Star Trek Beyond

Posted by Joel Copling on July 21, 2016

At every turn, "Star Trek Beyond" offers reasons to get behind what is an original concept within a pre-existing universe, and meeting us at every one of those turns is a reason to resist the urge to embrace it. This is a pretty generic sci-fi adventure, all the more disappointing following 2009's "Star Trek" and 2013's "Star Trek Into Darkness," magnificently entertaining summer spectaculars that had more than enough emotional substance behind them to warrant involvement in the various action sequences (Remember the space jump in the second film that had stakes piling upon the the two characters involved directly in the jump while even bigger stakes awaited them at their destination). Here, the stakes are pretty low. The Starship Enterprise is entering the third year of its five-year mission to chart space, and even the narration (delivered via that trusty "captain's log" by one of our heroes) reveals that complacency is setting in.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), said captain of said starship, is getting bored of his duties and approaching consideration for vice admiral once his mission ends. He has trouble telling Spock (Zachary Quinto), the logic-driven Vulcan who receives his own bit of troubling information that leads him to question his own place within Starfleet. He has also broken up with Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), a Starfleet lieutenant. Spock inversely has trouble confiding in Kirk. The two men are clearly full of the kind of respect for each other that such admissions would be hard to make. The conflict is all put into even sharper relief when they are attacked (and the Enterprise is destroyed) by an aggressive faction of aliens led by Krall (Idris Elba, ineffectual and hidden underneath makeup that looks derived from the "Power Rangers" television series).

Forced to abandon their ship, the crew crash-lands a series of pods on the planet from which Krall's opposing force launched their attack, Uhura is captured along with most of the crew, and different other crew members are paired together: Kirk with Pavel Chekhov (the late Anton Yelchin in his final major performance) to find their way back to the starship and see if anything can be salvaged about it, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) with a combat-trained straggler named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, whose character is a distraction from more important matters), and Spock with "Bones" McCoy (a phenomenal Karl Urban), in which the two confront their begruding friendship, which is really just a very strong friendship with conflicting personalities, while the good doctor treats the Vulcan's grievous chest wound.

The film is best when it examines the characters' personalities (and, come to think of it, that's when the original series, created by Gene Roddenberry, was also at its best), although screenwriters Pegg and Doug Jung spend far too much energy on having the characters dictate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions directly to the audience. They also spend even more energy on attempting to give Krall a motive of some kind, but although we eventually get one, the new heavy remains a bore. Action sequences are plenty but largely unskillful, which might be due to a combination of director Justin Lin's lack of a sense of geography and a 3-D presentation that dims the impressive effects work and makes most of this incomprehensible (A highlight, though, is the solution to a hive of attacking enemy ships in the form of a rap-rock song). There is, sadly, something mechanical to "Star Trek Beyond." After two films that paid tribute to the series on which they were based, it's a letdown to see this promising, new material go waste.

Film Information

Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Commander Spock), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Nyota Uhura), Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott), John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekhov), Idris Elba (Krall), Sofia Boutella (Jaylah), Joe Taslim (Manas), Lydia Wilson (Kalara), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Commodore Paris).

Directed by Justin Lin and written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, based on the series "Star Trek" created by Gene Roddenberry.

Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action/violence).

120 minutes.

Released on July 22, 2016.