Last Friday, July 23rd, the third installment of J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek universe hits theaters. I, however, did not get to see it on open weekend because I went to the beach instead and got server sunburn. UUUUGGGgggghhhhh........*I hate the Summer*. Anyway, I saw it on the 28th with my Mother in a smaller showing (with amazing new recliners my local theater installed). If you want to know what I think about this and the Abrams timeline in general, I enjoy them for what they are. They're fantastic movies, but don't particularly represent Star Trek perfectly. This movie was great but before I get into that I want to tell you real quick about me and Star Trek.
If you've read my Star Wars 4 review you know that I'm not a big fan of that franchise and haven't dabbled at all into it until doing that review. It's the opposite with Star Trek. Me and my Mom are big Star Trek fans, though I wasn't one in the beginning. My mom showed my episodes of Next Gen when I was little but it wasn't until my teens years that I started to appreciate it. Mostly because we got Netflix and I binged the shit out of it (my first binging experience).
I think among the setting and tech, the themes and general feel of diplomacy is what made Star Trek so interesting for me. I watched (and still watch) very actiony stuff with big battles, and while I love that stuff it not something I would actually do. I believe in viewing problems from all angles before going to violence. And no show perpetuates that ideal more then Star Trek along with it's philosophical debates. And if you've seen even the trailers you can see why some fans dislike the new action-oriented movies.
Now I should also state that I'm not a Linkara-level Trekkie. I've only ever really watched the movies/shows of the original cast and mostly the Next Gen (#Picard4life). I've seen some of Deep Space 9, some of Voyager, and none of Enterprise. Am excited for Discovery, though. Basically, I'm not not a purist and am ok with an action movie set in the Star Trek universe not focused on the messages. These movies do have some philosophy in them, but the stories aren't directly tied to them as much as Star Trek usually is. Keep in mind that these are still well made/acted films and a staple in the sci-fi/action genre of the current decade and they don't deserved to be brushed of as the black sheep of the franchise. I still think they are worthy of the name “Star Trek”. These are my general thoughts on both Beyond and the New Timeline Trilogy as a whole. That said.....
The plot in itself is much more simple and streamlined then the previous movies. Now alternate timelines and Khan-spiracies here. Just the crew of the Enterprise tapped from UFP on dangerous planet ruled by an alien dictator. The alien villain named Krall tricks the Enterprise into a trap so he could secure a dangerous artifact that can be turned into a near-unstoppable death machine. Kirk and his fractured crew, with the help of a badass alien scavenger Jaylah, must save the crew and stop Krall before he kills billions of lives on the space city Yorktown. It's a simple story but flows amazingly and lets the characters how themselves off. I however say that this movie didn't surprise me story wise the same way that Civil War did earlier this year, or the previous New Timeline movies. It didn't bother me so much while I was watching because everything else was so top notch, but looking back it is a problem. At least for something with the name “Star Trek”.
One thing these movies do better then anything in the Star Trek franchise is the world (or galaxy) building. With the big budge these movies have we've seen future London and San Fan, the rocky Klingon planet, the Romulan battleship, and an amazing Enterprise. All huge and scientificly interesting to the eyes and mind. Beyond ups the ante with the space city Yorktown . I love the idea of crazy future cities with their own gravity, like Dead Space 2's Sprawl and Bioshock Infinite's Colombia. But Yorktown might be my favorite city of all. I has six planet sized strips with buildings pointing to the center, with the gravity pulling “down” towards space and the bubble that protects it. We don't spent much time in Yorktown, which is ok. I imagine Yorktwon was one of the most expensive parts of the movie. The final chase does take place here however, and the film does everything it can with this setting. It's a great final act.
Most of the movie takes place on Krall's planet. Though not as interesting as Yorktown, it still has personality. Every jaggered rockside and tree felt unique and helped make the world believable. Krall's base is also cool looking with these mechanical fungus buildings and metal trees his bee ships jump off from.
The USS wrecks also offer cool settings and action set pieces. The fight along the broken carcass of the Enterprise was great as Kirk and Chekov have to manage through wires and missing catwalks as they shoot at Krall's forces while the ship itself is toppling over. (Those anyone know how many that damn ship has crash?) And the salvaged USS Franklin the Jaylah calls home was unique has well. I love when sci-fi has characters go though an ancient wreck that still is futuristic to us. It's so strange and really makes you think about your own generation.
A lot of people where nervous about Justin Lin directing a Star Trek film as he's more associated with the goofy Fast & Furious series. I think he did a good job here. Lin obviously knows how to frame a shot depend on the context. Action scenes feel/look different then more comedic scenes and more dialogue moments, which is important in a more action-oriented film like this. Action works best when spliced with slower moments, something lost in the post-Bay action world. It should also be mentioned that the action scenes make great use of the future tech Star Trek is know for. My favorite being the instant stone clouds Kirk uses on his motorcycle to make cover for the escaping crew and the hologram decoys.
If I had one complaint, and it is a major one, it's the use of shaky cam. Shaky cam in action intrigued me in the past but I've grown critical of it since. Shaky cam can be used to give a sense of urgency and disorientation in the viewer and in this sense, makes sense for up close combat. However, over use of it makes it difficult to understand what's going on. I'm sure these actors worked hard on the choreography and I'd like to see it. Maybe I'm spoiled by the Marvel movies but I think Civil War handled it better. They rarely used shaky cam and I could see every punch and impact. I don't think the airport scene or the final battle with Cap and Iron Man would have been as great if it used this style. There are good fight scenes. The first fight with Kirk and Krall and the one with Jaylah and that alien dude are highlights, but there's a lot of shakey cam that bothered me.
