Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine take the Enterprise out for yet another spin.

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Star Trek Beyond
Paramount

For a movie that's reckoned to have cost about $150-million to make, Star Trek Beyond is unusually affectionate in referencing the 1960s TV show from which it's descended. Here we have the crew of the USS Enterprise, stranded on a hostile planet, clambering around among fake boulders apparently mined from the same Styrofoam quarry of yore; and in at least one scene, there's a background vista that seems to have been simply painted in (although no doubt digitally). Along with all the traditional rubbery aliens on view, these retro touches signal a sweet regard for the generations of fans who continue to revere the original, ultra-low-budget series.

Also true to the vision of Star Trek's creator, the late Gene Roddenberry, the story in this third installment of the rebooted franchise is at times more-than-usually contemplative. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, a little less bland than usual) is feeling burned out in his job commanding the USS Enterprise. He wants to switch to an administrative position, possibly in the Federation space base of Yorktown—a snow globe of a city gleaming among the stars. (It recalls the futuristic metropolis of the 1936 Things to Come.) Kirk wants to turn over his control-room captain's throne to his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto, perfect once again). But Spock is restless, too: having just broken up with his girlfriend, Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), he wants to leave the Federation to help reconstitute his home planet of Vulcan, which was destroyed in one of the earlier films. Meanwhile, in a less mopey development, the helmsman Sulu (John Cho) is revealed to be happily gay (although a scene in which he was shown kissing his partner was reportedly deleted in order not to risk disturbing PG-13 sensibilities). 

The story is naturally generic. Responding to an interstellar distress call, the Enterprise sets off for a dense nebula where Kirk and crew discover they have been tricked by a growly alien called Krall (Idris Elba, unrecognizable beneath an impasto of prosthetic makeup). After an extended shipboard battle, Kirk and his crew find themselves marooned on Krall's dark and unwelcoming native orb, where they're separated and stalked by Krall's forces in an effort to retrieve an "artifact"—a sort of space MacGuffin—of which Kirk and company are in possession. And so forth.

The best parts of the movie deftly illuminate the characters' personalities, especially those of the hyper-rational Spock and the grittier ship's doctor Bones (Karl Urban). Awakened from what appears to be a nap, Spock says, "I was simply contemplating the nature of mortality." Says Bones: "Fear of death is what keeps us alive."

Also off on their own are Kirk and his security officer, Chekov (Anton Yelchin); Sulu and Uhura, who eventually fall into Krall's hands; and beam-up master Scotty (Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the movie's script). Slogging through the rocky wastes, Scotty comes upon a young alien woman named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, the blade-legged ninja girl of Kingsman: The Secret Service). She's hiding from Krall in an old, disabled spacecraft, where she passes the time blasting vintage Public Enemy and Beastie Boys tracks on an ancient boombox. These two are a cute semi-couple.

As charming as all of this interpersonal business is, the bulk of the movie is given over to swooping, explosive action. Justin Lin, stepping in for original reboot director J.J. Abrams, made his bang-boom bones in the Fast & Furious franchise, and he's a master of mayhem choreography. But the relentless overload of CGI that he brings to bear on the proceedings, while dazzling at first, grows tedious after awhile, and then, at times, exhaustingly incoherent. There's also a puzzling swarm of space bees putting in several appearances, and a roaring motorcycle sequence that seems to have been beamed in from another planet. And it's too bad that some of the actors are wasted (inevitable, perhaps, given the size of the cast). Yelchin, in one of his final performances before his death last month, is given little to do; and Elba—an actor of magisterial presence—struggles unsuccessfully (until the very end) to break out of his prosthetic prison.

Although it's a mid-range, almost TV-like entry in the series, this movie should be warmly received by Star Trek fans worldwide. It's more than just another big-ticket blockbuster—it has a heart. But beneath the incessant digital uproar, we can sometimes barely hear it beating.

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  1. . . . Along with all the traditional rubbery aliens on view, these retro touches signal a sweet regard for the generations of fans who continue to revere the original, ultra-low-budget series.

    No dude, the fans of TOS are not in it for the cheesy effects and whatnot – not to say that time hasn’t given some of that stuff a sort of charm. Adding in bad effects (or good effects intended to reference bad ones) is not a signal of regard for the older fans. Its a signal of a franchise that doesn’t want to have anything to do with what came before but doesn’t have the balls to be its own thing.

    You can see the same thing in FO3/4 for those who’ve played them.

    The story is naturally generic.

    FFS.

    1. So what you’re saying is that we need the Star Trek equivalent of New Vegas. Call Ronald Moore I guess?

    2. “You can see the same thing in FO3/4 for those who’ve played them.”

      Is your critique primarily that they go to 1st person shooter mode vs 3rd person isometric? Or the party becoming capped at two? Or other?

      For the record Fallout 3 struck me as completely un-Fallout like. But I did appreciate it for what it was, a Fallout story, in a different format game. And as Titor alluded to, New Vegas struck me as closer to the original games. At the very least, the game was back to the setting of the West Coast.

