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Dispatched on a rescue mission to the farthest reaches of space, the USS Enterprise is ambushed by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless enemy sworn against the Federation. Crash-landing on an uncharted hostile world, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the crew are separated with no means of escape. Only Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a rebellious alien warrior, can help them reunite and find a way off the planet in a race against time to stop Krall's deadly army from triggering an all-out galactic war. (From Paramount’s official synopsis)

 Star Trek Beyond
J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot was an exercise in style and charm over narrative substance. It was kind of shallow and not necessarily in keeping with the thematic roots set forth by the likes of its creator, Gene Roddenberry, or Nicholas Meyer, the writer/director who redefined the series for the big screen, but it was exactly what was needed, following a swift downfall in the early ‘00s, when Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) and the Enterprise TV show (2001) exasperated even its most vehement supporters. Despite breaking the laws of the screenwriting handbook, Star Trek ‘09 made a sour franchise seem fresh, then ended with the promise of further adventures not tethered by the burden of introductions. That promise was dropped and repetitively stomped into the ground when the follow-up, Star Trek into Darkness (2009) delivered an illogical, dramatic void that hilariously mishandled the basic plot of Meyer’s Wrath of Khan (1982). But then Abrams left the series to make a stylish, charming, and narratively empty Star Wars movie that was too attached to an original series storyline. Horrible writer (and 9/11 Truther) Roberto Orci was set to direct, but that crisis was averted when cooler heads prevailed and Justin Lin, the guy that (eventually) revitalized the Fast & Furious franchise, turning it from a series of unwanted sequels to a middle-budget Point Break rip-off into a spring blockbuster machine. And, as an added bonus, when Orci left as director, star Simon Pegg and Banshee (2014) writer Doug Jung wrote a screenplay that was free of Orci’s (and Alex Kurtzman, not to mention Damon Lindelof’s) influence.

Personally, I’m far from being a die-hard Lin fan and the reboot brand was already sullied by Into Darkness (as you can read my very long review here), so I had very little invested in the third movie, titled Star Trek Beyond. Based on its mediocre box-office take, I wasn’t alone. However, unlike some outspoken Trekkies, I didn’t really have a problem with Star Trek becoming an action franchise, as long as the characters were still likeable and the storyline wasn’t utterly asinine. Things get off to a fun, goofy start and, more importantly, the new crew is finally actually exploring space, rather than being forced through the same Earthbound trials they spent the last two movies fighting. Pegg and Jung do fall back into familiar problems by the time the second act rolls around, Spock’s relationship with Uhura is still uninvolving, the lead villain is a new Khan stand-in, and there’s another goddamned MacGuffin at the center of the story, but, in more general terms, this is a new and (mostly) original story that (mostly) fits the Star Trek standard. I’m especially fond of the way it recreates the basic narrative model of the original ‘60s television, by separating crew members into their own mini-adventures/bonding sessions.

 Star Trek Beyond
Going back to the earlier fears that Beyond would drag the series in the wrong direction, the trailers definitely made it look like an even more action-centered movie than the already set-piece-heavy Star Trek and Into Darkness. This prompted many of us to assume Lin was hired to Fast & Furious-up the franchise, but these fears were largely unfounded. The first act’s tone really has more in common with Meyer’s Trek (it has an Undiscovered Country vibe) than Abrams’. Lin manages to capture a proper sense of scale and awe to the early expository scenes and the first really large scale set-piece is played for dramatic impact over thrills. The planet-bound sequences are definitely more in the Fast & Furious wheelhouse (so to speak) and, at worst, some of the terrestrial action (fist fights, motorcycle rides, et cetera) looks lethargic, but Lin’s basic grasp of geography, momentum, and editing are at least equal to Abrams’, especially when it comes to spaceships chasing each other at high speeds. In addition, Abrams’ established cast – the one inarguably great thing he did for the reboot – is still on-point. Pegg (who wrote himself one of the movie’s better parts) and Karl Urban maintain particularly high levels of charm and Chris Pine has officially settled into the role of his own Kirk, rather than a Kirk existing in the shadow of William Shatner.

