‘Star Trek Beyond’ Review: Boldly Dumber than Before

'Star Trek Beyond'

Movie Rating:


‘Star Trek Beyond’ is essentially an elaborate single episode of the original 1960s TV series, with the crew visiting a distant planet, getting in trouble, and eventually kicking some alien butt. There’s very little to it other than that. But with Simon Pegg on script duties, the quips run high. And with ‘Fast Five’ action guru Justin Lin behind the camera, you’d better believe that the bang-bang, boom-boom material is on-point. It’s hardly the deepest or most intelligent entry in this long-running franchise, but in the heat of the moment, you might not even notice.

The story picks up with Kirk (Chris Pine) getting downright melancholic about his time on the Enterprise, discussing the tedious “episodic” (zing!) repetition of the grand adventure. Clearly, he needs some action to spice things up. The anniversary of his father’s death (see original reboot) is also coming up to put a damper on things. The whole ‘Trek’ crew takes a brief break at a sweet gravity-defying space station where Spock (Zachary Quinto) learns that Admiral Spock from another timeline (again, see that reboot) has passed on in a loving tribute to Leonard Nimoy. This forces the Vulcan to question his desire to stay with these humans.

Just as quickly as the gang start to settle into space station life, Kirk finds an alien who asks for his help. Her crew is stranded on a distant planet. You know Kirk can’t resist. He rallies the troops and the next thing you know the Enterprise is being assaulted by a massive army of drones that rip that baby apart spectacularly. Turns out it was all a trap set by Krall (Idris Elba, being badass as usual), a particularly vicious and violent alien with dastardly plans. Looks like the gang is going to have to do some damage in retaliation. Fortunately, they’ve got an ass-kicking alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, that amazing henchwoman from ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’) who’s willing to help them out.

This is about as basic of a ‘Star Trek’ premise as you can imagine, and don’t go expecting that when Krall’s ultimate plot is revealed, it’ll end up being one of those grand allegorical ideas that Gene Roddenberry tried to cram into every episode. No, none of that. This edition of the franchise has always been about itself more than anything else. Aside from the nice Nimoy tribute, this is all about charm, action and excitement.

The cast are fantastic and Pegg knows how to fill the mouths of these characters with type of witty banter that makes the fanboys and fangals swoon. You’ll get to see Karl Urban’s hilariously gruff Bones battle it out alone with Spock, which is just as amusingly one-sided as you’d imagine. Pegg also bumps up his Scotty role to the detriment of a few other more famous crew members, but thankfully he’s one of the most amusing presences in the cast so it’s fine. Plus, most of his scenes are with Boutella’s bright white hip-hop loving alien kung-fu queen, and she’s a welcome addition to this new action-focused ‘Trek’-verse. Chris Pine does his action figure thing as well as always and Idris Elba is such a strong screen presence that he’s probably the best villain in this particular ‘Trek’ run yet, despite being a bit underwritten and covered in makeup at all times. It’s a blast to watch this gang do their thing.

The fact that Justin Lin took over as director goes a long way to making this action-centric ‘Trek’ succeed. After all, he brought irony and absurdly elaborate action to that dumbbell car franchise that was on its way out and turned it into one the biggest action games in town. Watching Lin apply his ample visual imagination to the ‘Trek’ universe is a damn delight. The drone swarm attack on the Enterprise just might be the single greatest action sequence of this summer movie season, and then the guy manages to top it with a wild gravity-defying finale and a punchline use of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” that’s applause-worthy. Are there other more geek-friendly filmmakers who might have made a more poignantly thoughtful third entry in this ‘Star Trek’ reboot? Uh… yeah, undoubtedly. But is there anyone who could have made a more fun and explosive ‘Star Trek’ picture? That’s a big no. Lin is one of the best in Hollywood at pure entertainment these days.

It’ll be interesting to see how ‘Star Trek Beyond’ does and where the franchise goes from here. It’s certainly the ‘Trek’ flick with the best chance of winning over audiences who couldn’t care less about this series, while making up for the wrong footing of ‘Star Trek into Darkness’ for longtime fans. After that troubled sequel, it seemed like this reboot series might have been toast following J.J. Abrams’ solid pilot movie. Now, it’s clear this thing has legs. Justin Lin is the right director to keep this comic book action spectacular version of Gene Roddenberry’s vision kicking, but it would be nice if the next one had a slightly more ambitious script that attempted a little social commentary between the gloriously choreographed explosions. The current cultural and political climate is littered with anger, inequality and turbulence that could be filtered through the idealistic ‘Star Trek’ lens. The series just needs some writers to be boldly go back to where this franchise has been before. Keep all the excessive explosions though, please. That part is working just fine.

What Did You Think of 'Star Trek Beyond'?

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  1. NJScorpio

    “Ask any Starfleet captain. Any real Starfleet captain. It don’t matter if you win by a light year or a megaparsec. Winning’s winning.”

  2. I hated Into Darkness, but I liked this one a lot. It’s not quite as good as the 2009 film, but it does feel like a Star Trek movie. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

    • Similar thoughts here. I didn’t really care for Into Darkness, but liked this one fairly well. In many ways this was a better Wrath of Kahn than was Into Darkness. (Or at least it reminded me a bit of that, seemingly borrowing from that story)

  3. cardpetree

    Saw this last night and loved it. The Space Station/City was amazing. The cast absolutely make this franchise what it is though. This cast is way better than the original except for Nimoy as Spock and they were actually able to make Into Darkness watchable.

  4. Sorry Phil, but I disagree this movie was a great romp! I especially enjoyed the sound track. Highly entertaining 2 hours.

