"Homage to Science Fiction"
What You Need To Know:
STAR TREK BEYOND is a thrilling space adventure with a cohesive plot and story structure. It often plays like an entertaining homage to other space epics, including other STAR TREK movies. Even better, it has a solid moral, redemptive worldview stressing hope, unity, self-sacrifice, and defending life against spiteful, selfish violence and revenge. That said, the staging is sometimes uninvolving. Also, STAR TREK BEYOND has too much gratuitous foul language, some scary violence and brief politically correct content. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.
(B, C, PC, Ho, LLL, VV, S, A, M) Solid but light moral worldview extolling hope, unity, loyalty, sacrifice yourself for your friends, diversity (which sometimes is not a virtue), one possible appeal to God, and standing against cruelty and egomaniacal violence, with slight references to Christian, redemptive values such as self-sacrifice and hope, plus some light, brief politically correct implications such as an implied homosexual relationship between Lt. Sulu and a male “partner” (they apparently have a young “daughter”) and a soft multiculturalism, but in the context of unity that’s also reflective of the American motto of E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many One”; at least 24 obscenities (mostly “h” and “d” words but including some “s” words) and three to five distinct profanities; lots of action violence, some of it very scary and disturbing, but also sometimes exciting and involving, including several people having their life drained from them, little creatures yell about being eaten and turn against man and bite him as if they’re going to eat the man, multiple phaser gun blasts, direct killing and strangling by villain, villain uses weapon that seems to consume people or turn them into dust particles, swarms of small metal, indestructible spaceships smash into spaceships, large objects and people, Dr. McCoy has to pull out a small object that’s impaled Mr. Spock’s side, and some hand-to-hand, martial arts style combat; very light sexual references includes spaceship captain talks about crew members hooking up with one another, an opening scene shows couple walks into a room together, an interspecies couple exits a room together, sexual suggestiveness, and an implied homosexual partnership with a young “daughter” involved; no nudity; promotional alcohol use includes woman drinks a lot to “take the edge off,” but it doesn’t appear to do so; no smoking or drugs; and, villain is consumed by revenge.
STAR TREK BEYOND finds Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock thinking about leaving behind the Starship Enterprise for good until they and their crew encounter a vicious alien who wrecks the Enterprise to obtain a powerful, mysterious weapon that can destroy the Federation’s planets one by one. STAR TREK BEYOND is a thrilling space adventure with a cohesive plot and story structure, and a solid moral worldview, but some bad staging and cinematography sometimes diminish the movie, which also contains many gratuitous obscenities and profanities and which turns Lt. Sulu into a homosexual.
The movie opens with Captain Kirk trying to parlay a truce between two alien races. He’s brought a peace offering from one race to another race of creatures, who look like giant Japanese mythical Fu dogs of “lion dogs”. Standing on a dais towering high above Kirk, the leader of the lion-dog-like aliens angrily rejects the offering and yells that all the other race wants to do is eat him and his people. A swarm of the lion-dog aliens jump down on Kirk, and it turns out that the aliens really are just miniture, sentient lion-dogs. As they begin to attack Kirk, the Enterprise crew teleports him back to safety, and he stores away the small alien artifact meant to be a peace offering.
Later, in his private captain’s log, Kirk notes that he and his crew have spent three years on their five-year mission to explore new worlds and civilizations (the exact number of years that the original TV series in the 1960s ran on American television). Kirk adds that their mission is starting to feel monotonous, to the point that he himself is feeling a bit lost both mentally and emotionally. He hopes a little “Rest and Recreation” on an immense space station with multiple towering cityscapes will restore his crew and himself.
Once on the vast Yorktown space station, the admiral informs Kirk she’s received his application to leave the Enterprise and become a Vice Admiral, but she asks him to think some more about his decision. At the same time, Mr. Spock learns about the death of his doppleganger, Ambassador Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, the original actor, who just died in 2015.