Once again the cast is the best part of these new Trek films. A lot of fans have good arguments against the new movies but I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't like these guys. Every character feels on point with the original incarnations. The highlights for me are the main trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy; played by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban respectively. Their friendship shines as the characters, 'specially Kirk and Spock, have grown since the first movie and are more open about their feelings. McCoy still goofs with Spock like a bro, always insulting him but obviously caring about (emotionally and literally in this sense). Though I have to ask: is “green blooded”a racist term for Vulcans? Seems really wrong for McCoy to say that, but no one's perfect.
The story really revolves around Kirk and Spock's development, but I'll get to that when I discuss the themes. The villain Kralll played by Idris Elba is great, if a seemly a little cliché. I'll get to him in the themes as well.
The new character is Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, was another highlight. She's funny and kicks major ass. She's the only person to have alluded Krall's forces and has these cool and smart ways of staying hidden, like the holograms and the stone clouds. I wouldn't mind if she became a permanent member of the Enterprise. She has the potential of being Star Trek's “Rey” (thought Uhura kicks ass as well).
Before I go into the ends of my review, I feel I should talk about Anton Yelchin's Chekov. Anton died shortly before the film released and it's difficult watching the film knowing this. I don't want to get heavy handed. I want this to be positive, so I'll say this: despite now have a character arch, Beyond has the best use of the Chekov character in the whole of Star Trek. Chekov was never an important character but still had a funny personality that Yelchin captures perfectly. He's always out of the loop with anything that's not navigation. Unlike the other films, Chekov is deep in the action, helping Kirk on the ravaged Enterprise, and a vital part in the escape plan. It's a shame that well never get to see Yelchin's full potential, but it should be said that his final performance is far from a bad one.
After leaving the theater (even though I didn't want to 'cause of those dang comfy chairs) I didn't get why the film was called “Beyond”. Sure they go beyond an uncharted nebular, but that doesn't seem title worthy. But then I thought about the character development and the story and it made more sense to me. At it's core, Beyond theme-wise is vary similar to The Wrath of Kahn in that it's about aging and what you think you have to do the future of your life. Or “beyond” were you are.
Early in the film Kirk and McCoy are talking about Kirk's dad. Kirk has reach the level his father was at before he died, captain of a major spaceship. With the Enterprise's five mission coming closer to it's end, and with the possibility of a promotion to an admiral, Kirk is wonder what he should do. Whether he continue the crazy adventures with his friends or move beyond that.
Spock also experiences this. With the death of Spock Prime (RIP Leonard Nimoy), New Spock is conflicted. He contemplates leaving Starfleet to continue the work of Prime and help his people on New Vulcan. It seems logical, but it's clear emotionally Spock doesn't want to leave his friends and lover Uhura (BTW I'm more then ok with relationship. Haters gonna hate.)
The villain Krall also ties to this theme as well. The represents someone who hasn't moved beyond his past. It's revealed that he's actually Captain Edison, commander of the USS Franklin from decades ago. He steals the life from others to keep living. He was trained as a solider before the United Federation of Planets become the world government. He lost his mind in space and believes that humanity needs war to breed advancement. He's both an antithesis of Kirk's growth but also a dark look at current politics on war unity. This is where Star Trek Beyond could have been amazing political commentary like the franchise is known for. However, it's more implied , as it fights for attention between the action scenes and character moments. I think this is more a problem with the current landscape of the film industry then the a script issue (I think the script is great). There's so much to talk about in that regard that I can't in this review, so please watch Comic Book 19's video on reboots. She says it better then I could.
As for the ending, it's glorious. The crew have to stop the bee ships before they destroy Yorktown and learn they focus their attacks/movement on hive mind through sound (like bees). The crew need a loud sound to disrupt them and take them all out in a fatal swoop. To do that Jaylah uses the power of the Beastie Boys in one of my favorite uses of rock-n-roll in a film since Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future. With only three ships left, the crew (in the Franklin) and Spock & McCoy in an enemy ship race to beat Krall to the center of the town. It ends with Kirk and Krall punching each other and Krall unable to see beyond his old world views and dies as Kirk manages to save to Galaxy (again).
Spock looks through Spock Prime's stuff and finds a picture of the original crew (in Wrath of Khan suits), realizing Prime stayed with his friends. Kirk also chooses to stay a captain then move to admiral. While is seems strange then the film is about moving beyond where you are and Kirk and Spock seem to stay where they were in the begin, I don't think that's the case. Kirk and Spock do stay where they are but for different reasons. Kirk no longer feels he's in the shadow of his father and Spock chooses his own happiness and friendships then doing what he thinks Prime would want. Emotionally they are beyond, which Krall wasn't.
I admit there's a lot speculation on my part, but this is want I take from the film.
Star Trek: Beyond follows in the previous flim's step and continues to deliver great action sci-fi experience with some fascinating topics underneath. Is it as perfect of a representation of the Star Trek franchise as past films like Wrath of Kahn? No. But it is a lot closer then I think some people give it credit for.
So what did you think of Beyond? Are you a Trekkie? How are you celebrating Star Trek's 50th? (I'll probably be binging Next Gen) Leave your comments below and have a great day.