I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Let me just say before beginning this review that my condolences are to the friends, colleagues and family of Anton Yelchin who died at the age of 27 on the 19th of June this year. He played Chekov in the three most recent Star Trek movies (2009, 2013 and this one) and with great ability. His performance in this movie was similarly excellent.
Star Trek Beyond is the third movie in the Star Trek “Reboot Series” began in 2009 when a parallel timeline made it possible for young actors to play the iconic roles of the series. In Beyond we meet Kirk (played again by Chris Pine), Spock (played again by Zachary Quinto) and the crew of the USS Enterprise three years into their journey “to boldly go” when they are suddenly attacked and left stranded on a strange planet, led by a mysterious alien being.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Understandably, the producers of this film handed the writing pen for such a momentous moment in the series’ history to a big sci-fi nerd and brilliant writer. That man is Simon Pegg who along with co-writing this script with Doug Jung has played Scotty for the past two films.
Pegg and Jung’s writing is tight and rather good. We get a tremendous understanding of every character. And I mean every character. I don’t know how they did it, but all members of the main cast get their moments to shine either in comedic or dramatic scenes.
What is surprising though is that the film is altogether not quite as funny as I would have thought, coming from one half of the Cornetto Trilogy writing team. I feel that there were certain points in the runtime where you could have had a one-liner or something.
The argument against this might be that we are currently in a filmmaking landscape where we are now remembering how to make fun summer movies which don’t take themselves too seriously. The Marvel Movies, the most recent Star Wars movie, we are now getting ourselves out of the funk of dark and broody that we fell in after The Dark Knight was so brilliant and filmmakers copied all the wrong things from it. You could say that Star Trek Beyond is being careful not to go too far in the opposite direction.
Careful is probably the operative word as this story does feel kind of careful in many ways. It’s a stand-alone film. This is not the concluding chapter or the start of a new series of adventures, it’s just an adventure. One that explores the characters and their purpose in the overarching narrative of Star Trek, but one that can be seen if you have never seen any of the other films or TV shows.
The director of this film is not J.J Abrams, who was of course busy in another Star franchise. Justin Lin is our auteur for the evening. I’m not familiar with this man’s other work, but I’ve pieced together some pros and cons of his style.
Pro, no more lens flares which were cool in small doses, but the visual equivalent of nails on a chalkboard in some of J.J’s films.
Con, not quite the same dynamic style that J.J has built up in his relatively brief film directing career.
Pro, he’s good at big set pieces when there’s lots of light around and he can handle drama.
Con, when he shoots certain scenes particularly dark ones, they are often dark and shaky making me genuinely lost at certain points.
I understand that the cons are not all on Lin, but they are things that I found distracting when watching this film.
There’s no real big change that comes about to the whole mythos of Trek as the film goes on. The characters do go through various arcs, but we know from the outset that they will end up in the same place as they always were.
This is not a flaw in the film by any means. It is simply a tribute to the T.V style of storytelling where “everything goes back to the way it was”. Like in the best of T.V episodes, we actually understand why the characters would like to change and why they decide to stay the way they are.
We also get an understanding of what Star Trek is truly about. It’s about hope. It’s about the bridging of different peoples through science and enlightenment. For all the sci-fi out there that talks about man destroying itself, Trek is an optimist. Because the frontier is never truly final. You can always go Beyond.
Recommended Scenario: If you want to go on a pretty fun adventure with some fun characters in a cool universe.