Review: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Review: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

Review: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

STAR TREK BEYOND takes place in the third year of the USS Enterprise's five-year mission, with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) facing their own personal dilemmas. When they receive a distress call that leads them to a search-and-rescue mission, little they realise it was actually an ambush set by a powerful new enemy named Krall (Idris Elba).


REVIEW: With J.J. Abrams (who directed the first two STAR TREK movies in the rebooted series) too busy with last year's STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, Justin Lin is given the task instead to direct the third (or thirteen, if you count the previous series) instalment. The Taiwanese-American filmmaker is, of course, famously known for helming some of the best FAST & FURIOUS movies in the series. As a lifelong Star Trek fan himself, Lin seems like a good fit to replace J.J. Abrams as the new director-in-charge for STAR TREK BEYOND.

But then came the first teaser last December. From the awkwardly misplaced Beastie Boys' rap-rock classic of "Sabotage" blaring in the background to the high-octane action mayhem that seems more like "a FAST AND FURIOUS in space" than a quintessential STAR TREK movie, the teaser has no doubt caused some backlash among many fans.

If that's not enough, STAR TREK BEYOND also breaks the series' tradition by introducing a vocal soundtrack for the first time ever in the form of Rihanna's "Sledgehammer". Even though I'm not a Trekkie, I personally found her song doesn't fit well in the STAR TREK universe. I mean, can you imagine if the same thing happens to a STAR WARS movie?

When I finally got to watch STAR TREK BEYOND with a low expectation and all, the result is just what I expected in the first place. True to Lin's energetic filmmaking style, the movie thrusts like a warp speed. It's fast and furious, with Lin alongside his regular cinematographer Stephen F. Windon favours a lot of swooping camerawork to stage most of the action scenes like riding a roller coaster. Speaking of camerawork, Lin also get creative with the use of POV angles, especially during a scene when the Enterprise departs from the base.

As much as I enjoy some of the vigorous action scenes in the movie, there are times Lin get too overwhelmed with his swooping shots. Since the movie is presented in IMAX 3D, his drone-like camera movement tends to cause dizziness. You have been warned. Other technical flaws such as action scenes that occurred within the wrecked Enterprise is too dimly-lit to see properly. Then there're the frantically-edited hand-to-hand combat moments, which shot in an annoyingly tight close-up.

Review: STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

The recurring cast, in the meantime, is a mixed bag. Likewise, Chris Pine delivers a robust performance as Captain Kirk. Zoe Saldana and Simon Pegg have their few moments as well, reprising their roles respectively as Uhura and Scotty. But the real scene-stealer here is the terrific pair between Zachary Quinto's Spock and Karl Urban's Bones. Their funny chemistry instantly reminds me of William Shatner's Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy's Spock in 1986's STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. But the rest of the regulars, including John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin as Sulu and Chekov, don't get to do much here.

As for the newcomers to the STAR TREK movie, Sofia Boutella (2014's KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE) is both charming and fun as Jaylah. Unfortunately, Idris Elba is mostly wasted as Krall.

Simon Pegg and Doug Jung's script emphasised heavily more on the fun parts than something more cerebral and scientific. The story has its own appeal, with several homages to the previous series including STAR TREK ll: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) and the aforementioned STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. Even the songs play a part in this movie, which reminds me of STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989) and STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (1998). The good news is, STAR TREK BEYOND doesn't fall prey to those two movies' cringeworthy sing-a-long moments (THE FINAL FRONTIER's "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and INSURRECTION's "A British Tar"). Instead, tracks that played during the movie including Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and -- yes -- Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" (thank god, there are no sing-a-long!) are surprisingly well-intentioned without feeling awkwardly out-of-place. In addition to that, Pegg and Jung also manage to pay tribute to the Original Series' crew, particularly during a quiet yet heartbreaking moment involving the passing of Ambassador Spock as a mark of final respect to Nimoy's death last year.

Not everything works within Pegg and Jung's script, as their major storyline involving Krall's personal agenda against the Enterprise crew and the Federation in general reeks with the same old revenge theme. While such theme does work well in the past (THE WRATH OF KHAN is the prime example among all STAR TREK series here), it feels shopworn in STAR TREK BEYOND. Besides, the same theme already recurred twice in a row in J.J. Abrams' STAR TREK (2009) and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013). Isn't it the time to shift gear on something new or different already?

Clocking at slightly over two hours long, STAR TREK BEYOND is pacey enough to keep most mainstream viewers occupied throughout the movie. Other than that, it's nothing particularly memorable. Here's hoping that the next STAR TREK movie would be something bold and daring for a change.

There's nothing "beyond" about this latest STAR TREK movie, even though Justin Lin manages to overcome some of the déjà vu feeling with fast-paced action and a welcoming sense of humour.

* This review is written courtesy from United International Pictures (UIP) Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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