Morman movie review: Repetition reigns in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

"Star Trek Beyond." Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

“Star Trek Beyond” is the latest installment in the rebooted “Star Trek” film franchise. This is the third film in a franchise that has been, in my opinion, a good re-imagining of Gene Roddenberry’s original work.

“Star Trek Beyond” is another solid piece in the Star Trek lineup and is the most fun out of the new trilogy.

“Star Trek Beyond” takes place roughly three years after the events of the last film, when the Enterprise crew is three years into their five-year mission. Kirk and his crew were sent into deep space to rescue another crew, and in the process they find themselves stranded on an unknown planet with the Enterprise destroyed by unknown assailants. Kirk must reassemble his crew and make his way back to Starfleet as all the while a mysterious new villain approaches.

This is the first film in the new trilogy not directed by J. J. Abrams, who instead serves as a producer on this film. Justin Lin, notable for his work on the Fast and Furious franchise, helms the directorial role of this film.

The transition between directors seems fairly smooth as Abrams’ particular directorial style is still present within this film. The sweeping camera shots and focus on character still remain prominent throughout “Beyond.” Lin nevertheless makes his style apparent in the film by way of the action sequences.

“Star Trek Beyond” may very well offer the best action set pieces out of any “Star Trek” film. Lin knows how to direct chaos on screen, and it helped to enhance this film. The visuals in “Star Trek Beyond” are equally great. One particular scene shows the USS Enterprise gliding across space while in warp, and it is absolutely stunning.

With all of these great visual effects, there are still a couple of VFX stumbles in the film. I winced at a couple of scenes where the effects were of lower quality than the rest. The good news is that those instances were extremely rare.

The acting in this film is also very well executed. The three best performances come from Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy) and franchise newcomer Sophia Boutella, who plays Jaylah, a fairly mysterious character who was stranded on the unknown planet long before the Enterprise crew found their way to it.

Jaylah is a welcome addition, as she is an alien in a science fiction franchise that has oddly been hesitant to include them in feature roles. Spock was essentially the only prominent alien character in the new trilogy, and even his character is half-human.

It is great to see a franchise that is founded on the interrelation of various alien species actually include a non-human at the forefront and one who isn’t the villain. Her character is smart, can fight like the rest of the crew and teams well with Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg).

Sofia Boutella as Jaylah; Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Sofia Boutella as Jaylah. Image courtesy Paramount Pictures

The best moments in the film come when the crew is split up. This happens particularly early in the film, and Justin Lin did a fairly good job shifting from group to group. Each group of the main cast consists of two to three members, and it is the combination of Spock and McCoy that produces the best scenes of the film.

The chemistry between Urban and Quinto is absolutely fantastic. With Urban’s McCoy delivering the comedic lines and Quinto’s Spock serving as the straight man, the real fun of the film is derived from them. Once they are paired together, almost every time Spock and McCoy interact with each other is a moment when the audience is moved to a good laugh.

The villain of the film is Krall, played by Idris Elba. He is an effective villain, whose motivations are deeper than most villains we see in film today, but the resolution he seeks really doesn’t seem proportional. This seems indicative of the film overall. The film works to tell one fairly concise story, only to devolve into a visual spectacle by the end. This led to the focus shifting away from the characters, and I believe the real strength of this movie was tied to the focus on character.

By the end of the film, and during the main showdown, Krall’s plan didn’t make much sense. It seems as if the writers felt the story needed to have incredibly high stakes in the third act, when the previous two acts had a more personal feel to them. The third act does feel a bit disconnected from the rest of the film, and it only serves to undermine the arc of the villain.

Speaking specifically of the third act, it is eerily similar to the third act of the previous film, “Star Trek into Darkness.” In the last 25 minutes of that film, I felt myself comparing it directly to its predecessor. The final battle feels almost like it is beat for beat when compared to the final battle of “Into Darkness.”

This feeling of repetition lowers the overall experience of the film considerably, and it is a shame since the first two acts of “Star Trek Beyond” were on pace to make this film the best in the trilogy. With the collapse of the third act, however, it seems as if it will rank at the bottom. That is not to say that “Star Trek Beyond” is a bad film. It’s not, but by the end it becomes familiar.

“Star Trek Beyond” provides the most fun out of any of the films in the franchise. The character moments are well presented, and the psychology of the main cast is explored more substantially than either of its predecessors. With all of the potential greatness this film could have attained, the third act ultimately makes this film feel like nothing much was accomplished.

It had a lot of momentum coming to the end, but “Star Trek Beyond” decided to fall back to what we already knew instead of bravely going where the franchise has never gone before.

I give “Star Trek Beyond” 7.75 out of 10.

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