      1. Neither. Its goes much further. BGS simply did not understand what made FO1/2 good – that they were worlds the PC inhabits and you learn about. It had a retro aesthetic but it was not ‘hurr, the 50s extended for another century’ – it was more a subtle reminder of how fascism can hide under the most ‘normal’ of facades.

        FO3/4 are basically a series of loosely connected dungeons and its a world where nobody does anything except stand around until the PC comes by. And when your questline is over you are stuck in an eternal ‘just completed my quest’ dialogue.

        I have no problem with the viewpoint switch – except that the cost of producing the assets for that world means that things like story, coherent motivations, etc get lost on the cutting room floor. FO1/2 are mostly text with 2d art. Most of that budget went into the text.

        I do think that BGS should do a lot more spin-off work with these IP. With the assets already available a smaller studio could deliver another FNV quality game if given the time. But after the shellacking that BGS took over FNV’s higher quality (which was, to be fair, not fair at all – BGS was developing that whole game from scratch while Obsidian was building on a lot of already done work) I don’t think they’ll allow outside comparisons again.

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    4. Fans of the original Star Trek series don’t need to use acronyms like “TOS” — the later series need the modifiers.
      TOS is “terms of service”.

      1. TOS is for the people like Ser Loder who are not Trek fans of any stripe.

  2. After the insulting nonsense of Wrath of Khan 2: 2 Khan 2 Furious, I can’t imagine what is supposed to draw anyone to see this.

    1. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and a screaming Vulcan emoting all over the screen is exactly what I deserve.

      1. “Khan, I’ve put your people in these missiles.”

        “Why?”

        “Reasons.”

        “Yeargh!”

      2. “No, no guy. I got it! We’ll take the reactor scene from Wrath of Khan and, are you with me? And we’ll switch it! We’ll kill Kirk and have Spock watch! That way we can say we’re paying homage to the old movie while contriving a reason for Spock to go ballistic!”

    2. Edith Keeler doesn’t die this time.

        1. “Captain, I’ve located a planet populated with nothing but Space Hitlers.”

          “Prepare an away team. No, wait… I’ll lead it.”

          1. “We’re gonna need lots of red shirts.”

    3. This is The Trek and the Furious. I just love how destroying the Enterprise is no big deal to this current franchise. They do it every movie now, this time in the first act!

      1. Pish. With science magic they can make one of those in, like, a long weekend.

      2. With unlimited energy and matter duplication, it only takes a few minutes to print a new Enterprise.

        1. Heat. Heat man – how do you get rid of the waste heat? Entropy don’t go away on its own.

        2. Also interesting to note the ship’s (and infinite copies) newfound abilities to operate in the air and under the ocean. Makes many of the original series’ plot setups kinda stupid in retro-retrospect.

      3. I thought it stunk. It is a much less sophisticated version of Star Trek for people who intend to text the whole film anyway.

        The characters are less intelligent and so is the script. There are huge holes in the plot and the only point of the film was all the overly dramatized survival sequences replete with explosions every few feet.

        The history of the series is only used to tell jokes about the characters traits, that they oddly no longer have, but we keep wanting to see.

        Whatever, every thing get ruined over time. Why should Star Trek be any different?

    4. Different writers, in this case. Into Darkness was hot garbage, but the consensus seems to be that this one is light and enjoyable like the reboot.

      1. Excellent. I can already taste the tears.

  3. the relentless overload of CGI that he brings to bear on the proceedings, while dazzling at first, grows tedious after awhile, and then, at times, exhaustingly incoherent.

    Like most CGI. I am rarely a fan.

    and Elba?an actor of magisterial presence?struggles unsuccessfully (until the very end) to break out of his prosthetic prison

    Why cast him if we can’t see his awesome?

    1. And there is already an in-canon reason why most aliens are humanoid. Give him a freaky pair of contacts and let that handsome man do his job.

      1. Shirtless, for preference.

        1. Montalban got to show off his pecs, but Idris Elba can’t?

          1. Clearly the producers are racists.

          2. Montalban had awesome pecs long after the time a man’s chest should be heading to moob-town. Its not fair!

      2. Well done with the canon reference, but since that occurred in TNG, people of the “rebooted” timeline are not aware of the reason for everybody having the same body plan. But I guess it is still that part of the canon because it happened long ago in the mists of time.

        I admit that I have been somewhat entertained by these new movies, but I do not accept the wholesale destruction of the Star Trek canon. I find it interesting that the only part of the canon not destroyed was the series Enterprise, which many people thought was the worst of the TV series.

        I also admit that all the movies made with the TNG cast were shit. And that they are to blame for this reboot.

        1. I also admit that all the movies made with the TNG cast were shit.

          WHAAAA? First Contact was very well done and quite enjoyable. The others were … less so.

          1. Of all of them First Contact is my favorite, and better than shit I guess.

            But these scenes of the Cochrane camp were poorly done and amateurish for a big budget movie in my opinion. The sets were cheesy and not much better than TV. It’s even how the extras acted, sprinkled about, just like on TV episodes.

            Something about these movie experiences lacked heft, I don’t know.

        2. No, no. See the time vortext thingy caused effects all up and down the timeline. Its why Sulu’s gay this time around.

    2. “Why cast him if we can’t see his awesome?”

