Summary: The Guardians- I mean, the crew of the Enterprise explore more unchartered space and discover a lurking enemy of the federation.
As a non-fan of Star Trek but a huge fan of its screenwriter Simon Pegg, I opted out of seeing this in theaters and waited for it on never-leave-your-couch-enabling streaming services. I can’t say this was a wrong decision. When the credits rolled, it felt like just another action movie that didn’t make much of an impact. I saved myself $15!
In this installment, the Enterprise is destroyed. The crew of the Enterprise is forced to separate and use their individual skills to not only regroup but defeat Krall who is intent on destroying the federation and has the means to do so.
There are a lot of good things about Star Trek: Beyond. I think I got to know the characters much better from this installment than the previous two and the vibe felt much more organic and natural. To go along with the that, each member of the cast was highlighted and paired off with someone different- this is probably due to Pegg’s understanding of their strengths and knowing what they wanted to do with their characters. It was nice to see something other than The Spock and Kirk Show. Karl Urban with his cemented furrowed brow probably has the strongest performance, as the gruff but lovable Bones. Chris Pine is just fine (I’ve always thought Kirk was uninteresting). Zachary Quinto has less to do in this movie than in the previous, but he has really some great dialogue with Bones.
As always with series, the characters feel familiar and need some new faces to change up the vibe a bit. Jaylah, played by the talented Sofia Boutella, slides into the cast with little to no effort and provides just enough spark to add a new dynamic without unsettling the group. She’s a survivor of a different crashed ship who saves Scotty and enlists his help in repairing her getaway vehicle. She also has some stellar makeup- the design and application of prosthetics are top notch here (CG, not so much). The other addition is the villain Krall, played by Idris Elba who seems to be popping up a lot in my reviews lately. (I swear, I didn’t even know he was in this. Krall is mostly prosthetic makeup and CG. His voice sounded familiar, I looked it up on IMDB, and boom- Idris Elba. Why one would choose to cover up his face, I’ll never know. I declare: one Elba review a week!) These are both extremely interesting characters with good, full backstories and strong motives- but I did find problems in how the information was delivered.
While it has it’s moments, the plot of Star Trek: Beyond is nothing mindblowing and is fairly formulaic to the point where it became predictable. My partner and I literally were able to spit out exact lines of dialogue at least 3 times in the second half of the movie. Let’s reveal a plot twist here, let’s do a major reveal here, let’s introduce a family tie here to make it more personal, you name it, Star Trek: Beyond has got it. There is a significant amount of obvious foreshadowing and too much planting of seeds. I do give them a lot of credit for trying to make use of everything and tying everything from the beginning to the ending. While this works in some moments (when you can get Sabotage by the Beastie Boys into your movie, its use is automatically okay in my book), it fails in larger, more pivotal points of the scene.
Let’s go back to the Krall character, who is one of the better villains in recent action movies. Elba’s performance is solid (he does yet another great accent) and this isn’t to the fault of his performance. Without giving too much away, he has a potentially interesting backstory, strong motive, and a very capable character- but these are revealed in a way that doesn’t portray any of these. In particular, the motive is lacking. After a pretty badass scene where he picks up and throws Kirk down by his throat, Krall is mentioned a lot by name, stalks around a bit, and rants to Uhura. The eventual reveal behind his motivation isn’t his, but a different character discovering his identity. This detracts from Krall- instead of giving him more depth and characterization, his big moment becomes nothing more than a fleeting moment that fails to add anything to story or even the character who makes the discovery. If this was told in a different order, he would have made a bigger impact as a villain. (Additionally, having seen Serenity quite a few times, I could kind of see it coming from a mile away. I’m talking Dr. Caron’s hologram.)
I will say though- I really appreciate how the film tied Kirk’s professional struggle introduced in the beginning of the film to the villain, making the central theme personal without taking the easy way out with “You tortured my crew!” Overall, the movie does do a good job of tying up loose ends and giving closure to things that were hinted at in the beginning. I mean, the movie is good- just a little underwhelming and conventional in its delivery. I know this was the last movie for a lot of the actors and I don’t know if another one is on the table- a lot of them seem to be done with the series and I don’t quite get the natural, affectionate vibe that the MCU series have or even the weird “yay, team!” that Justice League seems to be forcing. If it does, the team would be wise to focus on the individual relationships as Pegg did here. And I’m absolutely fine with Jaylah becoming a full team-member.
(Can we also get Zoe Saldana some pants? Her dress is just impractical at this point.)