Video


Star Trek Beyond was shot using Arri Alexa and Red Epic Dragon digital HD cameras and post-converted for 3D showings in theaters. Select sequences were also shown in Barco Escape ‘multi-screen’ theaters, stretching the 2.40:1 aspect ratio to 5.95:1. This review pertains only to the 2D, 2.40:1, 1080p Blu-ray release. Lin and Stephen F. Windon, who acted as cinematographer on all four of his Fast & Furious movies, do a decent job respecting the style of Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel set with Star Trek ‘09, while still making the film their own (in part, they replace those obnoxious lens flares with diffused backlight). It helps that both the Star Trek and Fast & Furious franchises are so slick and shiny. This transfer is a bit noisier than I’d usually expect from a brand new, big-budget movie shot in HD, but there aren’t any more specific problems I can point to. Details are tight, elements are neatly separated, and textures are complex, even though much of the production design avoids texture all-together. Most of the scenes that take place off the glowing, main Enterprise sets are relatively dark and smooth in terms of dynamic range and this shadowy look may account for the haze of noise. Colours are also muted, compared to the two Abrams movies, and are tend to be limited to the franchise’s key hues – blue, red, and yellow – and offers a slight lavender tint that affects neutral hues, like skin tones.

 Star Trek Beyond

Audio


Star Trek Beyond is presented in Dolby Atmos sound, though this review pertains to the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. It is, as you might expect, big, booming, and aggressive, yet subtle where it counts. Apparently, Ben Burtt wasn’t the sound designer for this particular movie, but the folks behind this mix have certainly taken his Star Trek and Star Trek Beyond work into account and made something every bit as creative and lively. Louder highlights included all the scenes where Krall’s ‘robo-bees’ destroy Federation ships (it’s sort of like a game of Galaga on steroids), while the alien planet offers an excuse for more subtle environmental ambience. Michael Giacchino returns as composer to build upon his and the series’ original themes (I do really enjoy his recurring title theme), that conveys the appropriate air of wonder or terror. The music is rich and very nicely integrated into the effects work in a way that neither completely overwhelms the other.

Extras


  • Two deleted scenes (1:02, HD)
  • Beyond the Darkness (10:08, HD) – J.J. Abrams, Lin, Pegg, and Doug Jung discuss the pre-production process, screenwriter collaboration, developing new characters, and changes to the established characters.
  • Enterprise Takedown (4:31, HD) – A brief breakdown of the scenes in which Krall’s bees destroy the Enterprise.
  • Divided and Conquered (8:74, HD) – The cast & crew chat about the dramatic impact of separating the main cast early in the film.
  • A Warped Sense of Revenge (5:15, HD) – A look at new villain, Krall, with Idris Elba and the filmmakers.
  • Trekking in the Desert (3:06, HD) – Concerning the giant city set the production designed and constructed in Dubai.
  • Exploring Strange New Worlds (6:02, HD) – A tour of some of the film’s sets.
  • New Life, New Civilizations (8:04, HD) – The special effects crew shows off their new alien make-up design/fabrication.
  • To Live Long and Prosper (7:51, HD) – A relatively short retrospective look at the complete Star Trek movie series.
  • For Leonard and Anton (5:04, HD)– A tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
  • Gag reel (5:13, HD)


 Star Trek Beyond

Overall


Star Trek Beyond isn’t quite special enough to transcend the Star Trek series, but it is a vast improvement on the disaster that was Star Trek into Darkness. Director Jason Lin has proven that there is still fuel in this franchise and new (credited) writers Simon Pegg & Doug Jung have proven that Nu-Trek screenplays don’t have to be structurally daft and/or dependent on recreating the series’ greatest hits. I’ll admit that this is an awfully low bar to set for a major studio blockbuster, but simply enjoying the movie was satisfying enough this time around. Maybe, the next time around, the villain won’t be a variation of Khan Noonien Singh. Paramount’s Blu-ray looks a bit noisy at times, though not excessively so, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is demo-worthy stuff (even the ‘downgraded’ TrueHD track), and the extras are decent, though I do hear that there will be additional digital download/retail exclusives, which is frustrating.

 Star Trek Beyond

 Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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