Star Trek Beyond

It may venture into uncharted film territory, but not far enough


The third film in this century’s revival of the Star Trek film series is directed by Justin Lin and written by Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty) and Doug Jung. Star Trek Beyond continues the adventures of the young Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and Scotty in the alternate timeline introduced in 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, both of which were directed by J.J. Abrams.

Unfortunately, the third film follows its predecessors in sacrificing an intelligent, complex thought-provoking plot in favor of action (often violent action).

This time the crew of the Starship Enterprise is three years into its five-year mission to explore the uncharted corners of the universe (“where no one has gone before”), giving Star Trek Beyond, relative to its predecessors, much more of the feel of the 60’s television series upon which it is based. Unfortunately, the third film follows its predecessors in sacrificing an intelligent, complex thought-provoking plot in favor of action (often violent action) and in sacrificing the possibility of gorgeous cinematography to make room for the washed-out drabness associated with making films for 3D.

The story, such as it is, once again involves an angry, revenge-motivated and powerful male enemy who is out to destroy the Federation (the lack of imagination revealed by this repetitive theme is mind-boggling and appalling).

While the Enterprise is visiting a remote Federation outpost called Yorktown, an alien woman from an unknown species arrives in great distress, begging for help to rescue her crew members stranded on the far side of a nearby nebula (in uncharted space). Always ready to assist a damsel in distress, Kirk volunteers for the rescue mission. But as the Enterprise approaches the location of the stranded ship, it is attacked and quickly overcome by a swarm of alien ships, forcing the crew to abandon the Enterprise which crashes onto a Class M (earth-like) planet. Krall (Idris Elba), the leader of the aliens, hunts down the Enterprise crew members and searches every corner of the broken ship for a device which he needs to exact his revenge on the Federation. Can Kirk and company stop him? (Rhetorical question.)

While its action plot is simplistic and pathetic, Star Trek Beyond actually features better writing than its predecessors because of its emphasis on relationships. Abandoning the Enterprise forces crew members to be separated into small groups, allowing for much more dialogue between our favorite characters than was seen in the earlier films (though this kind of dialogue was also the highlight of those films). Pegg’s love of the original television series shines through in his writing of the dialogue, which is often quite funny, and the good casting and acting highlight the chemistry between the characters. If only the story of Krall hadn’t been so unoriginal. With its greater emphasis on relationships and dialogue, Star Trek Beyond has less time for action, but for me there was still far too much action in the film.

Another improvement in Star Trek Beyond is the greater involvement of female characters. The lack of strong and prominent female characters (and the poor treatment of women in general) has been a recurring and disappointing feature of all shows and films involving Kirk and his crew. Star Trek Beyond continues this trend (given its foundation, it’s almost impossible not to), but makes some admirable efforts to address this flaw, giving Uhura a much bigger role and making the alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) a central and powerful character in the story.

With these improvements, Star Trek Beyond could have been a much better film than its predecessors if only it had displayed the courage and imagination to try something new. For example (spoiler alert!), the story of Krall provides a perfect opportunity to redeem the villain at the end instead of giving us the same old redemptive-violence ending we see in almost every action film. But no, it’s as if there’s a line action-film writers are not allowed to cross, lest they disappoint the masses by not giving them what they expect and apparently want. It’s one of the saddest indictments of the entire film industry.

Nevertheless, I still recommend Star Trek Beyond to all the Star Trek fans out there. It’s not an outstanding film but it has its moments and is worth a look.

Star Trek Beyond is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.


All reviews express the opinions of the reviewer, not necessarily the views of Third Way.