“We will find hope in the impossible…”
I was pretty keen… okay, I was borderline desperate to see the new Star Trek movie on its day of release here in Australia, but life conspired against me – as it does for all of us now and again, and I had to put it off. After some thought, I decided to torture myself and wait until Gene Roddenberry’s birthday to see it. I liked the idea of watching this particular movie, released to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of my favourite television and movie series, on the birthday of the phenomena’s creator.
The wait was agonising.
Thankfully today (in Australia at least) is the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s birthday, and I watched the film, cheering on Gene’s creation throughout.
So first… HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GENE!
If he were alive today, the Great Bird of the Galaxy would have turned 95. I’m fairly certain, if he were still with us, that he would have been chuffed (maybe even quietly surprised) to see that his little show that could was still going strong 50 years on. I think he would also be feeling proud of his son, and in particular Rob’s involvement in bringing a new Trek to another generation alongside some of the brightest lights in Star Trek and modern television production.
Star Trek Beyond? If he had had the chance to watch the film I’m certain he would have enjoyed it. He would have loved the character moments and the dynamics, and many of the choices Justin, Simon and Doug made.
So, again, happy birthday Gene. You gave us such a wonderful gift, and in return many people are still doing their utmost to honour your incredible vision.
As much as the wait to see Beyond drove me a little crazy, I was right, watching the film on the 19th of August added extra layers to the experience, and it was worth the delay.
I LOVED IT!
I know a few reviewers have not enjoyed the film, or only enjoyed bits and pieces of it, but I enjoyed at least 121 of the 122 minutes it was on screen. From those first unique but beautiful shots of the Enterprise to the last credit as it rolled and the lights came on in the cinema, I felt like I was in the final frontier.
It’s nothing like 2009’s Star Trek, or 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s nothing like any Star Trek film that’s gone before it. If I were forced to try and find a comparison, I’d say it’s most like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but only in it’s execution because it does split our characters up and give them all a slight chance to shine, just like that film did. But the comparison ends there.
The film is funny, like The Voyage Home, but it’s also moving and poignant just like The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and parts of The Undiscovered Country.
There are shades of The Wrath of Khan in the conversations between McCoy and Kirk, and there’s a very slight echo of Star Trek: Insurrection in the way Krall callously disregards the lives of others to lengthen his own, but despite those familiar notes, Beyond is it’s own film.
It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s faults are minor.
One such fault is with the amount of time the big seven get on screen. We didn’t see anywhere near enough of Uhura, Chekov or Sulu. Despite that, thankfully, the movie wasn’t dominated by Kirk, Spock, Scotty or McCoy. I believe it’s just about as balanced as it could be.
Another fault was with the build up to, and actual revelation of Krall’s story and motivation.
It seemed rushed to me. It needed and deserved more focus.
None of that detracted from my enjoyment of the film. Those criticisms are minor, and they don’t “throw you out” of the movie.
Star Trek Beyond is a journey that wraps you up in its narrative and doesn’t let you go.
The standout moments in the film are the simply beautiful, perfect performances of the entire cast and the really wonderful and meaningful interactions between the main seven characters. Those are what make Beyond shine. The best of those happen between Spock and McCoy (who actually steal the entire movie). Why has it taken three films to discover the remarkable chemistry between Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban?
The remainder of this review is going to have a few spoilers in it, so if you haven’t seen the film yet and don’t want to know anything about it, don’t keep reading!
Oh… and GO SEE IT!!
“To the Enterprise… and to absent friends.”
James T. Kirk
The Direction and Vision
I didn’t know what to expect from Justin Lin. Unlike a lot of other people I wasn’t expecting The Fast and The Furious with phasers. I had researched Justin and knew he wasn’t a Michael Bay whose movies are all so similar regardless of their story or genre. He has some impressive films under his belt, which to me just meant I couldn’t go in expecting any particular visual style.
And I was right. What I got was something unexpected and new and very welcome.
Justin has crafted a film that is nothing like any other Star Trek. His visual signature is unique for this series of movies, and it’s predecessors, and it works.
