The trilogy of Star Trek films ends with this installment. Does it go out with a bang? Not exactly, but the film doesn’t end on a whimper either. Rather than feeling like the climactic finish, this film decides to take the unique approach of being “just another day in the office” for the Star Trek cast. It succeeds in acting like an extended Star Trek episode which is a good thing in some areas. We finally get to see more interaction between the crew and the banter between “Bones” and Spock is something that the films had been lacking. However, the fun dialogue and adventure on the planet does come at the expense of stakes. Sure, the crew is in danger and technically the threat is real, but Beyond never feels quite as intense as Into Darkness. It’s a good film and Beyond is content to stay in that realm.
As you may remember from the ending of Star Trek Into Darkness, the crew has been tasked with a 5 year expedition into deep space. Naturally, this could be a little dicey for the rest of the Federation since the Enterprise is their greatest ship and the universe could probably use Kirk and the others if a firefight starts. Ah well, they’ll manage I suppose. 3 years have passed and Kirk’s group has to dock on a planet to grab some supplies. After doing so, they receive word that a ship is stranded past a cluster of asteroids. The crew walks into this trap and the ship is torn apart as all of the members are left to fend for themselves on this planet. Can they escape this ruthless alien race or is this the end for the crew?
One thing I feel that I have to point out is that the Federation feels doomed if they were to ever encounter a competent alien race. The Enterprise is apparently their best ship and it is extremely weak. For starters, while its design is legendary and iconic, it is not suited for combat in the slightest. There are weak points everywhere and it is not very agile. The villains in this film exploit this quite easily. It doesn’t bode well for the smaller ships in this alliance. In the entire trilogy, I don’t believe that we have gotten to see Kirk’s ship win a single round. Maybe in the first film as it has been a while, but I don’t recall that occurring. They definitely need a new ship.
I’d also like to point out that the plot does seem a little iffy when you take a close look at it. I’m keeping this review spoiler free, but the villains are not in a position to obtain a whole lot of resources. Even if they got off of their planet and toured the universe for a while, I don’t see how they could get such advanced weaponry. It’s one thing to see their ships take the Enterprise down after a quick fight, but it’s extremely one sided and apparently these mini ships can take down an entire planet in the blink of an eye as well. I feel this was definitely exaggerated a little too much. There wasn’t a whole lot of plot hax luckily due to the weakness working well, but I think the ships should have been nerfed a little.
As one would expect from a Star Trek film, the special effects were very well done. The space fights look great and the environments are also very good. That being said, I was super glad to see the city return at the end. Everything feels fairly glossy and futuristic as opposed to being super realistic, which is a positive for me. The alien world could have felt very Tarzanish, but instead it feels like a film version of the location, which is a definite improvement for me. The soundtrack is less impressive, but we get a throwback or two to the classic themes and one of the music themes from the first film of the trilogy returns. It definitely works well for the scene and I’m always ready for something that’s fast paced. It’s not a bad soundtrack by any means, but it does come across as a little generic.
As mentioned earlier, one of the strengths in this film is the banter. As a whole the writing was fairly good as well. Some language as I’ve come to expect, but not all that much and nothing super drastic. For the most part, if Kirk, Bones, or Spock is present in a scene it’s going to end up being a good one. It is good to see the team actually do some exploring for a change and we finally get to see more TV show related items. The team has their communicators out, they use the phasers a lot and we even have the Tricorder that Bones uses.
This is probably the first time that I can ever say this, but Captain Kirk was actually portrayed as a really good character. In the second film he was greatly improved from the first, but still had a pair of scenes to remind you that he was not going to rank too highly anytime soon. There is nothing like that here. He is still having some doubt issues, but they don’t play a huge role here and I do agree with him to an extent. A 5 year cruise in the middle of nowhere seems completely pointless and they should be doing something constructive instead. Unfortunately, Kirk is only human so he doesn’t do too well in the fight scenes, but he still tries his best. He actually comes up with plans and makes saving his comrades top priority from start to finish. He was definitely surprisingly good in this film.
Meanwhile, Spock is a fairly good deputy as well. One thing that definitely does get old is the fact that Spock is supposed to be the emotionless character, but he breaks character constantly. I think the classic show did a better job of only having him break character once in a blue moon. He still does look good for the most part though. I will be glad to have his romance drama with Uhura done with since the back and forth throughout the entire trilogy got old really fast. Considering that they are all stuck on the ship for such a long time, the constant separating and coming back together would make things awkward. On that note, it is completely Spock’s fault this time. It was Uhura’s in the second film, but Spock basically gave her no real choice in this one due to his making some fairly bad decisions. He gets one fight in this film, but is unable to join the fray for most of the film so that’s too bad.
