“Star Trek Beyond” Gets Back to Basics

The latest installment in the rebooted Star Trek films, Star Trek Beyond (2016), is a fun ride that helps get the series back on track although it does not reach the heights of most films in the original series.  If you have been following the reboot, you will probably enjoy the ride.  Still, you might feel like you wanted a little bit more.

The Good

First, consider the good things about Star Trek Beyond.  The strength of the reboot has always been the actors selected to play the iconic roles.  With no exception, each of the actors in the main roles are reminiscent enough of the original actors while also bringing something new.

Chris Pine, as Captain Kirk, builds on William Shatner’s swagger.  Similarly, Zachary Quinto perfectly evokes the late Leonard Nimoy‘s character.  Quinto adds a little more vulnerability to Spock in the alternate universe of the current films.

Meanwhile, the actors in the other main roles have all been given moments to shine in the three movies.  The outstanding cast includes Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin, who recently passed away.  Pegg, who plays Scottie, co-wrote with Doug Jung the most recent film, which was directed by Justin Lin.

As with the original series and films, I will continue to watch every Star Trek film with this cast.  The greatest enjoyment I get from the series is the interaction and relationships among the characters.

The Not-So-Good

Like many modern action films, Star Trek Beyond often relies too much on action in place of drama.  Some scenes seemed to drag on with dark CGI effects that at times seemed repetitive.

Similarly, I was excited that Iris Elba was playing the villain in this film.  But for the majority of the time, he is buried in makeup.  Without spoiling anything, I wish the film would have made better use of this great actor by further developing his personal turmoil and making him more three dimensional.

On the other hand, the reality of modern movies is that they overly rely upon action, partly to appeal to younger viewers and partly to appeal to international viewers.  That said, the movie does have good action scenes.

How Does Star Trek Beyond Compare to Other Films in the Franchise?

The first film in the rebooted movies, 2009’s Star Trek, was a wonderful re-introduction to the Star Trek characters.  That film, directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, brought together this great cast.

The 2009 movie also intelligently created an alternate universe for the characters. The plot twist that affects the entire series allows viewers to see the characters develop without us knowing their futures. Rotten Tomatoes gives Star Trek an excellent 95% critics score and a 91% audience score.

The second film, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, was a disappointment for many fansInto Darkness, again directed by J.J. Abrams, was written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof.

Fans had high expectations for Into Darkness once rumors leaked that the movie would feature the character Khan Noonien Singh.  The character had appeared in the original series.  More importantly, Khan was the villain in what many consider the best Star Trek film, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

Into Darkness, for the most part, was fun.  Rotten Tomatoes gives Into Darkness an 86% critics score and a 90% audience score. But by the end of the movie, many Star Trek fans were disappointed or angry  The producers created a movie that tried to retread too much of The Wrath of Khan. Thus, it ended up being a somewhat ridiculous story instead of a tribute to the much better movie.

Star Trek Beyond avoids the pitfalls of Into Darkness.  Instead of trying to rework another movie, it creates a new adventure for the crew of the Enterprise.  Some have noted that the new movie seems more like a television episode, and there is some truth to that.

Star Trek Beyond takes a few nods at developing the depth of the characters and addressing larger issues.  It begins with Captain Kirk pondering the sameness of day-to-day life in space.  Similarly, Spock gets news that makes him reconsider his career choice too.

But the movie does not do enough with these existential crises, perhaps reflecting modern worries that tend to focus on violence and terrorism.  Most of the movies in the original series did a little more with the characters (most notably Kirk’s aging in The Wrath of Khan).

Star Trek Beyond instead hints at what might have been a better movie.  And there are some other deep themes regarding violence, isolationism, and collectivism bubbling around the seams.

Conclusion?

I liked Star Trek Beyond.  It featured some funny dialogue and great action scenes.  And one cannot resist the appearance of a Beastie Boys song fulfilling a role similar to a Slim Whitman song in Mars Attacks (1996).

While I have high expectations for the Star Trek franchise that may be hard to meet, this movie still is a fun summer popcorn movie.  Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 84% critics rating and an 85% audience rating. It was great to see the characters and actors together again. I can’t wait for the next film in the franchise.

What did you think of Star Trek Beyond? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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