Justin’s direction was marred, just a tiny bit, by one or two editing choices, but his style is beautiful, expansive and dynamic. It flows and makes sense, and doesn’t treat the audience like they’re idiots who need every bridging moment in a film spelled out for them.
Justin’s camera is almost always in motion, and this brings a fluidity to the movie that makes it feel majestic and epic.
On top of the visual style of the film, Justin’s overall vision for this instalment of Star Trek was BIG, and he delivered that in spades – and in some very subtle ways: our glimpses of the crew at day 966 in deep space, Kirk’s obvious exhaustion during a diplomatic meeting and his tired comment “I ripped my shirt again”, the progression of the crew’s relationships (in particular Spock and Uhura’s). These simple scenes conveyed the passage of time, and by doing that the massive distances the crew would have travelled. Justin also presented the ‘hugeness’ of space in some very obvious ways: the big and beautiful, panoramic shots of the Enterprise at the start of the film, the new warp effect, and just how small our favourite ship was against the vastness of space.
Apart from making space feel big and dangerous again, Justin, Simon and Doug wanted to challenge the very founding principles of the Federation in this film and asked some interesting questions, while presenting an age old argument.
The questions? Does the Federation live up to its high ideals? Was it founded on those ideals, or was it founded on (in Krall’s belief) a lie?
The age old argument? “War, chaos and struggle breeds strength.”
These were good questions and a good premise to build the film on for this, the 50th year of Star Trek‘s life. I don’t know if they pulled off what they wanted to pull off to the depth they would have liked, but the ideas were raised and as a long time fan, were appreciated.
Above the ideas though, was the way the movie made me feel.
Justin’s directing style made me smile so many times. And maybe that’s the key? I wasn’t just blown away by the visuals, I was carried away by the story and swept up in the lives of the characters in a way that made me feel good. The emotion in the movie connected with me on a really deep level, more than any special effect ever could.
Justin brought so many different things to the table as the Director of this film, and he didn’t shy away from putting his own design stamp on the Kelvin timeline Trek. One such stamp was the design of Starbase Yorktown… it is simply incredible. Photos do not do it justice. Everything about the Yorktown is stunning. The design is astounding – a confusion of glass and steel that wends and winds its way through the interior of an enormous glass sphere in space, and every inch of her makes you believe this place is real.
We pretty much start the movie at the starbase (after an hilariously disastrous diplomatic mission), and the starbase plays a major part in the film’s tense climax. We also get to see, at the very end of the film, that the Yorktown is more than just a deep space base of operations for the Federation, it’s also the birth place of the brand new USS Enterprise A.
There’s so much to love about this film. I now know why so many reviewers have compared Beyond to an original series episode. It doesn’t feel like an overblown Star Trek episode on steroids like so many Next Gen movies did, but it most definitely has an original series sensibility and energy that makes it more Star Trek than any of the Kelvin timeline films to date.
I swear I picked multiple music and visual homages from the original series and original series films, and even the new uniforms are more original series than those seen in the first two films. I didn’t think I was going to like the new uniforms, because they looked a little bland in the production stills, but I loved them. They’re quite smart, and they look good on our heroes.
Justin Lin did an incredible job. Star Trek Beyond is a strong film and it’s set a new standard for Star Trek movies. I hope he gets to do Star Trek IV.
“Mr. Sulu… you can… fly this thing, right?”
James T. Kirk
For most of the movie, it’s good to flawless… but there were times where it was jarring, and you were momentarily knocked out of the movie by an editing choice that didn’t match the flow of the film.
Like I indicated above, that might just be because Justin made a movie that was so fluid, when an obvious scene cut happens it’s so unexpected you do a double take. I’ll have to see the movie again to better analyse my reaction.
I don’t have anything else to say about the editing, because for 98% of the time it’s excellent, but I would love to speak to the film’s editors to try and understand some of their choices… were they artistic decisions? Were they meant to create an emotional reaction? Were they to cut the film down because it was running too long? Why were they made? That was one of the bigger questions I came away with regarding this latest Trek.
“It isn’t uncommon, you know? It’s easy to get lost. In the vastness of space,
there’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.”
