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Earlier tonight, I saw Star Trek Beyond, the latest and third of the rebooted Star Trek films (and thirteenth overall). I know that the movie is still very fresh in my mind, and it would be prudent for me to really take some time to absorb the movie before sharing my thoughts. However, my immediate reaction to Beyond is that it is a very middling film. It isn’t terrible by any means, but this is a movie that I really wanted to like more. There was something about it that I just found lacking.
In Beyond, the crew of the Enterprise is ambushed and stranded on an alien planet where they are desperate to escape from the evil Krall who wants to destroy the Federation with some device that the crew happens to have. Here are the positives. I liked the set-up. Having the crew apart from one another on an alien world is something new and refreshing for the Star Trek films. I also liked how every main cast member had something of importance to do. No one was really shafted and they all had a moment to shine. All of that was great, and I really liked seeing that.
Where the film suffers is the writing, particularly that of our new villain Krall (as played by Idris Elba). What is this guy’s ultimate plan? How does he have control of the aliens on the planet? Where did he come from? What is pushing this guy to do what he is trying to do? You never really know until very late in the third act and by that time, you don’t really care. And the problem is that it is still incredibly muddled. Given his eventual backstory reveal, Krall could have been an interesting character, but by the time the movie deepens him, it is too little, too late.
Once you get his backstory, you then start to ask questions that are never really answered. How did he do this or how did he learn about the weapon? How did he know that the Enterprise had the item he needed when the Enterprise didn’t know what it was? Why didn’t he ever try to leave the planet when he clearly had the means to? His whole character then completely unravels. And since the plot really hinges on him, the movie really suffers.
Besides that, the direction is incredibly lifeless. Beyond attempts to be the most action-based Star Trek film yet, but outside of the climatic rescue of the crew, it is just kind of dull. I’m honestly surprised about it because Justin Lin really breathed new life in the then-dying Fast and Furious franchise when he came on board. And who was in charge of the lighting design? Some of the night/dark scenes were so dark, I could barely register what I was seeing.
Whereas Star Trek (2009) was a lot of fun and Star Trek Into Darkness had an interestingly complex plot (before it completely fell apart in the final quarter), Beyond doesn’t really do much for me. The story and motivations pushing it along are too muddled for me to be invested in, and it isn’t nearly fun enough for me to not care about narrative missteps. I really wanted to like Star Trek Beyond and I do to a certain extent. I just wanted to like it more. Maybe a future viewing will have me warm to the film more, but right now, I am a bit cold. And that disappoints me the most.