Arts movie review

Star Trek Beyond falls short of warp speed

Director Justin Lin boldly explores uncharted territory, but doesn't venture far enough

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Left to right: Zachary Quinto plays Spock, Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah and Karl Urban plays Bones in Star Trek Beyond
Paramount Pictures


Star Trek Beyond

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Karl Urban

Rated PG-13

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The United Federation of Planets is one of the most memorable elements of the Star Trek science fiction franchise — a utopia of alien coexistence, peace, and economic prosperity, it is meant to be a fictional example of what an advanced universe would look like. The Federation and its interstellar navy, Starfleet, are also at the center of the latest film in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

Yet, Star Trek Beyond, like its 2013 predecessor Star Trek Into Darkness, attempts to overturn this utopian vision of the Milky Way. In an era of peace, there are some that prefer war — like the villain of Beyond, Krall.

The beloved Enterprise encounters the baddie on an unknown planet in the heart of an unexplored nebula, and it's clear Krall is no friend to the Federation. Accustomed to war, and spurred by other  sometimes-vague motivations, he's hell-bent on tearing apart the peace that the Federation has enjoyed — much like the antagonist from Into Darkness.

The Enterprise's Captain Kirk is also battling inner turmoil at the opening of the film. Approaching another weary birthday on his five-year exploratory mission for Starfleet, he's gradually losing a sense of purpose in the vastness of space and the length of his journey.

But in attempting to portray the Federation and Starfleet as anything less than a galactic utopia, Star Trek Beyond falls short. Director Justin Lin is clearly comfortable with breaking out of Trekkies' comfort zones (he destroys the Enterprise in the first act!), but he doesn't do enough to convince us that the Federation is actually vulnerable, or that Kirk's sentiments are more than fleeting. We wish he had developed those ideas more — it would have brought the film fully beyond the constraints of the venerable, but jaded franchise up to now.

There were many questions introduced throughout the movie that weren’t answered. The scary weapon that Krall intends to use to cripple Starfleet is somehow all-powerful but not explained. We are led to believe that once in the unexplored nebula, communications with Star Fleet will be impossible, yet Krall somehow manages to intercept Starfleet communications including Kirk’s full captain’s log. Some of these factors seem a little too convenient.

However, the development of many of the Enterprise crew members is undeniably fantastic.

Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), the Asian helmsman of the Enterprise, has a fleeting scene with his husband and daughter, a refreshing nod to the openly gay actor who played Sulu in the original series, George Takei.

The relationship between the pointy-eared First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Communications Officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana) has also developed beautifully, fraught with tension but infused with warmth, a complexity that is fitting of such unique characters. Spock, who faces difficult personal choices, struggles to balance his responsibilities and feelings — something he's never had trouble with before — showing the human side of his half-Vulcan, half-Earth upbringing.

However, some of the character’s interactions were unconvincing echos of elements from the original Star Trek. One of the best parts of the original series was the never-ending banter between DeForest Kelley’s Doctor McCoy and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. In Beyond, this banter felt forced and wasn’t as funny as it was intended to be.

The film included several tributes to the crew from the original Star Trek series, especially the late Leonard Nimoy who cameoed in the previous two films of the reboot.

Beyond manages to introduce a new character that we actually cared about. Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a total badass. She manages to survive on the unknown planet alone (after her family was murdered by Krall) and fixes up a crashed ship so that it is functional save the ability to actually fly. She devises a number of traps and security measures and is pretty fierce in hand-to-hand combat, saving the skins of Starfleet officers on more than one occasion. We hope she makes an appearance in the inevitable future installations of the franchise.