The Special Effects
I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the effects, but I was happy with them. Some of them are extraordinary!
As mentioned above, the camera was almost always in motion, and at times that did make certain effects look a little blurred or unrealised, but there were enough outstanding set pieces that were perfect that you just went with it. In some people’s minds that might have been a poor choice on the filmmakers’ behalf, but I personally enjoyed the way the movie flowed.
Those set pieces?
The Yorktown, and in particular the Enterprise‘s entry into and exit from it, were simply beautiful and actually surprising. The heart-breaking but spectacular destruction of the Enterprise was another jaw-dropping moment that was gorgeous to watch as it tore your heart out and stomped on it.
The wave of swarm ships that the Franklin “disrupts” toward the end of the movie were also really well done, as were the running phaser fights on the Enterprise as she was boarded and the escape pod sequences looked great too. I jumped almost every time a swarm ship captured one of the small pods.
There were some corny bits, like the holo-projected Jaylah’s and Kirks, but they were executed flawlessly – so by and large the effects were fun and they worked. They did exactly what they needed to do and complemented the film and for once, for a blockbuster, did not drown out the story in favour of more flash and bang.
I love watching a movie that dazzles me with amazing effects but doesn’t overwhelm me. I want to be sucked into a film and to feel like everything in that movie supports the story and its characters, and isn’t there just to provoke a reaction. I’m personally pretty tired of special effects for the sake of special effects and it was such a relief to see Star Trek Beyond find that perfect balance.
Nothing in Beyond felt superfluous or over done and that’s a real testament to everyone involved.
“You spent all this time trying to be your father, and now you’re
wondering just what it means to be you.”
The Story and the Acting
For me, the small stories inside the big story were the most enjoyable:
– Kirk’s early mid-life crisis;
– Uhura and Spock’s relationship and Spock struggling between his love for Nyota and his obligation to his species;
– Shipboard life after more than 900 days in space and the ups and downs for the crew;
– Spock and McCoy and their friendship;
– McCoy and Kirk and their friendship, and;
– Spock dealing with the death of his older self.
The big story was good, but it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. It felt like Star Trek Beyond needed another thirty minutes to get everything just right.
Krall was probably the best villain since Khan and the Borg Queen. He was magnetic, ruthless, driven and impressive in every way. His motivations were understandable – but at a stretch, because they weren’t given the due attention they needed to make his narrative sing, and as a result fell a bit flat.
As much as a good film needs a great ‘bad guy’, I think it was clear that this film was not about that conflict and so it’s a little easy to overlook the slight misstep that was taken with Krall’s story. Beyond was about the family that is the crew of the USS Enterprise, and it was a love letter to us, the fans… and Simon Pegg, Doug Jung and Justin Lin pull those two things off brilliantly.
If I were forced to pick something that disappointed me about the film, there was only one thing that niggled. The use of Chekov. We don’t get to spend much time with him, and in a film that was such an ensemble piece that grated on me.
It is a big cast, and that will always mean someone will come off second best, but teaming Chekov with Kirk was a mistake because Kirk is always going to dominate every scene he is in. That’s got nothing to do with acting talent, but it does have everything to do with character. Kirk is bigger than life, and he’s the guy in charge so we’re always going to expect him to take charge.
Normally I’d be okay with one or two characters getting a little less, because there’s usually the promise of another film (or in TV Trek another episode) and another chance for that character to grow. This time, that’s not the case because we lost Anton Yelchin a few short weeks ago.
Justin, Simon and Doug couldn’t have known that was going to happen, and Anton’s death was so close to the release of the film that there was no way a new edit could be done, and so we’re left hoping that a Directors Edition DVD and BluRay may shine a bit more of a light on everyone’s favourite Russian Navigator.
But, back to the positives! While the story is relatively simple, it was executed in a less than traditional way. That’s what makes this movie stand head and shoulders above every other previous Trek film. The Kelvin timeline Star Trek has often been promoted as an ensemble series, but Kirk has always been the hero – he joins the away mission to disable Nero’s drilling platform in the first film and then takes over the Captain’s chair when Pike gets captured. He works out Khan is about to attack Starfleet HQ in the second film, and flies through debris with Khan in that same movie to stop the Vengeance.
