50 Years of Star Trek – Beyond

Even though I am a bonafide Star Trek fan and had been waiting for the movie ever since it was announced, I had found the trailers very underwhelming in comparison with the previous two movies.

Justin Lin had to step into the director’s shoes because JJ Abrams chose to direct Star Wars instead of this movie. There were rumours of major rewrites to the screenplay barely months before the shooting began when Simon Pegg was brought onboard as a co-writer.

Then there is the fact that Star Trek Beyond is the 13th Star Trek movie, clouding it with an aura of bad luck, if you believe in that sort of a thing.

All in all, even before it’s release, the odds were stacked against Star Trek Beyond and it seemed like it would be universally panned by fans and critics alike. Thankfully, all those signs have proven to be wrong.

Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek – Into the Darkness (2013) were arguably the best Star Trek movies ever made but they weren’t quite like the previous movies released before them.

They were like prequels if you will, the back stories of who the crew of the USS Enterprise were and how they came together. They were successful, adrenalin-pumping, action movies but they lacked the theme of space exploration to find new life forms and face existential questions while doing so, the underlying theme of the entire Star Trek universe.

Star Trek Beyond tries to slowly bring the movie franchise back to that very theme , which is fitting, because this is also the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

The back stories are now done and dusted. When the movie starts, the connection with earth is well and truly in the rear view mirror as the crew have now been in space for three straight years, exploring strange new worlds.

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One of the finest things JJ Abrams had done in the previous movies was to almost personify the spaceship “USS Enterprise”. It had it’s own character – almost organic. It was part of some amazing fight sequences and some of the most winning moments were when the ship rose through the clouds – bruised but victorious – or when it stood toe to toe against much larger and powerful ships and still won.

Justin Lin cashes in on that, raising the stakes even further. Easily one of the best scenes in Star Trek Beyond is the doomed battle the USS Enterprise fights against an alien invasion in a bid to save as many of it’s crew as possible.

This serves as the first act of the movie where you emotionally invest in the plot and the primary reason why you cheer the ass-kicking of the alien spaceships in the third and final act of the movie with the thundering sound of “Sabotage by Beastie Boys” on full volume.

If you haven’t heard this song in Imax Audio in full blast, you haven’t heard it at all.

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The previous two Star Trek movies had amazing actors as their villain (Eric Bana and Benedict Cumberbatch) who added significantly to the charm. They were worthy adversaries for James T. Kirk and his crew to take on.

Star Trek Beyond is no exception. At least not so far as casting is concerned. Idris Elba is (rightly) the toast of tinseltown these days and it was a casting  coup to have him as the next baddie.

But he is mostly wasted in the movie. The heavy prosthetics don’t allow him to emote (or look terribly cool like he usually does) and the put on alien vocal awkwardness drowns out his usually charming british accent. Even the character build up and screen time seems inadequate and rushed.

The other thing that stands out like a sore thumb is the make-up. The alien races look new and hideous enough but unfortunately, so do the  human actors. It must take special talent to make someone like Chris Pine look that bad. His face seems frozen in an orange paste and his hair looks fake (even though it isn’t).

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The remaining actors like Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban share a similar fate. The storyline hasn’t progressed much (in terms of time) from the first film, even though the filming has gone on for almost 10 years. So it might have been an executive decision to try and make them look younger. Either way, it doesn’t quite work and is off-putting.

Then there is the scientific mumbo jumbo. It is so unreal and far out that the actors rush through those lines quickly before you can even try to understand them, moving on to the next scene and plot quickly. It’s like the ridiculousness of the lines isn’t lost on them.

Star Trek Beyond lacks the intensity and gloom of Star Trek  -Into the Darkness. Some might say that’s a good thing. It is decidedly lighter.

JJ Abrams is well known for his sense of style and grandiose action sequences (famous lens flares and brilliant use of background score) and he can be a hard act to follow.

So credit must go to Justin Lin for bringing his own style of action to the franchise. The motorcycle sequence has the Fast and Furious hangover, but in a good way. The spaceship battle scenes are beautifully choreographed and shot, while still being different.

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For the most part, the movie works. The touching tribute to the Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin (post credits sequence) and the connection to the old Star Trek universe will make the old time fans very happy.

Some will criticize the lack of drama or the scientific loopholes in Star Trek Beyond, of which there are many. Some might also say that this movie’s action and background score (with the exception of using Sabotage) aren’t as good as the previous two films and they would at least partly, be right.

But in it’s own vacuum, Star Trek Beyond is a fun movie that I would have no hesitation recommending it to someone. It might be predictable in parts but at least it’s not trying to destroy the same death star in exactly the same way. Every. Single. Time.

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