I got to see Star Trek Beyond in the theater this week. I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was really little and I’ve seen all of the series’ with the exception of the end of Voyager and all of Enterprise except the first episode.
I thought the new Star Trek films were OK and actually better than I had expected. They were fun, but prior to Star Trek Beyond they didn’t feel like Star Trek.
Character Development / Dialogue:
STB feels the most like Star Trek of all 3 of the new films. Long time fans of the series will no doubt greatly enjoy that the dialogue in STB is INCREDIBLY well written. This will be the most quotable Star Trek film out of the new series. In typical space drama fashion, shit happens and the crew gets split up. The pairings of the characters were great. McCoy and Spock are a joy to watch and made all of us laugh out loud. Literally. I don’t mean “LOL”, I mean the entire audience was literally laughing. McCoy was written well – if written poorly he could come off as a jerk, but that was not the case. Their rivalry was one of the best parts of the movie.
The same goes for Kirk and Chekov. Anton Yelchin really shines as Chekov, which reminded me how sad it was that he was killed before the film came out. I have never met him, but everyone who has has told me that he was a wonderful guy with a great personality. I loved that they paid tribute to him at the end of the film.
We got to see Sulu being amazing (and gay). I know that George Takei didn’t approve, but I really liked that he was gay and that it was so understated and normal in the film. That was probably the only clue the movie gave to how society had evolved by this time in the future. The character interactions were where most of the Star Trek universe feeling came from and not the narrative.
Scotty and newcomer alien Jaylah also had great chemistry. I did feel that Jaylah’s character design screamed “Star Wars” rather than “Star Trek”. I sort of remember that I’ve seen a similar character on a Timothy Zahn Star Wars book cover, ad, or somewhere similar. That can be forgiven since many of the characters have new designs but this actually didn’t feel very Star Trek to me. Star Trek and Star Wars always had a different feel to their designs. I kept waiting for BB-8 to roll out of her house somewhere.
Uhura was probably written in the best way that she’s been written since this franchise launched. I would have liked to see more from her that we got but she did have a more active role than in the other films. So there’s that. I also loved their tribute to Leonard Nimoy during the film.
That said, Star Trek Beyond is not a film that I would watch again and it’s solely due to my utter hatred of the CG action sequences. When Justin Lin (Known for the “Fast and Furious” and “Tokyo Drift” franchises) was announced as the new director people made jokes that it would become like those films. I didn’t give any weight to it. I should have.
If you have a high tolerance for “X-TREEEME LET’S PUT MY BASEBALL HAT ON SIDEWAYS AND GO TO 7-11, BRO” CG-based space battles that have weird physics that is applied inconsistently you will no doubt disagree with me on this. I couldn’t get past it. I caught myself looking at my watch during several of them. You have lots of quick cuts and the design of the terrain and the trajectory were rendered such that I could not suspend my disbelief that what was happening had any merit.
For example, you have Captain Kirk on a motorcycle. (To avoid spoilers I will keep this vague, but I am referring to when he was the person on the motorcycle before the diversion scene.) You can’t just have a human man drive THROUGH rocks and solve that by cutting away before he’d hit it. He was too close to have been able to avoid hitting the rock. The same thing went for most of the other scenes – so much stuff flying around that none of it seemed to have any weight other than just being “big”.
Justin Lin basically undercut the line of action in most of these scenes by making the physics so inconsistent. This is not the X-Men. Why pay attention if you are just going to throw a lot of random shit at the screen and explosions and it doesn’t even look like he’s avoiding / interacting with his surroundings correctly? You would have had to have been one of the X-Men to survive some of these battles, but the crew are not super powered.
I am all for wild physics in films – these are supposed to be big experiences. My problem is that they undercut their own logic and thus undercut these scenes even being in the film. That is why, to me, most of these scenes felt like annoying commercial breaks between what was a good film. You could have removed them and had the Muppet Babies act out the scenes with paper planes and cardboard and I’d have been more engaged in the line of action.
