Justin Lin took over the director’s chair for Star Trek Beyond. The film was a welcome return to the franchise’s lighter tone but still had its flaws.
When J.J. Abrams jumped ship from the U.S.S. Enterprise to take Lucasfilm’s offer to kick off the Star Wars sequel trilogy, he left his rebooted Star Trek trilogy incomplete. After helming 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams left the series’ third installment without a director. Paramount ended up hiring Fast & Furious regular Justin Lin to take Abrams’ place.
Lin turned out Star Trek Beyond, which harked back to the Trek universe’s lighthearted tone following the unusually dark Into Darkness. There’s a lot that Star Trek Beyond got right, but it was far from a perfect movie.
10 Right: Returning To The Light Tone
J.J. Abrams gave Star Trek Into Darkness an unusually dark tone in the vein of Man of Steel and it didn’t work for a lot of Trekkies. Fortunately, the studio took note and returned to the franchise’s lighthearted tone in Star Trek Beyond.
Justin Lin brought a vibrant color palette to every big set piece in the threequel, while superfans Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s affectionate script brought some much-needed humor back to the Trek universe.
9 Wrong: Forgettable Plot
The plot of Star Trek Beyond is almost entirely forgettable. Try and remember what happens. It’s impossible, because the movie didn’t leave an impression quite like fellow trilogy closers Logan, The Bourne Ultimatum, or Revenge of the Sith did.
In crafting the story outline, the writers seem to have plucked a bunch of random plot devices from the sci-fi playbook and loosely arranged them into a narrative throughline.
8 Right: Idris Elba As Krall
Although it doesn’t receive the criticism as much as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Trek movies have a villain problem. For every Khan or Borg Queen or Valeris, there are a dozen Shinzons or Syboks or Gods.
But thanks to some genuinely surprising plot twists and a captivating performance by Idris Elba, Star Trek Beyond’s Krall is one of the franchise’s greatest villains.
7 Wrong: Lack Of Social Commentary
A huge point in Star Trek’s favor in its ongoing debate against fellow space-set saga Star Wars is that Trek was designed as a vehicle for social commentary. Gene Roddenberry used his vast fictional universe to explore contemporary issues.
However, despite dealing with such lofty subjects as wartime protocols and bioweaponry, Star Trek Beyond is completely lacking in social commentary, instead settling for mere space-bound spectacle.
6 Right: Exciting Action
When Paramount tapped the Fast & Furious franchise’s most prolific filmmaker Justin Lin to replace J.J. Abrams as the director of the third Star Trek reboot movie, the studio knew it could count on him for one thing: big, bold action sequences.
And that’s exactly what they got. Lin brought an action-oriented sensibility to Star Trek Beyond that made its set pieces uniquely dazzling in relation to their past counterparts.
5 Wrong: Lazy Storytelling
While Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s Beyond script has a lot of love for the Star Trek universe, it doesn’t have the arguably more important element of a well-crafted plot. All the obstacles that the plot puts in the way of the characters are easily overcome.
When Scotty tells Kirk that getting an old starship moving will be impossible, it proves to be possible almost instantly and the problem goes away before it even becomes a problem.
4 Right: Introducing Jaylah
Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script for Star Trek Beyond introduced a new character to the franchise: a lone-wolf alien scavenger named Jaylah. It’s tough to bring new characters into a world as unique and iconic as Star Trek’s, but Jaylah proved to be a terrific addition to the ensemble.
Sofia Boutella, who has quickly made a name for herself as one of Hollywood’s foremost badasses with roles in Kingsman and Atomic Blonde, gave a fantastic performance as Jaylah.
3 Wrong: Beastie Boys On The Soundtrack
When the teaser trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released, Trekkies were outraged by the misplaced use of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” on the soundtrack. Simon Pegg assured fans that the use of the song was just the marketing team’s way of telling audiences they’d have fun if they bought a ticket and not an accurate representation of the movie.
But of course, when the movie was released, it turned out that “Sabotage” was a major plot point. The heroes even use it to defeat the bad guys in the final battle. It doesn’t just play on the soundtrack; the actual song is their weapon.
2 Right: Recapturing The Feel Of An Episode
For the first time in the “Kelvin Timeline” reboot series, Star Trek Beyond actually felt like an old episode of the TV series, following the classic structure and playing in Trek’s episodic sandbox.
It’s usually a negative thing when a feature film adapted from a TV show just feels like an extended episode, but when the TV show being adapted has the epic scale and limitless storytelling potential of Star Trek, it’s hardly a bad thing to recapture that feeling.
1 Wrong: Playing It Safe
At the beginning of Star Trek Beyond, a fleet of small ships attack the Enterprise and rip it to shreds, killing most of the crew members on-board and sending the few survivors of the ship crashing onto an uncharted planet, where most of them are promptly captured by the villain.
Despite the huge stakes established in this first act, the movie plays it depressingly safe. There are no hugely affecting character deaths or shocking plot turns along the way; it’s just another agreeable, by-the-numbers blockbuster.
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