Star Trek Beyond is underwhelming in its excess

I should preface this review by saying that, after talking to other people, it’s possible some of my experience was negatively affected by the 3D conversion. My suggestion would be to see it in standard: What you gain in depth of field during the quiet moments of 3D (which really is quite something) isn’t worth what you lose overall.

But I can’t judge this movie on the experience other people had, only on the one I had, which is to say that Star Trek Beyond is a bunch of great character stuff surrounded by…I don’t even know what that mess was.

captain hair
Hello, my name is Captain Good Hair, and I’ll be providing your existential crisis this evening.

Star Trek Beyond picks up three years into The Enterprise’s five-year mission, with Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) both questioning their futures and pondering their mortality. While docked at a space station, they end up heading through an uncharted nebula to help a ship in distress, and then all hell breaks loose.

It’s during this travesty of badly lit, poorly edited action that I completely missed two things that would have pretty significant importance to the plot. There’s just too much going on. And I wasn’t missing things in a “Oh, that thing makes sense now!” way, but more like…imagine you’re in the passenger seat on the way home, and along the way, the driver stops and picks up a stray dog, but then  you get home and are like “Where’d this dog come from? Is that what you did during the red light?” That’s kind of what it was like. And I pay attention to movies! Rarely do I even eat popcorn after the previews wrap because I’m too focused on the screen to feed myself, and I literally had no idea that some of the things that happened were things that happened.

spock bones
Bones and Spock: TV’s oddest couple

Fortunately, not realizing I missed those things meant I spent about a third of the movie carrying on in blissful ignorance while portions of the crew were separated on a planet.  Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock got some great scenes here (and later) while Scotty (Simon Pegg) ran into a helpful alien teen with a knack for engineering and an incredibly convenient home. It’s these and other character moments, combined with a few legible and heart-racing action scenes, the internal struggles of Kirk and Spock and some nice tributes to the legacy that Leonard Nimoy brought into the reboot that really make the movie. But they  can’t carry it.

The villain Krall (Idris Elba) ultimately has an interesting motivation — especially on the heels of Star Trek: Into Darkness — and half of his origin story makes perfect Star Trek sense. The other half? Well, it stretched my “just go with it” ability to its breaking point.

The sad thing is, I think I’m the kind of person Star Trek Beyond was built for. I like all the Star Treks, but I’m not so slavishly attached to any of them that I can’t handle the reboot changes; I have a strong ability to accept a premise and move on; and I’m very susceptible to theater-brain — getting caught up in the big screen and everything that comes with a night at the movies. But either I failed Star Trek this time around or Star Trek failed me, because this largely felt like a good idea so sloppily done that there’s no fully escaping the mess, no matter how hard it tries. And that’s just not something I would have ever expected. I’m sure I’ll watch it again — if for no other reason than to see if it’s better in 2D — but it won’t be until its out of theaters.


Okay, now that the spoiler-free review is out of the way, let’s get real and talk some specifics, because what the hell?!

1. I saw Kirk grab the girl who held the mcguffin device piece of ancient weapon, but then I just completely lost track of her. But this at least is kind of close to a good payoff, because I did wonder why he was running around the ship with this stranger.

2. It also just did not even register with me that Bones and Spock escaped in one of Krall’s “bees.” I don’ know, maybe I was too busy marveling over the sheer badassery of Scotty shooting himself off the Enterprise in a tropedo to notice, but I maintain at least some of that blame belongs with the filming.

3. Man, they really played up the idea that Jim would be willing to sacrifice himself to help the crew escape on (or near) his birthday and the anniversary of his dad’s death doing the same thing. Difference is, George Kirk (oh, Chris Hemsworth, how I miss your non-Thor arms and American accent) actually had the tools to be effective and help the crew escape. Jim Kirk, on the other hand, was in a ship too crippled to even fire back. He just stood on the bridge and looked wistful for awhile.

4. Don’t even get me started on the motorcycle/multiple fake Kirks distraction. Because, what? How? Somebody explain to me how.

5. How do you even talk about playing the loud shouty music with a beat to break of the bees’ frequency and then play the music so quietly I may as well have been on a Sunday drive with my grandmother? Of everything this movie did, that is the thing that sticks in my craw the most, and it’s a really absurd thing to be bothered by, but honestly by this point, I’d hit max levels of “oh what the hell ever, I don’t even care anymore; where’s my popcorn?”

6. Okay, so, I get that The Franklin went through some wormhole/displacement/whatever to end up on that planet. I’m cool with that. It’s Star Trek logic. But I just…I don’t understand how Captain Balthazar became Krall. How did he turn into what he looked like for most of the movie, how did he get the ability to suck the life out of people, how did doing so make him look human again….just…


And I don’t know, maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention. It seems unlikely, but if that’s the case, I still blame Star Trek Beyond for not being able to hold onto me, a person who frequently gives movies a lot of leeway.

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3 thoughts on “Star Trek Beyond is underwhelming in its excess

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