It felt random and wasteful of time and money. Who cares if he hits the rock? You’ll just cut away before he hits it and make him win anyway. The amount of CG here swallowed the actors to the point that the graphics were center stage and not the story. I was getting Star Wars Episode 1-3 flashbacks. It was THAT busy. I saw the first 2 new ST films when I was going blind and I could follow the action. With almost 20/20 vision I had difficulty/annoyance with STB’s action sequences.
I get that I’ve been blind until recently but holy shit are all films like dubstep videos now? WTH. The “too close” shots that really didn’t even allow you to see who hit who, or in some cases, what had even just happened. I know this is a “modern” action sequence style now–but I just don’t think it matches with Star Trek.
It’s like they just made stuff happen so things would blow up and it didn’t even matter if it remotely looked like the characters were accomplishing much. To me it was a fireworks display that detracted from the fabulous dialogue that is in this film and inhibited the character development of the villain.
The Bad Guy (Whoever he was):
Let’s talk about him. Whatever his name was. He’s so generic that I am just going to call him “the villain” because that’s all he was. He was just the 1 dimensional boss at the end of the video game – but one with very little explanation and probably the game that puts up the “Thank you for playing!” message and restarts instead of giving you the rest of the story.
I understood why he was mad but they don’t show you this. They just tell you. They never explained where his guys came from (leaving this vague to avoid spoilers) or how he got to where he was. Much of his story I do not feel was ever told. They also don’t explain why he doesn’t seem to know about the Franklin’s location or where he got all of his weapons, or his minions (and why would they follow him?). Not going into spoiler territory, but if you’ve see the film you’ll know WHY that’s ridiculous.
They could (and should have) have cut some of those action sequences to give us more story.
If you aren’t familiar with the Star Trek universe you’ll have no idea what this world is like. If you are bringing someone who is not already a Star Trek fan you will not want to make this the first film that they see if you would like them to be a Star Trek fan and not just enjoy a space shooter film. (Personally I’d suggest TOS, TNG, or DS9, but if you must, the 2009 film would be a better starting point than Beyond.)
Normally in the Star Trek universe you’d probably learn a bit more about the villain. Even if you don’t agree with him you’d be forced to understand his side in some way – that’s one thing that Star Trek (except for these new films) has always done. They make it clear that there are grey areas and often highlight the moral decisions that the Captain and crew have to deal with. The new films see to have real issues coming up with good motivations for the villains–let’s not forget Nero from the first film, and his weird logic of blowing up federation planets–instead of zooming over to Romulus to tell them to be prepared for the future problem thus saving his own people.
So, nah you won’t get that real deep thought provoking story that makes the villain understandable and “real”. You get “Thank you for playing!” guy instead. Did anyone else notice that most of the “ugly” aliens got killed and all of the “pretty” people didn’t die? I picked up on that early in the film and correctly predicted who would die.
Is STB a bad film? No. It’s actually quite enjoyable and many may argue that this is the best out of the new series of films. The characters’ interactions felt like the most Star Trek we have seen in a long time, but unless you already know the Star Trek world it won’t be illuminated that much for new people.
That’s not the worst thing ever, but the low amount of character development given to the villain in favor of long action sequences was something that I didn’t care for. The dialogue was so well written and it was so fun to watch the actors interact with each other that it made me sad, imagining what we didn’t get in favor of Random Explosions. If they had just given a few more minutes of character and world development this might have been the best Star Trek film ever made, inclusive of all of the classic Trek films. The actors were certainly bringing their A Game.
I’m told that most action films follow this formula now so perhaps I am one of the few people who will have a problem with this. I haven’t been able to enjoy movies for years since my eyes got really bad and so all of this is new to me now that I can see again.
If you just want a fun film and aren’t annoyed by “X-TREEEME” action sequences you will probably really enjoy this one.