I think I might be done with Star Trek. The reboot universe just isn’t doing it for me, despite the beautiful homoerotic undertones of new Kirk’s relationship with new Spock. If you’re a fan of the series, particularly the new series, you might want read some other review. Even Rotten Tomatoes liked this film more than I did. Star Trek Beyond is a hyperactive mess, it tries so hard and comes so close and then steadfastly fails to deliver. There were many many good elements, small things done well, even big things done well, but none of it came together as a whole. There’s gonna be mild spoilers in this review but nothing you can’t get from just watching the trailer.
I should stop and talk about the things that worked well. There were many little bits I really liked. The soundtrack was wonderful. There was also some incredible animation involving a swarm which was impressive and beautiful. I liked Idris Elba (though I feel he didn’t have much to work with). I saw Chris Pine without a shirt, that’s always good. This film had the best use of ‘Chekov’s Gun’ I’ve ever seen – time and time again something would be established in one scene and then used to great effect later on by the characters. I liked that this film really did answer every question it brought up – that sense of completeness pleases me. There were some truly funny bits, I laughed a lot. The humor was smart and there were a few (but not too many) funny bits.
The problem with this film was it was trying to be a rich and involving plot with complex characters in a fully developed universe but at the same time it had to be a breathless thriller with non-stop action. There was mystery there, clues to what was going on and why which were rationed out tantalizingly slowly throughout the film until at last all was answered. Sounds fantastic, no? The problem was there was no break in the action, no time to appreciate what was going on. A good mystery has to have time to percolate and sink in. Now that’s not to say that non-stop action doesn’t work in some movies – but those movies have to have clear motivations, carefully explained plans and simplistic characters so you can enjoy the action. Think James Bond. You can’t do that when you’re also trying to build a mystery. It’s as if they built roller-coaster through the Louvre – you go too fast to see the art so it just ends up being a shitty roller-coaster.
Thematically it was a bit weird. They kept trying to come back to the theme of ‘Teamwork’ and ‘Unity’. Apparently the Enterprise was a team and their opposition didn’t believe in that, despite the fact that the Enterprise is quite effectively attacked by a highly coordinated swarm of smaller ships. Both sides talk about the merits of their ‘sides’ on this issue as if it were obvious which camp they should fall into. But if they didn’t actually tell me explicitly which side each was on, I wouldn’t have caught it. This was something told but not shown, and I don’t think it added to the movie. You might think I’m being too picky (and really I am) but this debate was carefully mentioned again and again throughout the second and third acts. Funny thing – the Enterprise was on the other end of the ‘Teamwork’ and ‘Unity’ debate in First Contact in 1996.
So is Star Trek Beyond worth watching? Probably, I guess, especially if you’re a fan of the series. The rest of the audience seemed to like it (and the place was packed) so maybe you will as well. Or maybe just rent it. Honestly I can’t tell you why I didn’t like it more than I did. There really ARE good bits, as I said, though entirely too much of the film was people running around with no idea what they should or could be doing. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more next reboot.