      I guess given the decision of being in it or in a Jaeger, this time he decided for the former.

      1. Only time will tell which choice was worse. Someone should tell Elba that when given the choice of two evils, just walk the fuck away because you don’t need the money that badly.

  4. At first glance I read the blog headline as Star Trek: Beyond Reason, which would accurately describe the first two reboot movies.

  5. How many reboots have they done now? I only watched part of the first one and I didn’t like it enough to finish it.

    I feel like reviewers who say that fans of the original series will like such-and-such in the reboots don’t know wtf they’re talking about. I watched TNG when I was a kid and reruns of TOS. I’d even watch the (frequently crappy) movies with my dad. The reboots don’t seem any better than the old crappier Star Trek films, it’s just that the franchise is trendy now and has CGI. At least old fans could acknowledge when the old films sucked.

    1. There’s only one reboot. This is the third movie in the line – ST:2009 then Star Trekking to Darkness then 2Fast2Trek.

  6. having just broken up with his girlfriend, Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), he wants to leave the Federation to help reconstitute his home planet of Vulcan

    How does a half-Vulcan, half-human get this “conundrum” exactly wrong? Human emotion-wise; Zoe Saldana, Vulcan logic-wise; to reconstitute a planet, you’re gonna need a girlfriend.

    1. Logic-wise, Uhura is a terrible choice to repopulate his species. He’s half-Vulcan, she’s Human; kids would be 1/4 Vulcan. Logically, he needs to maximize the amount of Vulcan DNA in the universe, not reduce it by hooking up with a non-Vulcan.

      1. *takes off nerd glasses, straightens headgear*

        Oh yeah Mr. Nerdypants! Care to explain why mating/biological/fluid exchange-based reproduction is necessary at all when teleporters and replicators are readily available?

        1. and Why do Hulk’s pants always survive? He explodes though his shirt and shoes. The gluteus and the quadriceps are some of the body’s largest muscles, yet?even when he crashes through all-glass skyscraperz or erupting volcanoz or Cyclops’s solar blast, or when Hulk duels the human torch (or wrestles Johnny blaze), somehow the pants survive! What are we supposed to believe? That all Dr. Banner’s pants are made from the same indestructible material as Kal’s kryptonian costume? Puh-leeze. Next you’ll tell me dr. strange summoned indestructible pants from the nine hells?

          1. Unstable molecules.

            1. Gamma Pants.

              STRONGEST PANTS THERE IS!

              1. Gotta get me some of those.

      2. So – you don’t have *children* with Zaldana, you just hook up.

        And you have the ready made excuse for hooking up with T’Pol – its for the very existence of the species.

        Maybe you could get them both . . .

  7. Star Trek: the Second Watchable One

  8. the helmsman Sulu (John Cho) is revealed to be happily gay (although a scene in which he was shown kissing his partner was reportedly deleted in order not to risk disturbing PG-13 sensibilities).

    If his partner wasn’t played by Kal Penn, the effort was a waste anyway.

    George Takei was vocally against Sulu being gay. It’s retconn that is based on George, and not Sulu.

    “Oh Myy!”

  9. He wants to switch to an administrative position, possibly in the Federation space base of Yorktown…

    As if the Euro-style, socialist lovin’ Federation would name a star base after a pro-freedom secessionist victory.

  10. I think “it’s like a big episode” is a high compliment for a TV derived film. Abrams broke ground with his alt universe twist on the reboot but, once in, he needs big episodes to win…

    1. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I highly doubt it resembles an episode of star trek.

      Star Trek: The Motion Picture was basically a big episode of the TV show. I also like to cite The Peacekeeper Wars and Serenity as near-perfect big screen adaptations of their respective series.

  11. Never underestimate the value of a small budget and other constraints on special effects. Some directors/producers do much better with a small budget (e.g., the original “Star Wars”). Compare “Strictly Ballroom” to anything the director did since then.
    Always enjoy the original Star Trek in black & white, the way most of us did when we joined the original cult, and never walk in on an episode already in progress. If you start at the beginning, it will suck you in, and you won’t be distracted if it’s in B&W.
    Making a movie by taking the climactic moment or best effect of previous movies and plastering it wall-to-wall, is bad writing. Nothing can pay off without the setting up. It’s rather like the way the Federal Reserve wants to have the stock market on an up-only roller coaster. Up-only is boring and at a certain point, the passengers bail, anyway.

  12. Mirror universe movie or GTFO!

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  14. “Spock (Zachary Quinto, perfect once again)”

    So… Screaming? Crying? Yelling? Getting in a knock-down, drag-out fight with an Augment on top of the burning wreckage of a starship?

  15. I saw it yesterday. The space bees were awesome, basically an unstoppable, distributed space weapon, until Kirk and Co. figure out how to stop it. Good to see some new technologies for a change in the staid Star Trek franchise. The Loki-like holographic tech was cool too.

    The action was hard to follow at times but the script was fine. The final twist on Krall’s origin was pointless. A space vampire who wanted to stop the spread of the federation was already enough motivation.

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