Movie review: Star Trek Beyond
Justin Lin revs the Enterprise’s perpetually over-heated engines but Star Trek Beyond orbits a familiar universe without reflection
Star Trek Beyond
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Anton Yelchin
Directed by: Justin Lin
Running time: 2 hrs
MPAA Rating: PG-13
By Katherine Monk
(July 22, 2016, Updated Nov. 1, 2016) – When you’re a trekkie, these are the occasions that truly hurt because loyalty is such an important trait among the Federation faithful.
I wanted to love Star Trek Beyond as much as I enjoyed the other two reboots from mastermind J.J. Abrams, and yet, despite my ample enthusiasm for a franchise that puts friendship and humanity first, this third film starring Chris Pine as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock failed to make it out of the transporter room in one piece.
There are many reasons why Beyond falls from a high orbit, but the most noticeable is the name on the director’s chair. Abrams was busy helming that other sci-fi juggernaut, leaving the Fast and the Furious’s Justin Lin to assemble the pieces and play the cosmic strings.
Lin is good at action, car crashes, engine fetishes and man bonding, which means this one gets halfway there as Lin focuses on the dynamic between Kirk, Spock, Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg).
These are four men tasked with keeping the crew of the Enterprise alive, but each has a slightly different approach to survival. Kirk, of course, is the daredevil who takes huge risks and indulges the idea of random acts to affirm his humanity. By contrast, Spock is the half-Vulcan who uses logic and reason to arrive at any decision. It’s a yin-yang chemistry that spills into other vessels, from Scotty’s obsession with what’s under the hood to Bones’s fist-shaking “But I’m a doctor! Not a fill-in-the-comic-blank refrain.
It was all fun camp with an old married couple’s intimacy and insults, and these dynamics built Gene Rodenberry’s legacy. But it was the franchise’s ability to embrace current social issues that made it a cult sensation because Star Trek suggested a different way of being in the universe.
It did not accept the status quo and work around it. It questioned every single value and concept that forms our current reality, and when something didn’t make sense, Roddenberry was bold enough to go there — to criticize fundamental ideas, confronting everything from racism to the idea of a monetized existence.
Beyond questions nothing, which is another big reason why it’s such a colossal disappointment as it cruises through one franchise trope after another without a good reason to leave space port in the first place.
Even Kirk says life was becoming “episodic” at the top of the reel as he tries to make peace with a gargoyle-like species by offering an arcane weapon. The species declines the offering, Kirk goes back to the ship, but a little-known enemy named Krall (Idris Elba) wants the little item.
Krall is a typical villain with an ancient chip on his shoulders. He’s got a sculpture for a head and a hate-on for humans. He arches his back and bellows about betrayal. The only thing that makes him interesting is his name, suggesting some cloaked comment on a Nanaimo-raised jazz vocalist named Diana.
Without getting into the tedious backstory of how Krall was wronged, or how a Federation ship gets marooned on distant planet, or why the Enterprise is vulnerable, this movie revolves around Krall and a giant space station – the biggest ever constructed by the Federation.
The new station is so large it has its own atmosphere, a humming city and several docking facilities. For the visually inclined fans, the space station is the one thing that will define the movie in memory because it looks different from what we’ve seen before.
Lin makes good use of all the devices on his dashboard, and he revs the Enterprise’s twin nacelles with a teenager’s enthusiasm for a new ride, but Beyond never formulates a moral argument – which has always been the main source of thrust in the franchise.
Rodenberry wanted to teach us about our world by reflecting on our imagined future. Beyond just wants to get through the portal of every set piece without imploding, and to its credit, it succeeds at keeping all the bits and pieces in synchronized orbit, but for all the light years on the odometer, it goes nowhere.
THE EX-PRESS, July 22, 2016