Star Trek Beyond: Sorta Kinda Beyond-ish

This article originally appeared on the Discussing Who website on August 11, 2016.


Star Trek Beyond is the third installment in JJ Abrams’ Kelvin timeline of the Star Trek franchise. This would be the first movie of the diverged universe in which Abrams would not direct the project, passing duties on the Justin Lin of Fast and the Furious fame, with Abrams producing. While this was disappointing at first glance, the hope was that Lin would inject the franchise with new life, and not fall into the ho-hum cadence that so many franchises sink into after a few films.

With a new director on board, I fully expected this iteration to give a fresh coat of paint to a universe that felt a bit too derivative after the second film.

Am I the only one who laughed out loud during Into Darkness when Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, yelled out KHAN?

Issues aside, I still feel Into Darkness was a very good film, banking on all the things that made the first great, and giving us a bit of nostalgia. Albeit maybe too much.

Enter Star Trek Beyond. James T. Kirk, played by Chris Pine, is attempting find himself after reaching the halfway point of a laborious five year mission. A mission that is seemingly wearing him down, predicated by misgivings of trying to capture a dream that was not his, but that of his father.

We are told this mission has taken the crew into the far reaches of space, which may contribute to some the of captains issues, giving him the feeling that the life a of star ship captain may not be the one for him. Though nothing to me about the movie really feels beyond. Though after seeing a series like Star Trek: Voyager, some of those sensibilities may have been lost on me. The Voyager crew was really beyond, being stranded in the delta quadrant. In part, the distant nature of the mission was lost due to the space base, which made it feel a bit too much like home.

We also find out that Kirk is not the only one that is looking to leave. Upon finding out that his alternate universe self has died, Spock feels a similar calling as he is drawn to New Vulcan to do good for his people.

On what may be their last mission together, the Enterprise is ripped asunder, as a new life-sucking enemy and his swarm of ships lay waste to ship and crew in search of a powerful relic.


After the aforementioned destruction of the Enterprise, the team is split up. We have pairing of Kirk and Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), then Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho). I don’t know why, but the buddy system worked for me.

This unique pairings allowed for a different dynamic and feel than we have gotten in any of the other Kelvin-movies. Giving each a bit more of a chance to shine than it would in the moments when they are all together and Kirk is the man. Most notably the Spock and McCoy moments seemed to lend themselves to a deeper humanization of Spock, and gave McCoy a bigger feel of importance.

Also the Scotty and Jaylah pairing allowed for a bit of fun, as both were extremely smart, being the care-free and fun characters of the group. Though it was a bit surprising to see Jaylah in such an upbeat mood, having been stranded a planet for several years by the swarm.

While the idea of a swarm–a vast array of small ships that operate in a orchestrated pattern by a controlled harmonic frequency–of ships is not particularly unique to the Star Trek franchise, it does provide an admirable foe that feels almost impossible in nature. It was a beautifully-dark twisted fantasy to see these ships tear-apart the Enterprise, while being heart-wrenching at the same time as you think of the lost of its crew. Which brings me to the visuals.

This is a visually stunning movie, in particular, when the Enterprise meets its destruction. During its demise we see the swarm shred the Enterprise to pieces. And we see this up close and personal. Ships punching through it. Visible holes throughout. Rotating exposed corridors. It was just magnificent.

Not the be outdone, are the visuals given by star-base Yorktown. The Yorktown is gorgeous. More akin to something you would see in a Japanese anime than anything we have seen in the Star Trek universe. The glass domed enclosure was open and vibrant, and felt more like a mini planet in-cased in a snow globe than any space station of times past. Its well thought out ship entry and gravitational design, play a key role in the movie.


Again, I really enjoyed this movie, but it certainly has a few issues. One that jumps out at me is the way in which the swarm was destroyed.

I won’t dive deep into the details, but never should the resolution to defeating an enemy be Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz, and Adam Yauch. Just never.

Then there is the issue with Krall, played by Idras Elba. While I had no issue with him in particular, he is an excellent actor, it sure feels like he is pretty much wasted in the film. The chain of events that leads Krall to want to destroy the federation is not anything particularly new or even interesting. I guess one could say the Krall went mad because of the very thing that kept him alive, but even that feels like a bit of a stretch and is not articulated well on screen. Ultimately he felt like your run-of-the-mil villain, nothing more or less.

And what about the title of the movie itself. Beyond. To be quite honest, other than Kirk’s murmuring about the taxing effect of being out in space for so long, nothing that happened really felt beyond. And I think in large part that is due to the immaculate space station being their place for shore leave. While I love the design and feel, it felt a bit too elaborate to be something out in the far reaches of space.

Also is the issue with the misgiving that Kirk and Spock had at the beginning of the film about wanting to leave and do other things. While the setup for that scenario to play out felt great, I really feel like we never get a resolution as to why either may change their mind by the end of the film. Yeah, I stopped the bad guy. Yeah, I really care about everyone on this crew. And? What was so different about now? Maybe I missed something, but I do not see how one great adventure would instantly change everything in this regard.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the meaning of seeing Anton Yelchin on his final adventure on the Enterprise. While he was the ultra-smart character he has always been, it was still sad to see him in his final appearance. And while the pairing of he and Kirk didn’t feel like anything particularly special, it was fun to see them both working closely together as they rummaged a crashed Enterprise for a means of getting off the planet.

Also there is a particularly good moment near the end of the film as new Spock looks through old Spock’s belonging. It will bring a smile to your face.

In closing, there are plenty of Easter eggs and the cast continues to channel that familiar feel, while evolving the characters into their own. Lin provides a slight divergence from the norm character dynamics and displays a visual masterpiece, all while sticking to the core values of what the fandom wants from their beloved franchise. If you are a Star Trek fan, young or old, this movie is worth watching.