director to make sure there was no fat in their screenplay. Speaking of the director, Justin Lin does an outstanding job here. Beyond is beautifully shot, with a great range of angles and shots to show off the alien landscape, or focus on a dramatic character moment. There is also a distinct lack of lens flare. This might seem like a trivial point, but people who’ve watched the Abrams Trek films will understand how big of a deal that is.
Lin does some incredible things with camera angles during the space/antigravity scenes of the film. Lin has shown us his vision of what Star Trek is, while returning the series back to its roots within the space of one movie. Lin’s mastery of directing an ensemble cast is well used here. Every character gets some great moments and no one feels like a side character. The old Star Trek used to revolve around Kirk and his struggle, whereas Lin’s film focuses a lot more on the crew and their collective problems. All those years working on Fast and the Furious with their large casts pays off here.
You could argue that Zoe Saldana’s Uhura doesn’t get much to do. She is present throughout a lot of the movie though, and I feel like her presence does have an impact. Idris Elba also joins the series for this outing. I feel like his impact as the main protagonist was undersold. His character is quite generic, and his motivations don’t make a great deal of sense, neither does his plan. He is menacing though, and his presence is always felt when he’s in a scene. It still feels like Hollywood is stuck when it comes to memorable antagonists.
There is a lot to like in Star Trek Beyond, far more than I ever expected there to be on the back of the trailers. I enjoy being surprised though. Out of all the films I saw this summer I enjoyed this one the most. It’s not even close with anything else, this is a fantastic summer movie, and a fantastic Star Trek movie. I couldn’t have asked for more from Pegg and Lin. I hope that they return for the next installment and I’m sorry for ever doubting Lin as a director choice for this film. Now let’s see how they cope when they introduce time travel!