I decided not to do a flat-out review of Star Trek Beyond for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it’s already been out in theaters for a while now. There are plenty of other places to go for more in-depth reviews of this film. I’m willing to bet that most people who would see it have by this point (as of the time I’m writing this, that its). Still, I suppose it’s customary for me to mention that as I give thoughts to this film I’m going to be giving spoilers.
I felt conscious throughout this film of factors of modern life outside the film affect its story-telling. First and foremost is the controversial moment of when we see Sulu with his male partner (we don’t find out if this is a husband or not, but we assume it’s the other father of Sulu’s daughter), as an homage to George Takai. Putting aside the controversy of including the scene (primarily coming from Takai himself speaking against the decision to make Sulu gay), it feels very much stuck in the movie only to serve as said homage and also to show how progressive the movie studio has come, yet not really necessary to the story.
On the other hand, there are also references to the passing of Leonard Nimoy in the movie, as current-day-alternate-timeline Spock learns of the death of Ambassador Spock, who was played by Nimoy himself in the previous two movies. This not only caused me to well-up in the theater—yes, I’ll admit it—it actually served a purpose to the story. I suppose Sulu’s daughter was a motivation for him to help with the rescue of the mega-space station Yorktown, as if his duty as a Starfleet Officer could somehow be doubted.
But that moment was so quick and inconsequential to the movie that I can let it pass pretty easily. The one contemporary reference that really bothered me was the use of the song “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys as a weapon that destroyed an entire alien fleet of ships. The film had to do a lot of work to explain this, and even then it was just too corny, even for Star Trek. Yes, it was entertaining, energetic and the song did work as a good soundtrack to the destruction of all of those ships. But it was also really stupid.
Another contemporary reference that stood out in the film was that Captain Kirk ends up riding a motorcycle as a tactic to distract the villains at their prison camp/base. This didn’t really bother me so much other than I had to wonder where they got the gas. Even if it there was gas in storage in the abandoned starship the bike came from, would the gas still be usable? I’m not trying to point out a flaw. I really don’t know. If anybody could clarify this for me please tell me.
All of these things serve to prove that no matter how far you set a science fiction piece in the far future it can still feel dated. This used to be the case with production values. I didn’t get that feeling so much with this film in that regard, but it’s going to be a few generations before people forget all of the contemporary references in the film. Then the scene of Sulu on Yorktown is going to really look out of place.
Lest anybody think that I didn’t like the film, bear in mind that the above gripes are about minor points in it. The special effects were stunning. The action sequences were exhilarating. In typical Star Trek fashion, the script was intelligent. I particularly liked the idea of separating the crew and putting them through hardships as a way to show character development. And the acting this time was brilliant. I used to complain that in the previous two movies that it felt like some of the actors were trying to imitate the original series’ actors rather than present their own takes on the characters, especially Karl Urban as Bones. But this time, they look like they’ve eased into the characters a lot more comfortably.
Also, in typical Star Trek fashion, somebody occasionally remembers that Bones is from the South.