In Beyond, all of that was turned on its head a bit. Yes, Kirk was heroic, but he wasn’t THE hero.
McCoy got to do a bit of that, so did Spock, but the most heroic act belonged to Uhura when she willingly sacrificed herself to save her friends.
Thankfully, we didn’t lose her, but the character could not have known she would survive that tense moment.
It was a totally unexpected move that had me on the edge of my seat! Not too far along in the movie, the swarm attack on the Enterprise takes everyone by surprise. They’re approaching a planet called Altamid on a rescue mission when everything goes to crap! The ship is ripped apart, the saucer section is falling toward the planet and can’t engage it’s engines because the neck is still attached, so Kirk runs off to try and separate the broken neck from the saucer section so he can save his crew.
Kirk gets way-laid by the movie’s big bad, Krall, and Uhura rushes to help. While Kirk battles Krall, Uhura fights her way through swarm warriors to discover there is no chance Kirk can perform the manual saucer separation procedure. In that moment she makes the decision to sacrifice herself and releases the saucer saving Kirk and her friends. As Kirk looks on, shocked, she and Krall plummet toward Altamid’s surface.
Star Trek Beyond has quite a few of those unexpected turns that give our heroes a chance to actually be heroic.
It’s such a nice change. While Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home provided similar opportunities, the heroics were often overshadowed by the fish-out-of-water comedy. Beyond doesn’t do that, it gives the actors some “meat” to chew on and they run with it with gusto and talent.
The Acting? There’s no need to comment on it. Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin are gifted. When you add in Shoreh Aghdashloo, Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba, you have one outstanding performance after another.
As mentioned above, Chekov is the only character who doesn’t really get much of an opportunity to shine.
Sofia Boutella. She is exquisite as Jaylah. We all need to watch this young woman because she is going to take Hollywood by storm.
Idris Elba. I know Idris has quite an acting resume, but he didn’t come to my attention until Thor. He’s so impressive. They stuck him under a mountain of latex and it didn’t stop him. Idris brought Krall to life and he stole every scene he was in.
Chris Pine. This is his best performance as Kirk to date. He sells Kirk’s emotional journey beautifully.
Zoe Saldana. She is fearless as Uhura. She has a few moments that require some serious acting talent, and she pulls them off beautifully. It’s not hard to see why Zoe is hot property and in so many films. Her part in Beyond is smaller than it was in the two previous Treks, but that didn’t deter Zoe one bit. If anything, she made the most of every second she was on screen.
Zachary Quinto. I don’t even know where to begin. His performance is the stand out of the entire movie. Spock goes on a roller-coaster journey during this film and Zachary is astounding every step of the way. I have always thought Zach was a fine actor, but he’s better than that. If he doesn’t get an Academy Award one day, I will be deeply disappointed. Spock has long been one of my favourite characters, but Zachary deepened my love for the character and I had not thought that was possible. With Leonard’s death last year, it’s like Zach felt the weight of that one man’s legacy and decided that to honour him and to honour Spock he was going to go to an entirely new level. His performance is such a beautiful homage and nod of absolute respect to Leonard Nimoy. I want to watch the movie again, but I REALLY want to watch it again just to focus on his performance and let it carry me away.
An extra special mention needs to go to the duo of Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban. Together, those men are pure magic.
The only disappointment in the acting department was how little we got to see of the always incredible Shoreh Aghdashloo.
Commodore Paris was a welcome addition and I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with her.
“Let’s make some noise.”
James T. Kirk
This can be summed up in one simple sentence: Michael Giacchino has done it again.
Michael has, for all three reboot films, managed to weave in classic Trek compositions and original music to create something special. This is his best Trek score to date, with some truly unique themes peppered throughout the soundtrack.
The music is atmospheric and memorable.
“Space: the final frontier.”
James T. Kirk
“These are the voyages of the starship…”
“…Enterprise. Its continuing mission…”
“…to explore strange, new worlds…”
“….to seek out new life…”
“…and new civilisations…”
“…to boldy go where no-one has gone… before.”
