I had the chance to watch the newest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, at an early screening this past week. I like the new movies. I never watched the shows or the old movies, so I’m coming into Star Trek as a brand new fan. I always enjoy watching the movies, in part because the cast is great, but I find that there is a really persistent problem with movie franchises and developing villains very poorly (looking | at | you, Marvel) and expecting audiences to not mind. I can barely remember the villains for the previous Star Trek films (even amidst the big reveal/controversy with Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan for the last one!) and there’s a reason for that. And I’ll talk about that later.
But TL;DR I really had a lot of fun watching this movie, from beginning to end! Justin Lin did a really great job directing this one. (This fantastic Wired write-up will do a better job of telling you why than I can.) I really loved watching Beyond, because when you have a great director and a great cast, it’s really hard to go wrong. (Also, sorry JJ, but I do not miss the lens flares.)
I liked the internal conflicts that we’re presented with in this installment. Captain Jim Kirk (played by Chris Pine) is avoiding celebrating the birthday that officially makes him older than his father lived to see, the same day of his father’s passing. He is starting to lose himself in the routine of his ship and deep space, and is pursuing a promotion that would have him leave the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) is thinking about his future after his interactions with Ambassador Spock (his future self, played by Leonard Nimoy, from an alternate timeline). He wants to live his life the way the Ambassador did and rededicate himself to Vulcans, which leads to him and Lt. Uhura splitting up and contemplating leaving the Enterprise himself.
You can think of this film as a love story to the Enterprise (which we watch in horror as it is destroyed and crashed) and its crew as our two lead characters struggle with the decision to move on from this part of their lives to the next part. We really get to see a little more from the rest of the crew, which is good given how much Jim is fighting for them – and they for him – for the entirety of the movie.
I think the character relations in the movie, while limited, are done really nicely. We get this previously not-much-explored bromance with Spock and Bones (played by Karl Urban). With so much focus on the epic bromance that is Spock and Kirk, it was nice to see it mixed up a little bit with Bones, who is an amazingly fun, fiery character, and his contrast with the calm, cool Spock, underscore by both men confessing to the other their utmost respect for one another.
As always, I wish Sulu (played by the absurdly dashing John Cho) had a storyline of his own and more screen time, but he absolutely nails every tiny moment that he is afforded. As soon as we see that he has a family at Yorktown, the small looks of concern when he contemplates both losing them and sacrificing himself and never seeing them again are very palpable. And every time he has to firmly remind Kirk that he is crazy competent and could easily be captain of the Enterprise (again) is terrific. (Personally, I understand all the concerns against making Sulu a gay dad that John Cho himself had and that George Takei had, and I’m glad they ultimately went with it anyway.)
Still very disappointed about the female character development, though. Uhura (played by Zoe Saldana) still stands in mostly as Spock’s girlfriend who bares her teeth at our villain, Krall (played by Idris Elba). And Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella) is this character with SO much potential: she kicks mega butt, she is an engineering genius who puts Scotty (played by Simon Pegg) in his place, she has a compelling backstory, she fits in nicely with our crew… but she just does these things very superficially. And I don’t know if we’ll ever see her again. (Fun fact: her character’s name comes from basing her personality off Jennifer Lawrence’s Winter’s Bone character. JLaw –> Jaylah.)
I cannot talk about the characters and the actors without mentioning a few things:
- Yes, this is Anton Yelchin’s final Star Trek movie. I was heartbroken when I learned about his death last month, and there’s a small “For Anton” tribute to him at the end. He was one of the younger cast mates, and his presence on- and off-screen will be missed. Goodbye, Chekhov.
- A really cool nod to the original Star Trek was the photo that Spock receives of Spock Prime and the rest of his alternate timeline crew. He pulls this photo and you feel the feels:
I talked a lot about the characters so far, but I did it because this movie really did a great job with fleshing them and their dynamics out. The action was gripping and well-paced, the effects looked awesome. (Check out how dizzyingly amazing Yorktown looks!) And the story is good. It really is. I had so much fun watching this movie, even with my little beef with the villain, which I’ll talk about with other spoilers after the trailer:
I nearly forgot that Idris Elba was in this movie until the CRAZY RANDOM REVEAL where Lt. Uhura is watching hundred-year-old footage and sees a half second of his face and then realizes that is our villain.
There is a lot of potential for his motives: He was a soldier who fought in the wars that led to the peace brought on by the Federation. But when he was given a ship and then lost to this alien planet, he felt abandoned by the Federation that he fought to help create. Still, a couple of things get very muddled:
- Why is he so insistent that peace and unity are garbage and that it is only through struggle that humanity can grow?
- This is coming from a villain who uses swarming ships to destroy everything, I mean how can he be so against unity?
- Why has he mutated into this alien form? He resembles other aliens on this planet. Are they one species or are they all different species who underwent the same type of transformation?
- Where did the name Krall come from, exactly? I can understand him forgetting his human self, maybe, through whatever the heck is going on, but where, then, did his new identity come from?
- And if he has completely forgotten his old self, then what are his motivations driven by? Just an unconscious hatred of the Federation?
- How did he become in charge of this alien planet and their crazy advanced technology, exactly? And what happened to his crew that he survived but they didn’t? Or are they the other alien creatures on the planet? (????)
- For example, how did they hack Starfleet’s systems and stuff, eh?
Not only was our villain kind of very meh (and we don’t even need to bother with the side-villain Manas, who… just… wants to kill people??) but what exactly was the deal with this weapon he was trying to use? It just… destroys people? And was hurled into space in the hopes that no one else would find it? What? I don’t… understand…?
BUT I really enjoyed visually and thematically watching our gang use the song “Sabotage” to destroy the swarm. That was really cool and, honestly, it’s one of those things that Justin Lin is so good at, just adding drama and humor and stunning visuals into one beautiful climactic scene.
Are you planning on seeing the movie?
If you’ve seen it, what are your thoughts? Agree/disagree with my mine?