Star Trek Beyond finds a way to take what we love about the Star Trek franchise and then break it down in a way audiences never see coming.
Justin Lin is a life-long Star Trek fan so he is a perfect choice to take over for J.J. Abrams behind the camera. Meanwhile, cast member Simon Pegg is also a screenwriter for the film. One of the decisions that Pegg makes as a sceenwriter is make Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) a gay character. Co-writer Doug Jung plays Ben Sulu. The film treats them no differently than a cishet couple.
After learning that Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) were going to go their own separate ways, the Enterprise crew comes together for one last mission together. Kalara (Lydia Wilson) arrives at Yorktown asking for help but the reality is that she is double crossing the Enterprise crew by lying about her past. Her actions are not without their own consequences. They bring nothing but trouble. Trouble for the Enterprise and everyone else involved.
Every film needs a major set piece and this one really brings it. What they do here is introduce Krall (Idris Elba) and he is hellbent on destruction. In previous films, the bigger ship always wins. That’s not the case here and keep in mind, the Enterprise is a character in and of itself. You can’t help but look at Kirk’s reflection on the window of his escape pod as he sees the dish crashing down to the planet. I mean, this ship has been his home for the past three years during the five-year mission!
The USS Franklin had been missing for over a century until Scotty discovers that it crashed on Altamid. The production design is stupendous to say the least. And yet, this ship, albeit older, plays a pivotal role in helping the Enterprise crew save the day. In using an older ship, one of the funnier moments in the film is the use of “classical music” in bringing about the swarm.
Star Trek Beyond really changes up the formula unlike the other movies. Everyone gets separated on Altamid but they eventually get reunited together as a crew. Uhura (Zoe Saldaña) and Sulu were taken prisoner and work with each other to try and free the crew. Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock are on their own, perhaps the oddest couple of any. Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) work together in hopes of defeating Krall. Scotty meets alien scavenger Jaylaw (Sofia Boutella), a new character originally written for Jennifer Lawrence, who uses the Franklin for her home. Ultimately, Lawrence didn’t do the film but the character name stays.
Krall makes for an intriguing villain choice. His arc really begins to change when we learn more about his true origin. The reveal that Krall is Captain Balthazar Edison is the biggest twist in the film, more so than learning John Harrison is actually Khan. Krall is some sort of alien hybrid and the makeup design changes throughout the film.
One of the things introduced in the film is Yorktown, a huge starbase. It represents a utopia of the Federation world. It’s a place that connects every species but at the same time, it also might bring about its downfall. They could have done this on a soundstage but instead, they chose to shoot in Dubai. The city offers a landscape that can also double for a futuristic starbase. It’s amazing when you look at what they can do with this on screen.
Visually, there’s some effects that stand out, even outdoing what we see in the previous movies. In this movie, it’s a sequence of the Enterprise leaving Yorktown to check out the nebula and Altamid. Unlike the two previous films, there was no Oscar nomination for visual effects. The film received a well-deserved nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. There’s something to be said about sci-fi movies when it comes to visual effects but production designers do not get nearly as much credit as they should!
Michael Giacchino is back for his third Star Trek film. His main Star Trek theme song is all over the franchise and the motif makes several appearances throughout the film. You can really see the differences between Giacchino and Jerry Goldsmith in how they approach scoring a Star Trek movie. Honestly, this might just be my favorite Star Trek score from the composer. Hopefully, he’ll be coming back for the fourth movie because it’s hard to imagine this franchise with a different composer doing the score.
This is the first film after the passing of Leonard Nimoy. They write his death into the film and later pay tribute to him and the original cast with a photo cameo. It’s one of those moments that we know is coming but is emotional nonetheless. Interestingly, there was a time when it looked like William Shatner might return but nothing ever came of it.
When you look at what this franchise means to people, one thinks of the hope for the future. But also, the characters are one of the things that we love about the franchise. They are who draw us in more so than everything else. Obviously, sci-fi is a component that draws fans in but without characters, we have nothing. I could not think of a better film to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary. There’s been plenty of new Star Trek since the film’s release but when you think back to a few years before Star Trek in 2009, the idea of new Trek on TV–okay, streaming–didn’t even seem possible.
Star Trek Beyond finds a way to deconstruct what we love about the franchise, much like Rian Johnson did with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
DIRECTOR: Justin Lin
SCREENWRITERS: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
CAST: John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldaña, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, and Idris Elba
Paramount released Star Trek Beyond in theaters on July 22, 2013. Grade: 4/5
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