Extra Bits and Summing it Up
As most, if not all Star Trek fans know, we lost two shining lights in the Star Trek galaxy recently. Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
To recognise Leonard’s death, a Vulcan delegation approached Spock on the Yorktown to advise him (and us) of Prime Spock’s passing. Later in the movie, Spock was given his older self’s possessions and in one beautiful scene the whole 50 years of Star Trek was honoured.
For long term fans that scene was full of emotion, both in the moment we saw it onscreen and afterwards as we reflected on it. On the moment it was a beautiful homage. In reflection, in that moment we had Spock’s love for his crew mates confirmed for us. It was something we always suspected, and it was something Spock showed time and again in the series and movies, but it was bang in front of us in those closing moments of Star Trek Beyond.
What am I talking about? If you haven’t seen the film yet, it appears Spock often travelled with a few possessions that meant a lot to him. He had those possessions with him when he left on his mission to save the Romulan star in 2009’s Star Trek. Of those possessions, one item in particular is of interest to fans – a photo of his oldest and dearest friends, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov. The reveal of the photo (a promotional image from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) was a moment that brought tears to my eyes, and I’m sure I’m not the only fan who was moved.
One of the most beautiful things about that scene was the glimpse the younger Spock received of just how deep those relationships, which are still relatively new to him, were destined to go.
It was a perfect moment.
For Anton, it was an equally small but perfect moment.
At the the very end of the film we celebrate Jim Kirk’s birthday. During that, Kirk gives a toast and says the words “…to absent friends…”. It’s an echo of a scene played out in another reality, after Kirk and crew lost their friend Spock and their ship.
As the Kelvin timeline Kirk says those words the camera is moving around the entire cast, but lingers on Anton for a noticeable moment as those words are spoken. It was beautiful. The lighting shifted slightly, and Chekov was bathed in a subtle golden aura.
If I had to sum the whole movie up, those two scenes are good examples to use because Star Trek Beyond is nostalgic, sensitive, self-aware without being ironic (and making fun of itself like so many of the Next Gen films seemed to do), and it’s inclusive. It helped if you knew Star Trek, but if you weren’t familiar with it you could still enjoy the film and feel something special.
Throughout Beyond you feel like the characters you love have grown and changed and developed and become more than archetypes or two-dimensional creations on a screen. Time has passed, it’s affected them, and it’s brought out the good as well as the not so good in them. Like every human being (or human Vulcan hybrid), they’re struggling through that and trying to do and be their best.
I can’t wrap up this review without making a comment about the tumult surrounding the revelation that Sulu is gay.
It’s handled beautifully. As the Enterprise approaches the Yorktown at the beginning of the movie, we see an image of Sulu’s daughter. In that moment it’s clear he’s a father. After the ship docks and the crew disembark for shore leave, we see Kirk watching Sulu approach a man and a young girl, and we see Kirk smile warmly and a little wistfully as Sulu’s arm goes around his husband’s waist and he nuzzles his daughter and they walk off together.
It’s a brief scene, but such a perfect one. The revelation wasn’t treated as a “thing”, and Sulu wasn’t different as a result. He’s the same Sulu we loved in the 2009 film, and the same Sulu who so effectively took command of the Enterprise in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. The only thing that changed was that he deepened as a character and that is fantastic.
Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer”? It sounds wonderful in a cinema. I liked “Sledgehammer” when I first heard it, but did not go and download it right away. Then I watched the movie, heard that song on those enormous surround sound speakers and truly appreciated that piece of music. I also “got” how it helped Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto deal with the death of Anton. It’s a beautiful song, made all the more so by the tragic passing of such a young and talented actor.
If you haven’t seen Star Trek Beyond yet, you need to. You really need to.
There is so much to love about Star Trek Beyond. Don’t listen to the critics who have panned it. It’s obvious something has died inside those people somewhere over the years, because it’s not just a good film, it’s a great film, and it treats Star Trek and it’s fans with the respect we all deserve.
Star Trek Beyond gets five out of five Starfleet Deltas from me.