Star Trek Beyond - A Review

Thanks to Ronan Healy via Star Trek Eire, I was able to bag a free ticket to the Star Trek Beyond premiere at the Savoy Cinema in Dublin.

It's a long time (actually several years) since I've been in the centre of my home town. It's driver unfriendly and I have no need to go there any more. Everything it offered, or used to, is available outside, in the suburban ring, and is more easily accessed.

Luckily I allowed myself some extra time for the journey as the endless roadworks and the tailbacks they caused turned a 20-minute journey into a 60-minute one.

The cinema doors opened earlier than the time printed on the tickets (6:15 pm) and by the time I got to the cinema (6:35 ish), most of the attendees were already in their seats. Seating was not allocated so those in first got the best seats. I met up with friends a few rows from the back of the cinema just off right of centre. So a pretty good position as far as I was concerned.

It wasn't a full house, however. I'd thought that tickets would have been snapped up by fans but there were quite a few empty seats.

A little after 7pm, the MC came on and deafened us as the volume on the sound system was too high - while he tried to whip up the audience with some banal patter, he was instantly forgettable.

Sonic Boom

Cinema Sound Is Too Loud

Then the movie started and as the music built up, I realised that we were going to be assaulted by a deafening soundtrack for the duration.

Now I'm deaf in one ear - the outcome of a mugging nearly 20 years ago. My friends will tell you that I always have the volume on my TV too loud, probably to compensate for my poorer hearing, but when I can put my finger in my good ear to stop all sound going into it and hear perfectly through my bad ear, I know that the ambient sound level is waaaayyyy too high. That volume level was even uncomfortable when using by deaf ear alone. I spent most of the movie with my finger shoved into my good ear.

The majority of the audience were younger than me, yet I could see none of them showing any signs that the volume was uncomfortably high.

I can't single out Star Trek Beyond for this assault of sound, nor can I single out the Savoy for having turned up the volume on their sound system to 11. It seems to be de rigeur these days in cinemas to blast movie soundtracks at audiences. It's one of the reasons I no longer go the the cinema. It's simply too uncomfortable being sonically assaulted for 2 hours.

Another issue resulting from the overloud soundtrack was that some dialog was actually distorted making it impossible to understand what was being said. I'm sure I missed a couple of important points of exposition as a result.

How Was The Movie?

kirk And Spock - Star Trek Beyond

I'll cut to the chase: I didn't hate it. I was surprised; I quite enjoyed it. It's an enjoyable space-opera romp and the best of the three new movies to date. And there's not a lens flare in sight! But is it Star Trek? If you read my excoriating review of Into Darkness you'll know that I thought that movie was far more Star Wars than Star Trek.

Beyond in definitely more Star Trek than Star Wars but, like the two previous installments, a lot of time is given over to action sequences rather than cerebral examinations of some aspect of the human condition.

Despite being in their mid 30s (and Vulcan equivalent), Kirk and Spock are essentially going through their own mid-life crises at the beginning of the movie. Unfolding events eventually play into what direction they see themselves going at the end of the movie. But these are superficial themes.

The main thrust of the movie centres on Idris Elba's villain, Krall, and his motivations for acting the way he does.

Krall - The Villain in Star Trek Beyond

I won't give away any spoilers but he has an ability that he uses yet how, why or where he acquired that ability is never explained.

Why he is so antithetical to the Federation is not explained adequately either. His character may have explained it later in the movie during a distorted (to my ear) dialogue sequence, but from the motivation I was able to  understand, it seemed extremely simplistic.

Jaylah And Scotty - Star Trek BeyondAmazingly, Simon Pegg was not annoying as Scotty. He has quite a few scenes and the character is not played for laughs as much as in the previous two movies.

Jaylah is the new character in the movie and she comes across as a kick-ass survivor who works with Kirk and crew as an equal but at the end of the movie would end up in a subordinate position should she follow a particular course of action (you'll know the scene when you see it).

Chris Pine as Captain Kirk

Chris Pine was good a Kirk (as he always is) yet I didn't think his character displayed the maturity you see in Shatner's TOS-era Kirk.

Zachary Quinto As Spock

Zachary Quinto - I just can't buy into him as Spock. Vulcans have elegant features. Quinto doesn't. He's got a blobby face and a Neanderthalic brow and just does not look like a Vulcan. In terms of character portrayal, he does a much better job this time round and is much more Nimoy-esque when delivering his one-line rejoinders. Spock does have an emotional outburst that goes unexplained though. McCoy thinks he knows why but Spock never explains the real reason.

Karl Urban as McCoy

Karl Urban is great as McCoy. He gets some of the best lines in the movie and this time round his character is actually used to drive the plot along rather than to deliver some McCoy sayings.

