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Star Trek Beyond

Reviewed by Eliza DoLots

Sadly, if I say that this is—far and away—the best of the reboot Star Trek movies, many people will say “that doesn’t mean it’s any good”. So, I will say that this is a good movie. Far from perfect, it is, nevertheless, a lot of fun and emotionally satisfying.

There are some quibbles: I cannot believe how distracting Quinto’s “Spock wig” is. It is obviously a wig and, with the exception of one scene, it’s distractingly fake. Of course, in the one scene where it looks real, my immediate reaction was “hey, it finally looks real!” which was distracting. From the little floating points in front of his ears to the lack of visible scalp at the peak of his head, it’s bad. He looks like he’s wearing a Spock hat. It boggles the mind that in this era, with all the amazing aliens in this movie, “bad fake hair” should be a problem.

It’s “Lieutenant Uhura” guys. Yes, I know we learned her first name, but after 40 years of “Lieutenant Uhura” suddenly she’s introducing herself to scary aliens as “Nyota Uhura”. The script writers are like kids who just learned a new, dirty word and have to use it constantly. Enough already.

There is no explanation for how the villains came to be as they are. We learn that they have transformed from their earlier appearance but we don’t learn how or why. This is such a big plot hole that we were on the internet before we left the theater trying to find an explanation online. What we found wasn’t much better than the complete absence of information in the movie.

So, not perfect by any means. But it’s funny, touching and even a bit philosophical.

I credit most of the success of this movie to Simon Pegg as cowriter. Pegg is a fan of the show and he understands why people like it. Sure, space ships and battles are fun, but we want real characters we can relate to. We want situations that resonate with what we are experiencing in our lives. We want witty interplay between characters we respect. We get all of this in Star Trek Beyond.

Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung had the excellent idea of repeatedly pairing the crew off, giving us time to see them interacting in one on one situations. We get a classic, alcohol fueled philosophy session between Kirk and McCoy and an even more classic antagonistic emergency survival situation between Spock and McCoy. Indeed, McCoy taking his rightful place as the third member of the Star Trek Trinity may be the most important improvement. Bones being Bones is largely what makes this movie so much better than the two earlier reboots. Furthering the “pairs” theme, we get Sulu and Uhura teaming up as seriously skilled senior officers working to calm and rescue other crew members. We also get Kirk and Chekov working together to find missing crew members. This is the movie in which Anton Yelchin finally comes into the role of Chekov. He’s charming, amusing and—unlike the previous movies—not at all annoying. His rapport with Chris Pine as Kirk is spot on. The “mentor/protégé” relationship is very nice. The fact that his recent death means this well rounded, skillful performance is the last time we will see Anton Yelchin as Chekov casts a bittersweet pall on the movie.

One of the smartest decisions the scriptwriters made was to set this movie at the end of the third year in the Enterprise’s Five Year Mission. That means after what would have been “the TV show” years. This allows the crew to reference events that happened in the series without devolving into the complete repetition that made Star Trek Into Darkness such a difficult movie to like.

Star Trek wouldn’t be Star Trek without new aliens. In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the show, the crew designed 50 new aliens for Star Trek Beyond. Not all of them are created with makeup. The digitally created race we meet in the first scene is one of the best new species we’ve met in a long time (there’s really no way to describe them without giving away something important). The most talked about aliens are Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella), a survivor with striking black on white features who teams up with the Enterprise crew; and chief villain Krall played by a woefully unrecognizable Idris Elba. In some ways, both highlight the benefits of digitally created characters. Jaylah is almost too close to being human (which does allow Boutella to act) while Idris Elba is hidden under so much latex to make him look “alien” that it’s impossible to see his expressions.

A lot has been written about some groundbreaking script decisions (He’s WHAT?) and some utterly predictable script decisions (They did that again?). Wisely all of these “talked about” things are over and done with in the first ten minutes of the film. We get all that out of the way in short order and spend the rest of the movie appreciating the characters.

Visually, I found it a bit nauseating. Director Justin Lin favors wildly spinning, vertigo inducing shots. More than once I had to look away. I cannot even imagine what it must be like in 3D. But, other than that, it looks great. There is a space station (aptly described as looking like a snow globe in space) that is very nicely done even if the interior is a bit reminiscent of Zootopia. Ships entering the station fly through a tube that’s visible under a waterway in the open area which is pretty cool. The new “warp speed” effect (which generated a lot of excitement when the trailer was released) is sure to become the industry standard. Say goodbye to rapidly enlarging points of light and say hello to “warp bubble”.

Ultimately this movie works because the characters work. They are as heroic, flawed and funny as they were in the original series. And, that’s the big takeaway from this: The movie works. This is a worthy entry in the Star Trek library.


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Justin Lin

Simon Pegg
Doug Jung

July 22, 2016

Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
Karl Urban
Zoe Saldana
Simon Pegg
John Cho
Anton Yelchin
Idris Elba
Sofia Boutella

Full Credits at IMDb

On DVD & Blu-Ray