Star Trek Beyond is a film that clearly has its heart in the right place. The filmmakers desire to honor the values and ethos of the Star Trek franchise on its 50th anniversary is reflected in the movie. It’s a film that proved delightful and satisfying to those who saw it, despite being the least successful of the new films at the box-office. And while I appreciate the fact that so many people have embraced the new motion picture, quite honestly, I’m not one of those. I’m delighted Beyond has proven a satisfying ride for so many, but I couldn’t overlook the fundamental flaws in the story that can’t be negated by the charming throwback elements such as the amusing Spock/McCoy banter and an antagonist who is ultimately revealed as an aggrieved Starfleet officer (shades of Morgan Woodward) who wants revenge against Starfleet.
In the film’s attempt to compete with the big-budget summer blockbusters there’s the slimmest thread of a Marvel-light plot in which Idris Elba, one of the most compelling actors of his generation saddled with an abysmal rubber Halloween prosthetic that looks like it came from a candy store, is in search of the great whatsit which will apparently be capable of horrible destruction, or something like that. And for all the times we bemoaned Earth in jeopardy, the fate of the space station Yorktown, doesn’t exactly make for a satisfying stand-in in terms of creating heightened jeopardy. Treading familiar ground, the Enterprise is once again obliterated, but a Captain Kirk, who is already bored in space at the beginning of the film (what do you expect from a millennial Kirk) barely bemoans the death of his ship and half his crew and is off cracking jokes and riding motorcycles to save the day in the film’s big action set-piece which feels like The Fast & The Furious artificially transplanted into Star Trek and if that’s not enough to rock your boat in an attempt to make Trek more accessible to earthbound audiences, the catalyst for defeating the aliens being the Beastie Boys is truly a bridge too far.
Ultimately, it’s hard to really care about our characters because they don’t really seem to care about much themselves and, by the end, all the puzzle pieces are back on the board, including the Enterprise, so that it may boldly go once again. It’s a reset on the reboot which leaves us pretty much where we started.
As for the Blu-Ray itself (full disclosure: I had requested a 4K UHD disc, but only received a BR so I can’t tell you if the 4K is any good), it’s not quite demo material, but the Dolby Atmos mix is potent and the transfer is solid. Where the disc is less successful is in its bonus features, which have once again been spread as exclusives across several different retailers, including iTunes which is the only vendor to feature audio commentary (which you can stream using your iTunes digital code). To Paramount’s credit, they’re one of the few studios that still includes an iTunes or Ultra-Violet option with their discs which is appreciated, but it’s completely unacceptable to parse out the bonus features across multiple retailers leaving you to purchase several different copies or wait for the inevitable re-release next year. The physical disc medium is being buffeted with enough troubles without further damaging its future through such ill-advised promotions that encourage viewers to give up on it all-together.
After abandoning Robert Orci’s take on the film, the studio rushed to put a film into production to capitalize on the 50th anniversary which seems like a mistake in retrospect as the script could have benefitted from a little more time in the oven, the rush to make the summer release date (shades of Star Trek’s past, will the studio EVER learn) is something both Simon Pegg and Justin Lin talk about numerous times in both the VAM features and commentary and clearly was an issue in the making of the film. Special features are uneven, some of it is glorified EPK puffery, while there are some more substantive featurettes included. To the disc’s credit, both deleted scenes are worth watching and it’s the rare gag reel that’s actually funny.
Given the film’s theatrical underperformance, it’ll be very interesting to see if Paramount and Skydance undertake a major course-correction for the film franchise going forward. Not unlike the bloated and expensive Star Trek: The Motion Picture paved the way for The Wrath of Khan, one wonders if it’s time to revisit the Bad Robot Trek universe and give it it’s own reboot. What began as an A-franchise in 2009 already seems to have become a B-rate series. Not to mention with the imminent launch of Star Trek Discovery which will no doubt feature deep themes, contemporary allegory and feature-quality production values, a re-evaluation of what makes the current Trek film series unique is overdue.
Mark A. Altman is the Co-Executive Producer of The Librarians as well as numerous movies and TV series and bestselling author of The Fifty-Year Mission from St. Martin’s Press, on-sale now. He is the founder and consultant to Geek. Twitter: @markaaltman.
Images: Paramount Pictures