Anton Yelchin as Chekov

Anton Yelchin puts in a good turn as Chekov. He's not the annoying boy-genius Wesley-esque character he was in the 2009 movie. And I can't remember the character or what he did in Into Darkness.

Once the movie ended and the credits started rolling, the audience quickly hopped to their feet and made for the exits. So by the time the dedications to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin appeared on screen, at least half the audience had exited the cinema. There was a bit of a "Awwww" from those still sitting when their names appeared and some in aisles turned to see what had elicited that reaction. So much for an audience acknowledging a tribute to deceased Trek actors.

John Cho As Sulu

John Cho as Sulu doesn't get much to so in this movie except fly a ship. The notable scene he's in is one of Hollywood's worst kept secrets - meeting up with his same-sex partner and their daughter. It's an understated affair that, when seen, makes you wonder what all the fuss was about, whatever side of the argument you were on.

Zoe Saldana As uhura

Zoe Saldana gets a couple of action sequences to save some crewmates and twiddle knobs on the Comms panel. But I still don't like that Spock/Uhura romance.

Weaknesses In The Movie

This is primarily another action-driven movie that won't have you thinking about some issue when you leave the cinema. It's another popcorn summer blockbuster. While there are some throwaway references to TOS, it's a movie designed to appeal to the general cinema-going public rather than to Star Trek fans.

It (and the previous two movies) don't feel like TOS-era outings to me. That probably has more to do with the high-tech bridge and the higher level of technology we have in the world today than anything to do with the new movies being in a different timeline.

The world has moved on in the last 50 years and where battles in Star Trek used to be like submarine warfare, they're now much more akin to aerial combat with ships whooshing around in uber-dogfights.

The Enterprise is 3 years into its 5 year mission in this movie and the crew is weary being out at the edge of the frontier. This story takes place in a time after TOS Season 3 ends. You'd think that with all that experience under his belt, Kirk would read the situation that underpins this plot far better than he does.

The Enterprise is out on the edge of explored space yet there's a Starbase out there. This isn't your TOS-era TV Series Starbase either. This thing is Death-Star sized and fully built with a thriving population. There had to be a lot of ships transporting building materials, supplies and people here over an extended time. Yet they didn't bother to explore the region beside the Starbase that the movie takes place in?

And Sulu's daughter and partner just happen to be living in this Starbase?

That Beastie Boy song gets used in a unique way later in the movie but its application is totally unconvincing while the visual aspect of its use is spectacular. The outcome is an easy-out for a perilous situation. Much more thought should have been given to this section of the movie.

I've alluded to not really understanding Krall's motivations above. Krall has an army and a humongous number of ships at his disposal. Yet when you learn who he is and where he comes from you're left wondering where his army and cohorts came from. Who exactly are they? And how was he able to build the many thousands of ships you see in the movie (no spoilers there - you see them in the movie trailers)?

There's an issue about where Jaylah lives that I can't discuss without revealing spoilers.

And yes, as the movie posters indicate, a certain motorbike does make an appearance in the movie. It's over utilised as far as I'm concerned. How and why it's still a working model is never explained either.

Final Thoughts

I admit that I went to this movie expecting to be disappointed. But I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't suck. It's still not Star Trek to me. At the core of Trek is an examination of the human condition and an unflappable optimism about Mankind's future. You won't get that from this movie.

It is a movie of its time, when rapidly changing scenes, firefights and explosions are used to keep the audience from checking their phones for the latest Tweet or Facebook post.

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I don't know if it's a damning indictment of movie studios that they think their audience is so intellectually challenged that they need constantly changing imagery in their movies to hold attention or if it's a damning indictment of audiences who have the attention span of a gnat and get bored if a scene doesn't change for 10 seconds and are essentially social media junkies needing a hit from their mobile device every few seconds.

For what it is, Star Trek Beyond is a space-borne action flick with Star Trek references. It's like an homage from someone who sees Trek in a very different way to me. I can see a connection but it's not real Star Trek. It is an enjoyable romp for non-Trekkies.

For the committed Trekkie, leave your brain in the foyer and you'll enjoy the movie more. If you go in with the expectation that this should be like the more cerebral Wrath of Khan, Undiscovered Country or Motion Picture, you will be disappointed. The original Star Trek movies did use action sequences to bolster the plot. The new movies bolt plot onto action sequences in an attempt to give them some relevance.

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Abrams nuTrek hater, then just don't go to the movie, even to see how badly they've mangled Trek yet again. You don't need the added rise in blood pressure. Life's too short. Crack open Netflix, your old blu-rays or DVDs and watch the Trek you love instead.

 

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