Bones is the stand out character this time and is easily the best one here. His small role in the first two films may be part of the reason why the films never had a whole lot of witty banter up until now. Granted, there wasn’t a whole lot of time for it, which is one of the reasons why having more of an everyday adventure is a good idea once in a while. When the big events happen, it’s typically one fight after the other so there’s no time for dialogue. If you think about any great TV Show or film, you’ll remember that dialogue can be important as well. Just look at Yugioh, how much fun would the duels be without the constant trash talking and witty puns? It would certainly lose some of its depth without that element. Hopefully Bones gets a large role in the next film as well.
The main heroine of this title is Jaylah. Debatably Uhura’s role is almost as large, but Jaylah was made up for this film (As far as I’m aware) so she was more integral to the plot while Uhura spent most of her time trying to reason with the main villain. Jaylah’s a good warrior and she does a better job of being the hardened female veteran than most of the iconic ones. The lady from Alien, the warrior from the Hobbit, Gamora, Jaylah’s a better character than all of those if you ask me. Perhaps it’s because the film doesn’t really go into her tragic past all that much. It could also be due to the fact that the film doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to overhype her or having the characters all make statements to support this. Truly cool characters only need actions to back them up and holding her own against one of the main villains is a good way to accomplish this.
On that note, did anyone else feel like the hand to hand fight scenes had too much shaky cam and cutaways? Some of the fights were super chaotic as a result and hard to follow. The action scenes were still solid though and I would have liked to have seen more of them, but the camera work could have been better. Back to the characters, Scotty has a fairly large role here, but with Bones back in the center stage, Scotty didn’t seem as charismatic in comparison. I also don’t really care for his sidekick. It’s not at the point where he is a unlikable character yet, but I think reducing his role for the next film could be a good thing. Chekov has probably surpassed him for me although I suppose he may not return for the next film or he’ll be recast. Sulu’s role here is also a little larger than last time, but it’s mainly just used for real life politics. To the point where we got a whole press release statement about it. As a result, he doesn’t really contribute to the story at all. Seriously, he’s present in many scenes, but it’s always another character who actually performs the action. His only big moment would be letting the ship fall and then signalling someone else to activate the boosters. With the politics out of the equation, the next film should hopefully give him more to do. He’s one of the team’s best fighters so giving him a close quarters fight scene would be a good start. (I was actually expecting that. Overall, the film had less fight scenes than I would have liked)
As for the main villain, he’s quite possibly the worst one yet. I didn’t care for the villain in the first film either though so it’s a tough call. I liked the minions though as they looked like the foot soldiers out of Halo or something super sci-fi like that. It was a good armor, even if the actual aliens were incredibly weak. Uhura takes down a few of them pretty easily and most of the others prove to be human level as well. The main villain’s deputy can fight, but doesn’t have much character beyond that. The main villain goes for sympathy and is the classic delusional fellow who believes in the ideals of the past. Needless to say, this didn’t help his cause. I do appreciate the fact that his final moment wasn’t him going for the power of friendship or something like that. I thought this angle may have been taken and while it’s usually great to see a villain redeem him/herself…it would have been extremely unrealistic in this case.
If there’s any real issue with most of the cast here, it’s that they don’t care all that much about the supporting characters. Like always, the red shirts die by the dozens/hundreds. Everyone’s still fairly chipper by the end though and I suppose you must be good at getting over things to be in this position, but it does make you feel bad for all of the new recruits. It’s like being the best friend in a horror movie, you always know that the character’s days are numbered.
Now for the big question….did Star Trek Beyond manage to defeat the latest Star Wars film? I have to say that it did. As it stands now, Star Trek’s current trilogy has been handily defeating Star Wars no matter which trilogy you pit against it. While Star Wars may easily be the better franchise due to the superior video games, concept, and characters, Star Trek definitely has the monopoly on the films. If the rest of the upcoming titles for Star Trek hold onto this solid level of quality, the franchise really could make a nice rebound and become more of a well known product like the good ole days.
Overall, Star Trek Beyond does a good job of checking the right boxes while avoiding the mis-steps that plague many films. It was good to see that the critics got this one right. It’s a well written film that doesn’t go for any crude humor or inappropriate jokes like other titles. Captain Kirk was portrayed very well and the supporting cast did a good job of supporting the film. The fight scenes were handled very well and the movie never dragged on. There was a good deal of plot hax and I don’t really follow the logic of how this villain amassed such a powerful amount of resources to deal with the Federation, but no film can be perfect on that regard. I still wouldn’t call this film great as it would either need to be a little more exciting or be extremely funny to get that extra star. As it stands, this is a solid “lost episode” for fans of the original Star Trek. As an added bonus, Captain Kirk even sniffs out a trap for once! I’m also liking the new Trek costumes. The classic yellow is good, but the blue navy-esque uniform looks really sharp as well. I’m inclined to say that the next film will win as it’ll probably be more of a big event film like the last two, but at the same time it needs to be careful not to lose the fun factor that this one acquired.