When you finally receive your geek badge, it’s a wondrous thing. And with it comes all the trappings of geekdom – insider knowledge, scrutiny of any associated media, and a sense of family.
Artists which are capable of tapping into that pulse usually produce the most interesting content, though not always perfect, for sure. But much closer to what that specific crowd is really after than a run of the mill director. That’s where the magic happens.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella
Director: Justin Lin
released on blu-ray November 1, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ***/*****
Justin Lin is a Taiwanese American director who is best known for his work on The Fast and the Furious franchise (movies 3–6), Better Luck Tomorrow, and now Star Trek Beyond. He is also known for his work on television shows like Community and True Detective. But I bet you didn’t know that the character of Han was ripped right out of Better Luck Tomorrow and dropped directly into The Fast and the Furious franchise – Which means that they are in a shared universe.
Another interesting tid bit, Lin’s second feature film Annapolis, shared stars Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster, who are also staples in The Fast and the Furious franchise.
I mention these things because Star Trek Beyond happens to be a continuation in another series of films, one with a rich history of both film and television iterations. In other words, while Lin had a major hand in shaping The Fast and the Furious films, Star Trek has been up and running without him for quite a while now. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Consider for a second that Beyond is written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, the thirteenth film entry. And Pegg is also currently portraying Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the rebooted series.
Pegg had mentioned on several occasions that he and Jung worked with the fans to help flesh out the story of this film and that Beyond wouldn’t have worked if it weren’t for the support of Star Trek supporters. Additionally, the film is dedicated to the memory of Anton Yelchin, who portrayed Chekov in these new films, and who died a month prior to the film’s release. As well, original cast member Leonard Nimoy, was given a dedication, as he also featured in the reboots, but unfortunately died during pre-production of this film.
This says a lot of Lin’s ability to bolster a fan base and work with the actors to foster a family environment.
So what about the movie though? Well, I’ll get right to the point, in the spirit of Beyond’s own directness. This movie is fun, straightforward, and showcases a better chemistry amongst it cast of youthful star trekkers than we saw in the previous two films. I will say this though, the plot isn’t nearly as interesting as I would have hoped.
Effectively, the film starts with the USS Enterprise taking a break at the 3 year mark of their 5 year journey. Kirk wants to be promoted to Vice Admiral and turn his captain seat over to Spock, while Spock and Uhura are on the rocks. We later find out that this is because he has recently discovered that his counter-part Ambassador Spock has died and he wants to leave for the small Romulan colony and help repopulate his species. Then a survivor from a spaceship appears and the Enterprise is assigned to bring in other survivors. It turns out to be a trap. The ship is attacked, the majority of the crew abandons ship, and the bridge crew are stranded on a planet called Altamid. It turns out a warlord named Krall is at the centre of this and he wants to destroy the Federation.
I won’t reveal the plot twist, but I will say this, it is very reminiscent of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. And for that reason, it loses some points with me.
Pros: It embraces the spirit of the original series, focusing on it’s cast of characters, costuming, and terminology to set a stage similar to how the TV show felt, albeit longer and with much better special effects.
Cons: If you take away the action sequences, fighting, and CGI, you’ll quickly notice how much this feels like a TV episode of Star Trek, and then the plot becomes more of an issue.
Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes
Points of Interest: Starbase Yorktown is a reference to the original name of the starship in Roddenberry’s first drafts of the TV show script. Alice Eve who played Dr. Carol Marcus in Star Trek: Into Darkness is surprisingly missing from this film and no mention is made of her, though she was part of the 5 year voyage. Kirk makes a toast to absent friends at the end of the film and we quickly see the shot move to Anton Yelchin.
I really enjoyed this movie but it’s important to consider it in the scope of the Star Trek universe. For those who liked the two most recent J.J. Abrams movies, it might be harder to take this one in, and for those who enjoy older Star Trek, it might make you nostalgic for another television series. But overall, this film sits well within the canon.
Simon Pegg told this cute little anecdote about new character Jahlah (Sofia Boutella). They had originally intended to create this strong independent female character stranded on the planet of Altamid. But they couldn’t land on a name, so they just inserted Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone into the script. Over time this kept getting shortened, but a name wasn’t chosen. It finally got to the point that J-Law was being said aloud and it was agreed that Jahlah was the right name.
It’s decisions like this that Star Trek fans get a kick out of, and why the franchise is much beloved. Those easter eggs make all the difference, and the universe created a little more more nuanced. Justin Lin gets that, and I hope you do too. But that’s just a theory.