Meanwhile, Dr. McCoy visits Captain Kirk in his quarters, and the two share a drink of whiskey to privately celebrate Kirk’s birthday. McCoy notes that Kirk’s father died on the day Kirk was born, giving a more personal reason for Kirk’s sudden feelings of ennui. Of course, as all STAR TREK fans should know, this private birthday celebration is a meaningful homage to the private birthday celebration between Dr. McCoy and Admiral Kirk that’s one of the opening scenes in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, which many fans and knowledgeable critics still believe is the best STAR TREK movie ever made.
This introduction leads to a distress call from a distraught humanoid, female alien who arrives on the space station. She informs the space station admiral and Captain Kirk that her ship and its crew have crashed on a planet inside a nearby nebula, a giant cloud of interstellar debris, gas and dust. Kirk takes the Enterprise to the planet, but it turns out to be a trap. A swarm of many small alien ships attacks the enterprise, smashing through its hull and through many of the crew. Some alien soldiers, led by an alien calling himself Krall, board the Enterprise and start taking some of the crewmembers back to the planet. Krall also tries to take the alien artifact, but Kirk is able to hide it from him during the fighting.
As the destruction continues, Kirk orders his crew to abandon ship. The remaining crewmembers take escape pods down to the oxygen planet below. With help from Lt. Uhuru, Kirk separates the ship’s saucer section (which includes the captain’s bridge) from the rest of the ship and manages to land it intact but damaged on the rocky planet’s surface.
Eventually, Captain Kirk and his officers learn the alien artifact is actually half of a hand-sized super-powerful weapon that can drain and consume the life out of a whole planet full of people or just a small group. Krall wants to use the weapon, along with his destructive swarm of small indestructible spaceships, to destroy the Federation, starting with the large Yorktown space station containing thousands of civilians and Starfleet personnel. Krall intends to torture the captured Enterprise crewmembers one by one, including Sulu and Uhuru, until one of them, or Captain Kirk, reveals where Kirk hid the artifact.
With help from another alien female stranded on the planet, Kirk, McCoy and a wounded Spock lead Scotty and Chekov in a rescue attempt. Can they save the captured crew before Krall gets his hand on the weapon and carries out his plan to destroy the nearby space station?
STAR TREK BEYOND is definitely intended as a popcorn summer movie. In terms of structure and plot, it’s more cohesive than the last two STAR TREK movies, with a clear premise stated by the characters several times in different ways that virtues with regard to taking care of your friends and family overcome evil, egomaniacal revenge and violence. Also, it shows at the end that working together you can triumph over evil and that protecting and defending life is the true duty of any person in authority for that matter.
The movie has clear references to previous STAR TREK movies and classic science fiction popcorn movies like FLASH GORDON, FORBIDDEN PLANET. For instance, when they land on the new planet, there’s a scene that looks exactly like one of the first FLASH GORDON movies. When they’re inside the villain’s headquarters, there are scenes reminiscent of the vast alien artifacts of FORBIDDEN PLANET. Also, the creatures and situations are directly borrowed from other STAR TREK movies and television episodes. It’s almost if the movie wanted to be campy, but the problem is, it was too subdued, so the homage didn’t achieve a camp emotional reaction. Sometimes, it just appeared to be bad CGI and phony sets. Also, the early fight scenes on the Enterprise were shot with too many close-ups and choppy edits that made them rather confusing and uninvolving. Truly engaging fight scenes should be staged with fewer close-ups and choppy edits. So, the staging in STAR TREK BEYOND was not always as good as the story and its positive virtues.
What really takes away from the movie, however, are all the gratuitous obscenities and profanities. Also, one scene on the huge space station shows Lt. Sulu with what looks to be his male homosexual partner and their young daughter. Later, when the space station is threatened with destruction, there’s a shot of the partner with the daughter running to safety. Thus, the filmmakers insert a little politically correct leftist thinking into their space epic homage. Ironically, George Takei, the actor who first played Lt. Sulu and who, in recent years, has revealed his own homosexuality, reportedly has objected to this new characterization of Mr. Sulu.
Be that as it may, despite the movie’s positive qualities, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for STAR TREK BEYOND, because of all the foul language, the more intense and more scary action violence, and the movie’s gratuitous, politically correct cultural claptrap.