Forming a bond.
Star Trek Beyond was released this summer and by all accounts was meant to be a blockbuster. I’ve seen this film with my family and overall we pretty much think they nailed it. IMDB give this film 7.4 / 10.
It was enjoyable, entertaining and had so many numerous homages to the original series that we almost cried at times, it was that good.
So why did it not do as well as other films this summer, or indeed as well as some other Star Trek films?
Various reasons have been speculated upon, such as a summer full of excellent films such as The BFG, Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad that Star Trek Beyond had to compete with. Another reason was the trailers, the first being pretty much lambasted by fans due to its use of the Beastie Boys track Sabotage featured in the first Star Trek release back in 2009. Even Simon Pegg levelled some criticism however later trailers improved a bit. With the bad taste from that left in the mouths of fans, it’s speculated that the negative press could have affected cinema goers desire to see it. Many were claiming to wait for the Blu-Ray or DVD release.
Ignoring the glaringly obvious omission of any real activities coordinated by the studios celebrating 50 years of Star Trek, another reason it didn’t do as well could have been due to the shadow that was cast by Star Trek: Into Darkness. Into Darkness lifted too many plot strands from the much-beloved film, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Many fans, including myself, felt that it relied too much on that film to be successful in its own right. Yes, it was entertaining, yes, it was fun, but was it Star Trek?
Some would say no. It was just a Star Trek crew fighting against a self-generated baddie (Section 31) but as we hadn’t built up enough empathy for the Federation or the Enterprise crew it just felt flat. When the Khan reveal was made you could almost feel the collective groan of Trekkers as yet another dream of a blockbuster movie was smashed despite some neat twists and action scenes. Compare this against the previous release of Star Trek (2009) where we had to suspend disbelief that another timeline had been formed, it was done well and received wide acclaim with box office sales supporting that opinion. However to jump from that success straight into the Khan scenario was a classic “too soon?” moment with the characters being seen as shallow imitations rather than a genuine alternative.
Hey, destroying the Enterprise worked well the last gazillion times we did it, let’s do it again!
This leads us neatly into Star Trek: Beyond where in reality, we’ve barely had time to really get to know the characters from the Kelvin timeline. We see a break-up, we see a gay Sulu that in my opinion was done just right despite protestations from some that he wasn’t gay enough or shouldn’t be gay. We see an almost depressing view of the crew being bored by a five-year mission that we’ve not seen anything of. This seems to me to be a missed opportunity.
So we have a lack of empathy for main characters, and in Beyond we have the very quick destruction of the Enterprise… Why do filmmakers do this? In The Search For Spock it was shocking but after several TV destruction sequences, the value of the shock tactic has worn off and has become a very stale trope. I don’t care that the Enterprise was destroyed, FFS they’ll just build a new one like they always do. In fact, I now expect every film to blow up the Enterprise without us even getting to know the grand old lady. And this is the crux of the matter, we haven’t built a relationship that matters, a lot of people now don’t care about the fate of the ship which means the shock value is greatly diminished.
It’s supposed to be a relatively fragile metal casing protecting the crew from space and is indeed another main character. Yet in the TV series, films and specifically Star Trek Beyond it’s treated like a disposable burger wrapper. Exciting CGI sequences show us cracks forming, explosions and the crew running upside down in corridors but miss the stuff that held us transfixed in earlier Star Treks and Star Trek 2009 where we felt the ship was protecting the crew and the crew could protect the ship. It’s a symbiotic relationship that holds the suspension of disbelief and builds tension.
Anyway, the film progresses to the planet scenes and we learn more about why people are there and so on, this works to an extent and is quite interesting but after the destruction of the ship we’re left a bit wanting rather than threatened. The tension is now transferred to the question of how the crew get out of this situation, which isn’t bad but is lesser to returning to a crippled, repairing Enterprise. Instead, we are treated to a decades-old vessel being improbably repaired and functioning as an escape and attack vessel. Sorry. But while this completes a writers plot hole it does nothing for someone who simply wants to root for the Enterprise. Go Franklin, yay. You’re way cool. Whatever.
It’s a laugh a minute.
Don’t get me started on the not very well explained and almost inexplicable appearance changes of the main protagonist. Evil alien looking one minute, then black evil person later. While the performance of Idris Elba was good I’m sick and tired of dark skinned, or shall I just say non-white people being portrayed as villains. I’m especially sick of British voices being used as evil ones but suspect that’s more to do with the War of Independence than any real conscious choice. Ooh, did I say that? Anyway, despite my misgivings Idris did well and British voices do sound cool as villains even though I hate myself for saying that.
On the plus side, the character relationships between the main Star Trek triad developed and were shown well. McCoy (Karl Urban) really shone and Kirk (Chris Pine) is literally Shatner incarnate. I do have difficulty accepting Spock as played by Zachary Quinto though, I thought he was good in Star Trek (2009), passable in Into Darkness but a little too emotion filled and “funny” in Beyond. A little cocky if you excuse the pun. The relationship with Uhuru just jarred with me too as being slightly unrealistic. This all conspires to detract from the Vulcan side of him and risks him as being seen as a human with a bit of Vulcan logic rather than a tormented individual with a Vulcan facade. However, the touching way in which they dealt with the passing of Leonard Nimoy by announcing the death of Spock Prime was done so well.
Scotty, as played by Simon Pegg, is okay, I’m still adjusting to him but again he’s being too funny. Hark back to TOS and he wasn’t a comedic character, he was a driven one with a passion for engineering. This Scotty has no discernible passion but he has the ability and some cute one liners… there is a difference.
The Yorktown deserves a mention. This was an excellent show of creativity and demonstrated the ability of today’s special effects. To see a starship traverse a docking tunnel deep within a station was awesome but as any risk manager will tell you it’s something you just wouldn’t do. This was later proven when a starship fight leads to waterways being usurped and the ship flying around inside causing massive damage, not to mention a loss of life. It struck me as a lazy way of creating a sense of danger when a myriad of other possibilities exist. Fantastic to look at, yes. Plausible? No, not really.
And we’re back to the suspension of disbelief. So while the film was entertaining, action packed and had some truly great homages to Star Trek The Original Series it was flawed because of the lack of respect paid to the suspension of disbelief that all films regardless of the genre must adhere to and is indeed a player in the Paradox of Fiction. Maybe Sam Coleridge was right when he spoke about the willing suspension of disbelief. You need to decide.
Overall, though, maybe everything they did right was why it did very well. Even the Enterprise destruction seemed to be part of the crucible enabling the end sequences where the crew affirmed they couldn’t wait to get back out there, overcoming their previous boredom. But because of some failures in characterisation, rolling out old trope, a little laziness, the shadow of Into Darkness, and abusing the suspension of disbelief it wasn’t as great as it could have been. Nevertheless, it was a very entertaining film. I’m a lifetime fan of Star Trek and wanted to be wowed. They’re going in the right direction by striking out but must try harder next time.
6/10 for me.
Thank you for reading this review.
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