Paramount Pictures invites audiences aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek Beyond, directed by Justin Lin, in theaters today. This marks the third film since the franchise was rebooted in 2009 and, quite honestly, its most lackluster as well. This movie has a profound and steadfast commitment to creating an action spectacle that will have all Trek fans holding their tribbles tight with excitement, but neglects any character development during the film.
This movie centers around an alien threat attacking the Enterprise as it enters into uncharted territory. The leader of the threat, Krall (Idris Elba), is after an ancient weapon which he can use to exact revenge on those who have wronged him and his crew. As luck with have it, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) just happens to know exactly where that weapon currently is. Rather than just giving him the weapon and letting him be on his merry alien way, he decides to get into a shootout against a weapon which the Enterprise can’t defend. Eventually, the Enterprise is destroyed and crash lands on the planet below. The film becomes a tale of survival and triumph as the search for a way to get off the planet and to defeat Krall.
One of the highlights of the film is the writing of Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. Pegg and Jung manage to create a narrative that harkens back to the old television series which will cause the super fans to set their phasers to pumped. The script is rife with action witty one-liners, new worlds, and peril for the Enterprise crew, all things that we’ve been accustom to for the last 50 years Star Trek has been in our lives.
Karl Urban is fantastic as Dr. McCoy. In fact, in many ways, he steals the show from Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Pine. McCoy in this film is not only a person that both Spock and Kirk seek personal help from, but he provides an abundance of comedic relief. When Spock is confiding in McCoy what happened that lead to his break-up with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana), he drily responds back by saying ” When a young woman tells you it’s her, Spock, trust me it’s you.”
Spock and Kirk are both dealing their own versions of a “mid-life” crisis. Kirk is wondering what his purpose in life is. Is it to be an officer in Starfleet (something that he says he joined on a dare)? Is it to be a Vice-Admiral at a Starfleet base? Will he ever live up to the bravery displayed by his father? Kirk is lost in his thoughts in space.
Spock is notified about the death of Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and begins to question his own mortality. Should he continue his duties in Starfleet or work towards helping rebuild his new home planet of New Vulcan? He even goes so far as to approach Uhura about having children (to help repopulate new Vulcan), which was the catalyst for those two breaking up.
Both narratives are equally compelling but what was baffling is neither is allowed to develop during the film. Kirk has a scene in the beginning where he’s recording in the Captain’s Log about his state of mind, a scene where he’s talking to McCoy about his purpose for being in Starfleet, and that’s it. Rather than spending some more time fleshing out this relatively deep internal conflict, we immediately resort back to the same Captain James Tiberius Kirk that we’ve seen in the last three films.
The time spent on Spock’s narrative is even worse as he has two scenes in the film dealing with death that lasts a total of about one minute and forty-five seconds, and that’s all. At the very least we could have seen Uhura and Spock discussing their breakup a little further than just it simply being implied. It’s just baffling to me that Lin wouldn’t explore this narrative more. The concept of mortality from the perspective of a being reliant on logic would have been fascinating to play out further. Instead, Lin chooses to race through these parts and get straight to the action. You can’t help but wonder if scenes may have been cut from the film that would have enhanced both of these narratives just enough to allow for more character development.
Justin Lin is a fantastic director with a gift for developing eye-popping action sequences on screen. He also has a knack for bringing out the best in an ensemble cast. Lin’s gift has never been directing films that are character driven, and as any Star Trek fan knows, these films are character-centric. He simply was the wrong director. So the result is a film that’s visually marvelous (perhaps the best battle sequences that I’ve ever seen in any Star Trek film) but devoid of any character development that allows the audience to be engaged in the storyline.