Death of the Critic

Star Trek: Beyond - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


The first two films in the new JJ Abrams Star Trek franchise weren't exactly fan favorites. They focused their attentions on a broader audience, opting for glitz and glamour over what made the old shows and movies so great to fans. And I will fully admit that I am not exactly a long time Trek fan. I grew up watching the movies and a few episodes of the shows with my dad, but I never really found myself becoming to attached to the franchise. It was with him that I found myself sitting in an IMAX theater a few days ago to see this movie. We wanted to go big, to enjoy a fun movie, and we expected to receive more of the same old JJ Abrams formula. A decent plot, lots of spectacle, and a relatively pleasing popcorn muncher of a film.
We walked out of the theater pleasantly surprised. There are some truly amazing visuals in this movie. Especially on that big IMAX screen. Space feels appropriately big, and the space station/ultra-futuristic city of Yorktown, that we are introduced to at the beginning of the film is truly amazing. It feels like an Escher painting from the far flung future come to life, crossed with the floating city of Citadel from the Mass Effect franchise. It was amazing to see it come to life, and in general the CG in space was fantastic.
However, on the planet where the majority of the movie takes place, some of the sets feel strangely fake. The structures that our cast is placed into feel like something out of a television show, and not like buildings that should be on the set of a massive summer blockbuster, especially when contrasted with the amazing graphical work done with the space battles and the complexity of Yorktown. And for the life of me I cannot tell if this was an intentional decision or not. For a lot of the runtime, Beyond feels more like a 2 hour episode of the Star Trek series.
What I mean by this is that the movie focuses on smaller character interactions between the cast, especially between the core group on the ship. Bones (played by Karl Urban), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Kirk (Chris Pine), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Scotty (Simon Pegg). From the beginning, the banter between these five is fantastic, and there are some amazing scenes between Urban and Quinto that really help develop the character of Spock in a new and unique way, distinctive from TOS Spock. They feel more like a crew and less like a cast, whether they be cracking wise, spouting technobabble, or talking intimately.
It feels like a marked improvement over the previous two Abrams Star Trek films, and it makes the story told here feel more like another tale in the saga of the crew of the Enterprise as opposed to a summer popcorn flick
But that is not to say that this is not a blockbuster. Because it is, and it has some of the same problems that many of these films have when they set their goals so high. Beyond succeeds the most on the smallest scale, when there are two characters on screen and we can see the relationship between them, and in  the larger, more action oriented scenes, problems do rear their ugly head. I still don't care about the death of the disposable crew members, and I wasn't moved by the crash of the Enterprise. At this point it feels more inevitable than surprising that the ship be destroyed in some way. Combine this with a few logical inconsistencies (where did these hundreds of thousands of swarm ships come from when we can see maybe a hundred of them in camp, or how convenient the climax of the film turns out to be), and it starts to feel more like the blockbuster films you are familiar with.
That doesn't mean it is a bad movie, but that it is a fun movie. It builds its way towards a thunderous, if slightly contrived and ridiculous climax, that had me laughing even while my heart pumped in my chest. It feels like a blockbuster that tried to do something else, and is caught in a weird sort of limbo for it. Almost like it couldn't make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. An episode of the TV show? Or the next big summer film?

The trailers do a disservice to this movie by portraying it to be this big, bombastic action romp full of explosions and fistfights. All of these elements are present, but they are not what make this movie shine. It does a great job modernizing Star Trek, and it ties itself into the older shows and movies with more references and inside jokes than I can count (the Romulan Wars, Xindi, MACO, Green Hands) and one particularly poignant moment, where Kirk toasts to absent friends.

Unfortunately, they had to deal with both last year's passing of Leonard Nimoy and the tragic death of Anton Yelchin. Both were handled extraordinarily well, with Nimoy's passing actually taking a pivotal role in the character development of this timelines Spock in a touching, but not overwrought moment. They also did not shy away from showing Anton (Chekov) on screen, and he played a pivotal role in the film. Shortly after Kirk makes that toast, Anton is memorialized in the credits.

It’s a touching end to a strangely personal movie. It tried for something different, and succeeded in many ways. It's fun. Enjoyable, and if you are a fan of Star Trek, it should hopefully scratch an itch. And more importantly it gives people new to the franchise a way into the tempest that is Star Trek.

This title was reviewed before the inception of our current review system and as such is not scored. We still stand by the content of our old reviews.

Our review code can be found here for information on how we write and score our reviews. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us at



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

You Might Also Like:
Suicide Squad - Review

Movies and Criticism


blog comments powered by Disqus