Star Trek Beyond TV Spot

The New Additions

By now, the Enterprise crew feel like old friends and that’s a combination of 50 years worth of reverence for these characters and the fact that the new cast is nothing short of a miracle. Recasting characters this iconic was a fool’s errand and they somehow pulled it off. These men and women are as fun to watch now as they ever have been. Star Trek Into Darkness proved that they’re still an effective bunch even when they’re saddled with a total dog of a movie.

Star Trek Beyond introduces two new characters into the mix and the results are uneven. Without existing affection for these people, it’s harder to forgive their flaws, especially when certain aspects of their storylines simply don’t make much sense.

Let’s start with Krall, the new villain played by Idris Elba. Conceptually, he’s fantastic. As we learn late in the movie, this mysterious alien is actually Captain Balthazar Edison, a soldier whose career become obsolete when Starfleet was formed and a more traditional military was put out to pasture. Eventually, Captain Edison finds himself stranded on a planet with a very convenient super-weapon, a very convenient army of drones, and some very convenient technology that allows him to absorb the life-force of other beings to stay alive. For some reason, that life-giving tech seems to transform him into a monster…until he starts using it more and begins to resemble his old human self again. However, it’s not clear exactly what he wants and it’s not clear who makes up his army of henchmen. His motivations are intentionally vague at first and remain opaque even as he’s battling Kirk in hand-to-hand combat to the death.

But think about Krall/Edison on paper! In a movie about how much we can achieve by pushing into the future, here’s a literal relic from the past who is so hateful of change that he wants to kill millions of people. Here’s a troubled soldier, a guy who only knows war, unable to comprehend a galaxy where peace is suggested before anyone even thinks of pulling a trigger. He’s a powerful physical threat (he destroys the Enterprise for crying out loud), but he’s also a symbolic threat. He’s an enemy of the future. He’s an enemy of progress. It’s a genuine shame that this collection of fascinating ideas never quite gel on screen and that the movie never gives Elba a truly defining moment.

More successful is Jaylah, the alien refugee and scavenger played by Sofia Boutella. In addition to looking amazing (her make-up is a refreshing riff on Trek’s “every alien has a weird forehead” tradition), she passes the most important test: she can hold her own amongst the Enterprise ensemble. She’s tough and she’s funny and she’s hugely entertaining no matter who she’s paired off with. Her final scene, where she is offered a chance to attend Starfleet Academy, is a big ‘ol tease. Yes, of course I’d like to see her in a yellow or red uniform and working alongside everyone else.

Jaylah is so much fun and Boutella such an arresting screen presence that it’s easy to overlook just how half-baked her storyline can be. Introduced as a tough-as-nails warrior of few words, the film teases out her backstory, puts her on a mission of personal redemption and then…drops it completely, canceling her arc in mid-stride to give Kirk an action beat. The intention is clear: Jaylah lost her family, but she has found a new one with the Enterprise crew. In execution, it’s inelegant at best.

star trek beyond trailer breakdown

Action vs. Camaraderie

In his four Fast and Furious movies, Justin Lin proved himself adept at two things: shooting insane, creative action and shooting charismatic people you really like having conversations that you want to go on forever. One of those aspects made it into Star Trek Beyond.

What the hell happened to Star Trek Beyond‘s action? Lin shoots every fistfight and every phaser battle in cluttered, shaky close-ups cut together without rhyme or reason or attention to geography. I think there’s a scene where the saucer of the ruined Enterprise tips over and crushes a villain, but it’s so poorly staged that I just had to assume that was what happened. This is especially baffling because it’s not like Lin is an action amateur and it’s not like the rest of the film is so incompetently made. When the Enterprise enters a nebula, he stages the scene with the right notes of dread and wonder. When his characters first visit the Yorktown starbase, the sense of scale is palpable. Lin can sell spectacle and he sells it repeatedly throughout Star Trek Beyond, but this is a movie where the scenes involving everyone standing around and making plans for a prison break are far more exciting than the actual prison break.

But let’s dwell on the optimistic angle here: this is a movie where characters standing around making plans for a prison break are exciting! Every dialogue-heavy scene is a treat, especially since the actors know their characters well by now and Pegg and Jung know Star Trek well enough to put the right words in their mouths. Lin has the perfect touch for these kinds of scenes. There’s a quiet skill in directing conversations where every participant gets to shine and everyone from Scotty to Sulu gets their fair share of killer lines and beats. Lin treasures his ensemble and gives them the room they need and it pays off in a big way.

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