Star Trek Beyond (2016) Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Directed by Justin Lin (of Fast & Furious fame), the third installment of the Star Trek reboot series is a decently enjoyable little adventure. I’m not quite sure what to make of the “Kelvin Timeline” to be quite honest. These are entertaining action flicks which are mostly devoid of the depth and science fiction intrigue which so brilliantly characterized Gene Roddenberry’s vision. Nevertheless, they contain some impressive special effects and strikingly quick twist and turns. At least they are not the franchise suicide that befell Star Wars. Beyond features the same cast as the previous two: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote the script), Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin.

Beyond begins with a strange scene in which Kirk fails to bring peace between a pair of feuding alien races (the CGI used to create the aliens in this scene is downright terrible). However he fails and walks away with an odd ancient relic. Kirk spends the early scenes wondering about his true purpose –if the universe is truly infinite, what is the point of the Enterprise’s mission? This was a nice pause in the break-neck pace of the previous two films. The Enterprise heads to Starbase “Yorktown” for shore leave: Spock and Uhura have broken off their romance while Spock contemplates leaving Starfleet (the elder Spock is shown to have died in a fitting little tribute to Leonard Nimoy), and we also learn Sulu is gay (perhaps an allusion to George Takei’s personal life). At any rate, a mysterious escape pod suddenly appears with a lone alien survivor who claims her ship had crashed on a planet called Altamid in a nearby nebula, in a ruse that is quite obviously an ambush. Amazingly, very few questions are asked of this woman and the Enterprise sails through the nearby nebula (why has this nebula never been explored before?) and then the Enterprise is viciously attacked by a swarm of alien ships which forces a crash on Altamid. The Enterprise crew manage to find their escape pods at the last moments before impact. On the planet’s surface a reclusive alien named Jayleh (Sofia Boutella) lives inside an old abandoned federation starship called the USS Franklin which she keeps concealed and invisible. Meanwhile other members of the crew are captured by a shadowy villain named Krall (Idris Elba).

The Enterprise crew and Jayleh repair the USS Franklin, despite the fact that it has lain dormant for over a century, and they stage a rescue operation of their fellow imprisoned crewmen. Meanwhile we learn that Krall was once actually the captain of the Franklin, his name was Balthazar Edison. He was a pre-Federation soldier who fought against the Romulans and then grew disillusioned when the Federation made an alliance with the Romulans. Edison was then stranded on Altamid and his crew used dormant technology from an old alien race to prolong their lives. Now, he intends to disrupt the Federation so that war with the Romulans may proceed once again. He heads for the nearby “Yorktown” colony where he intends to unleash a bioweapon which will cause mass destruction, however in a dramatic showdown with Kirk, Krall is jettisoned into space along with the bioweapon which immediately consumes him. All is returned to normal –Spock and Uhura rekindle their relationship, Spock decides to remain with Starfleet, Kirk declines a promotion to the position of Admiral so that he may continue serving as captain of the Enterprise, and the Enterprise is reconstructed in the end.

As with the first two “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek films, Beyond is a wild ride –a CGI-filled adventure which doesn’t really have much depth to it, but it is still an entertaining romp through a new reimagining of Star Trek. My main beef with this film series is its breathless pace. Unlike in the original series, the characters all seem to be in a near-constant state of panic, frantically shouting and running around, always out of breath, coming up with haphazard schemes, behaving less like a well-run organization and more like a carnival of accidents. With that being said, there are some improvements in Beyond, particularly the scenes featuring character development among the scattered crewmen on Altamid. All things considered I’d say Beyond is actually my favorite of the “Kelvin Timeline” Trek films.

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