Main cast: Chris Pine (Captain James T Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Commander Spock), Karl Urban (Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Lt Nyota Uhura), Simon Pegg (Lt Commander Montgomery Scott), John Cho (Lt Hikaru Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Ensign Pavel Chekov), Sofia Boutella (Jaylah), and Idris Elba (Krall)
Director: Justin Lin
Star Trek Beyond is easily the closest the reboot franchise has ever been so far to the original Star Trek series. While this one still has some action sequences that would still drive the more die-hard purists away, there are enough homage and nods to the original stuff to make this a pretty spectacular 50th birthday nod to the whole series. Additionally, the film goes all meta and sneaks in tributes to Leonard Nimoy. To those fans who feel that JJ Abrams disrespect the Star Trek franchise, this movie could have been his apology – the Easter eggs and the simple yet heartfelt tribute are everything, say, the Ghostbusters reboot could have done and perhaps made peace with the fans who were not happy with the liberties taken in the script.
Now, the not-so-good thing: I’m not a fan of Star Trek. Therefore, the concessions made by the script to the original series do not endear it to me as much as, say, to a more strident fan of the series. The person I watched this movie with is a fan, and he pointed out the various more subtle homages and Easter eggs to me after we left the theater. I won’t even try to get into these things – I’m not that much of a fan to make a halfway decent job at this. Let’s just say that there are these things, and leave it at that.
The plot is actually a throwaway thing. Basically, this fellow, Krall, and his small army of rebels want war to continue, so they are against the whole aliens-are-one-big-peaceful-family thing, and with the USS Enterprise being the symbol of this endeavor, they want to take down that ship. Oh, and it also happens that the ship has something Krall really, really wants. Don’t ask how it got there – it’s there, the bad guys want it, and the ship explodes in the ensuing confrontation. Captain Kirk and Ensign Pavel Chekov get separated from the rest, ditto Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy and Spock, and the engineer dude Scotty manages to escape on his own in an escape pod. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew are taken prisoner, making Sulu (sorry, George Takei, he’s gay here) and Uhura the de facto leader of those disposable extras by virtue of seniority. Can they all get together again, beat the bad guys, and get off the planet, or will the bad guy succeeds in pulling off the plot he has studied Guardians of the Galaxy very hard to pull off the tone of villainy and all?
No, really, I can see the resolution to the whole villain drama coming the moment they introduce that device that would take the villains down. I’m still not sure how that device can cause spontaneous massive explosions, as I’m led to believe that it only jams the communication of the enemy ships, but like I said, the plot here is just secondary to the whole meta Happy 60th Birthday Party vibe in this movie. Characterization is minimal in this movie, with one-liners taking precedence, and the old Star Trek feel emerges with vengeance in things like:
- Oh, everything seems destined to end in disaster for our good guys! No, wait, conveniently enough, Scotty will realize at the last minute that, if Kirk could scale precariously to this silver-red panel thingy located – of course – at a most inconvenient location within the next 5 seconds, doing so will miraculously avert disaster and send the bad guy out of the picture for good. Chop, chop, Kirk!
- Combat scenes are once again an exercise in number wars. Oh, no, Captain, our shield is down to 11% with the probability of electronic flatulence calculated to be the penumbral product of nth to the power of y and z, carry the six and subtract seven from the result, multiply that by a factor of 0.756, OH SHIT WHAT WAS THAT?
- Disposable extras, especially those who drew the short straw and had to have rubber lumps glued to their face, can die. However, our main characters are all wearing plot armors that aren’t even a little bit subtle. Took a deep grievous wound in the stomach? One cauterization and it’s all A-OK.
- Just like the old days, the entire lore is human-centric. Or rather, Western culture-centric. Spock quotes Shakespeare rather than anything of his own people, for example, and for all the diversity of species on board the ship, the ugly humanoid ones are shunted away out of sight, mostly in the engineering deck where the camera will only zoom in on Scotty unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Chekov is now reduced to being the wide-eyed bumpkin saying out obvious “This is what we are doing, members of the audience who are not paying attention!” nonsense as loud as he can, in that annoying accent of his. He’s like a comic relief version of Counselor Troi, only he’s not very funny. Okay, not at all.
Despite the number of times I roll up my eyes, this movie is still entertaining. The pace is slick and relentless, and the admittedly basic and linear plot nonetheless provides plenty of chases and action scenes to make this a pretty good popcorn-and-Pepsi flick. And I say this as someone who is not enamored of the original Star Trek-isms in this movie, which tells me that the director and the scriptwriters are doing something right here. It is also noteworthy to point out that Star Trek Beyond marks that moment when this one embraces its cheesy roots to be closer to its progenitor, rather than another expensive vehicle for JJ Abrams to play Star Wars with the Star Trek brand. And, I have to say, Chris Pine is less obnoxious than he usually is here. Maybe the lack of angst and character-driven plot lines is a good thing, as it doesn’t allow him to try to emote – something he doesn’t do very well if his track record is anything to go by.
Ultimately, I waver between giving this movie three or four oogies. The plot has holes big enough to swallow planets, but the whole thing is still entertaining in a brainless, cheesy way. It also helps that this is one of the recent big budget movie that delivers, after the eye-rolling duds that are Independence Day 2: Resurgence, Ghostbusters, and such. All things considered, this movie does deliver where it counts – entertaining me – so what the heck, four oogies then.