films, Geek Culture

Star Trek Beyond Review

Read my spoiler-free review below.

Unlike a lot of reviewers, I’m not going to start this review by bashing Star Trek Into Darkness, and I’m going to avoid falling into the trap of calling Star Trek Beyond “true Trek”. Partly, because I really enjoyed Into Darkness and thought Benedict Cumberbatch was great as Kahn, and partly because the world doesn’t need another Star Trek gatekeeper.

Maybe there aren’t many Trekkies or Trekkers who agree with me, but I think that with the Star Trek reboot, J J Abrams didn’t kill Star Trek, but instead, he made the changes he needed to bring it to a new audience. People like me, who weren’t around when the original series or even The Next Generation first aired, through these films, were able to become invested in the adventures of the Enterprise and its crew. Thanks to Netflix, we can even catch up (as I’m currently doing as I make my way through The Next Generation). Maybe J J Abrams’ reboot has been lacking in certain aspects of classic Trek, maybe originals are always going to be better than reboots. But regardless of that, he brought it back and he made it accessible. He upped the special effects, upped the action, and he kept it alive.

Star Trek Krall Idris Elba.jpg
Idris Elba as Krall

But for those who don’t agree, this film seems to have made amends. Star Trek Beyond seems to have found a happy medium between the new and the old. It returns to the diplomatic roots of Star Trek, but it isn’t short on humour, action, and aliens. The action scenes of the film aren’t gratuitous,  and the film reminds us of the values that Starfleet was founded on: not only exploration, research and defence, but peacekeeping and diplomacy.

Star Fleet emblem.png
Starfleet Command emblem

In the film, the crew are separated after the destruction of the Enterprise. The crew are left in pairs on an alien planet, Spock partnered with Bones, Kirk partnered with Chekov, and Scotty, who crash-lands alone, meets Jaylah, a stranded inhabitant of the planet. Meanwhile, Uhura is in the hands of Krall, the film’s villain, as played by Idris Elba.

Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a fantastic addition to the film. Resourceful, defiant and determined, she proves to be a lot more than the skilled fighter the trailers make her out to be. Her and Scotty make an amusing team, though Scotty falls maybe a little too far into the trope of the bumbling comic, whilst Jaylah quickly exerts herself as a no-nonsense type.

Star Trek Sophia Boutella Jaylah.jpg
Sofia Boutella as Jaylah

The pairing of Spock and Bones meanwhile gives us a few of the moments that ships are made of. Fuel for ships (of the relationship kind, not transportation) is something we get a lot of in this film, with Spock and Kirk, and Kirk and Bones all getting a little bit of screen-time together.

One character I would have liked to see more of however, is Uhura. While Beyond probably gives us more of Zoe Saldana than the previous instalments, I think she could have had even more screentime. In fact, I left the cinema thinking this about several of the characters. This film hinted at the lives, backgrounds and dilemmas of the film’s secondary characters, giving us a glimpse into Sulu’s life, in particular. But instead of leaving me satisfied, this just made me want to learn more.

Film format doesn’t lend itself particularly well to the development of secondary characters – one of the main reasons I prefer TV over films – but watching Beyond, I could tell that the writers at least tried to bridge this gap. Still, I can’t help but feel that ideas like Star Trek are made for television. For this reason, I can’t wait to see what Bryan Fuller does with his upcoming series. Just imagine all the awesomeness of a good Star Trek series created with modern-day technology.

All-in-all, this was a great film for both hardcore Trekkies and the newly initiated. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but it was an enjoyable film nonetheless, filled with tiny moments and nostalgic references that will make fans smile. The film also pays tribute to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, the latter of whom died in a tragic accident shortly before the film’s release.

Now that they seem to have found a balance between creating something new and bringing back something old, we can only hope that the team working on the next instalment in the franchise can use this knowledge to make something even better.

Images: Paramount Pictures


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