The best Star Trek stories fuse action, adventure and humor with philosophical conundrums in ways that remain relevant for decades. Star Trek Beyond, written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, shortchanges Spock-like intellectual pursuits in favor of scenes linked to the Beastie Boys (yes, the rap group), and as a result the movie suffers. It is a fun summer film, but its shelf life is limited.
Star Trek Beyond is directed by Justin Lin, whose track record with blockbusters (Fast & Furious 6) is well established. What remained to be seen when he came aboard was his ability to take the cast assembled by J.J. Abrams and elevate their work to a higher level. Mr. Lin did a commendable job, but the script he signed off on was a bit shallow and did not give him a villain for the ages.
Captain Kirk’s latest adventure finds his crew scattered across a world well out of reach of the United Federation of Planets after an unprovoked attack on the Enterprise. A mysterious enemy named Krall (Idris Elba) is after an artifact in the captain’s possession. Actor Chris Pine looks as comfortable as ever playing Kirk, and the rest of the team — Zachary Quinto as Spock; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura; and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov — all have moments to shine. The action sequences juggled on expensive set pieces are also impressive, to say the least.
A welcome addition to the Star Trek universe is Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, a warrior who has managed to live alone on a hidden Starfleet ship. Pegg told reporters that the character was inspired by Jennifer Lawrence’s role in Winter’s Bone, but fans can be forgiven for thinking he cribbed elements from Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Consider the following: Jaylah, like Rey, is fiercely independent, lost parents, can handle herself in a fight, tinkers with mechanical devices with ease, and uses a staff to fend off enemies. Jaylah may be Rey with tribal paint, but she makes the most of her time before the camera aiding Kirk’s crew off the planet.
Where Beyond falters, however, is with Krall. For the first two acts of the movie his true identity and motivations are largely an enigma. By the time the audience is fully informed, the reveal does not warrant its delay. Elba, even under mask, does a commendable job breathing life into the character, but at the end of the day he wasn’t given a winning script. Krall could have been a villain who could rival Ricardo Montalban’s Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — or even Benedict Cumberbatch’s version in Star Trek Into Darkness — but that did not happen. He may return in the future, but as of now Krall stands out less for his evil ways and more for wasted potential.
Beyond is by no means a bad movie, but it is the worst product since J.J. Abrams rebooted the brand in 2009. There are a slew of well-choreographed fight scenes, jokes that hit the mark, and a reverence for the original cast, but this mission for Kirk’s crew is missing philosophical heft that would make Gene Roddenberry proud.
Rating 3 out of 5 stars.
Original CBC review by Doug Ernst
Join CBC and get a free chapter of Ed Klein's new book, All Out War!