    What movie did you see? The consensus seemed very positive and hardly “dumb”.

      • Timcharger

        Josh (after watching the film): “I agree with most of Phil wrote, from the star rating, to the overall sentiment, to the headline.”

        So after watching, you think Phil’s chosen
        headline now leads an accurate conclusion
        instead of a “wrong conclusion” of how the
        film is reviewed?

  5. Chris B

    Just got back from seeing this in panoramic format and unfortunately the presentation left much to be desired.

    For starters, the peripheral screens weren’t installed completely straight so when the movie opened up to all three, the image didn’t line up properly a lot of the time and was more distracting than anything else.

    Secondly, because of the added screens and projectors to light them, the theatre became rather bright much too often and contrast toom a big hit.

    Thirdly, the overall image quality during the panoramic sequences was dogshit compared to the single screen stuff. It would look soft/muddy/blurry depending on the shot. After awhile it was almost like watching two different films and thus not very immersive.

    All this adds up to the fact that I wont be watching anymore films in the “Barco escape” format anytime soon. I thought the movie itself was a lot of fun though. Obviously not as good as the 2009 reboot, but I liked it as much if not a little more than Into Darkness.

    • Chris B

      For anyone that’s seen the film: remember the scene early on when Bones and Kirk are drinking scotch that Bones “found in Checkov’s locker” ? Even though there’s just the two of them they pour a third glass and make a point of cheersing it before they drink. Do you suppose this was a sly tribute they went back and shot after Yelchin died? Or am I reading into it to much?

      • You’re reading too much into it. The third glass is for Kirk’s father.

        There IS however a nod toward Anton at the end of the movie…When Kirk toasts “to absent friends”, Justin Lin has a shot of Chekov right after Kirk says that line. I’m guessing THAT’s something they went back and edited in for this release (in addition, of course, to the “For Anton” over the end credits).

  6. Lisandro Torres

    Sorry to bust your bubble ChrisB the third drink was meant for his father whom they just finished talking about. But I get it I will miss Anton Yelchin very much. Recently been looking up anything he is in. Found great movie called Hearts in Atlantis where at a very young age they pair him with the great Anthony Hopkins. Wow even at such a young age you could see his talent. Aye not knowing him personally but felt his lost thru his art.
    R.I.P. Anton.

    • Chris B

      Lol, I figured that was the other possibilty. I just found it strange they made a point of talking about Chekov and pointing out it was HIS bottle…then the third glass detail to boot.

  7. SuperSugarBear

    I’ll be sure to remember when you are trashing another film,mthat you gave 3 and a half stars to a movie that defeats an invading army (literally) with a Beastie Boys song from a boom box.

  8. Deaditelord

    Saw it today and mostly liked it. I don’t think it’s as good as Into Darkness (what can I say, I like movies where it’s en vogue to shit on them), but it’s on par with the first rebooted film.

  9. Just got back from the theater. I agree with most of Phil wrote, from the star rating, to the overall sentiment, to the headline.

    I voted “Solidly entertaining. I liked it.” Much better than Into Darkness. Not as good as Trek ’09. Turns pretty dumb, and does so a lot.

    The vertiginous action scenes were both very inventive and very frustrating. I pretty much hate Justin Lin’s constantly swooping camera. I kept wanting to yell at the director to just hold still for a moment so I could figure out what the hell I was looking at.

    I saw it in 2D at the only Dolby Atmos theater in Boston. I do not recommend this theater and will not go back. They projected 2D onto a silver 3D screen that washed out all the black levels, which is a really bad thing for a space movie. The Atmos quality was also nothing to write home about. Again, I blame the theater. I’m sure the movie will both look and sound a lot better in my own home theater.

    • Thomas James

      Too bad about that theater you saw it at Josh. I saw at one of the best theaters here in MN and I LOVED LOVED the Dolby Atmos surround sound in this film, probably the best use of Atmos since Gravity.

      As for the movie itself, I agree with you and Phil, not as good as 2009 film but much better than Into Darkness. I’ll probably go see it again later this week to experience the excellent Atmos sound all over again.

    • Timcharger

      Josh: “Turns pretty dumb, and does so a lot.”

      Tirade on Magic Blood (Into Darkness)…
      Tirade of Magic Love Rays (Interstellar)…
      For Beyond, and for consistency, Josh,
      you must write a tirade about:
      Magic Music Waves

      The bad guys in Beyond are essentially
      the grumpy, old man at the house where
      the kids play too close to his lawn.

  10. Phil’s review was spot on. I thought Krall’s motivation behind the attack was pretty weak but other than that, I enjoyed the ride. As a lifelong fan of the ST universe, I got a kick out of some of the easter eggs I managed to catch as well.

  11. William Henley

    Well, I am late to the party – I just saw this yesterday because I was doing volunteer work the previous weekend.

    I really enjoyed this one. Yeah, the 2009 one was good, but to me, this was the first of the reboots that actually felt like a Star Trek movie. And while there were some things like the “music waves” that seemed goofy, at least they were not doing stuff like instantanious warp and cross-galaxy transporting.

    (spoiler alert)

    They had issues such as the Franklin only being a warp 4 drive, so they got to the station after Krall did, had issues such as long transporter sequences and only being able to beam up a certain number of people at a time (although it did not seem to really do anything for the plot).

    I think that the only annoyance was that on several occasions I was reminded of Insurrection.

    Oh and the sound in the theater was not the best. It was a local theater that AMC bought out, and I don’t think they upgraded anything yet.

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