Captain Kirk, rather bored three years into the Enterprise‘s five-year mission, takes his crew into a nebula to search for a downed ship and finds himself embroiled in a race against time to retrieve his crewmates and stop the big bad of the movie, Krall, from destroying the idyllic space station of Yorktown.
- The pacing is really good here. Director Justin Lin (famously responsible for a good many of the Fast & Furious movies) really knows to get a story to move. I found the first major action sequence – where the Enterprise is attacked and decimated by Krall’s troops – and its immediate aftermath riveting. The first two of the rebooted Trek movies didn’t leave me with a strong impression while watching but this one did. It just zooms along, about as fast as a car in one of Lin’s Fast & Furious movies. For the most part, this works well for a summer blockbuster action movie. It doesn’t drag or spend too much time in one spot or another but kind of feels like a slightly-too-energetic friend taking you by the hand and dragging you through an amusement park.
- No bedroom antics for Kirk here, thank goodness. That was such a relief.
- The main crew gets split up for maximum effect, with probably Spock and Bones being the most interesting duo thanks to their banter. Kirk and Chekov are all right, and so are Scotty and the scavenger Jaylah. Sulu and Uhura probably get the least screentime in comparison, which is rather a pity. Uhura in particular felt like a wasted character in this movie, although she did have her moments. Overall, though, it felt like the ensemble got a lot more attention than it used to. Sure, Kirk gets the final climactic fistfight but splitting up the crew in that way meant that the main characters were dealt better cards this time round.
- The dialogue was generally strong, and the cast are clearly comfortable in their roles now. Kind of sad to watch this and think that Anton Yelchin is gone now though. Wonder who they’ll cast as his replacement.
- Strong application of the Chekov’s gun principle. Lots of things circled round and turned out to be important/useful or at least used in the end. Can’t think of any really unnecessary things off the top of my head.
- Michael Giacchino’s score was pretty good, although I can’t recall any significant or outstanding themes. It worked well, but no John Williams/Star Wars pieces in there.
- I felt the emotional arcs of Kirk and Spock, which were brought to the foreground in the first quarter of the film, were resolved a little bit too quickly. Or the reasons behind the resolutions of their emotional arcs was unclear to me at the end. Kirk was bored and questioning his identity and purpose in life, as his birthday approached and it meant that he would be a year older than his father lived to be. He’d even submitted an application for Vice Admiral of Yorktown – a desk job. Spock was troubled by a sort of survivor’s guilt, thinking it might be his duty to help propogate New Vulcan with more little Vulcans; and this was probably not helped by the death of Ambassador Spock (Spock Prime?). By the end of the film, Kirk was back to his old self (“Vice admirals don’t fly, do they? Where’s the fun in that?”) and Spock too seemed to be quite over his problems. Come on, who really thought James T. Kirk would settle for a desk job? It didn’t seem entirely clear to me how those two arrived at the conclusions that they did. Spock’s was handled a little bit better than Kirk’s, but not by much.
- Some parts of the movie were… Too dark. Literally. They had a bit of that Batman vs Superman problem wherein the scenes were soooo dark that you see almost nothing. The friend with whom I went to see the movie asked me after it: “It’s not a problem with my glasses, is it? Some parts were so dark!” It wasn’t as depressingly colour-graded as BvS though. But some parts could have used a lighter hand with the editing in post.
- Krall’s motivations were a little bit shaky. I both did and did not understand it. Perhaps it was because his transition from the human Captain Edison to revenge-mad Krall was never entirely explained. We find out that he resents the Federation for several things – for apparently not trying to find the Franklin when it got lost, for forcing him to play nice with former enemies like the Romulans, and for (I presume) giving him a duller job as a starship captain when he used to be a military man. And we find out that he learns that the natives of this strange planet have some way of prolonging life… That’s it. But how did he join them, and why did they let him? Their technology or technique or whatever it is even makes him look like one of them. Why did they even trust him that far? He appears to be their ultimate leader in the movie – how the heck did that happen?
- What was that thing really? The abronath? I kept hearing it as “arbonath,” which really sounds like “Argonath” (from LOTR) and so I kept envisioning two gigantic statues at the back of my mind instead of that palm-sized thingy. And I’m not even really clear about what it was… This might just be that I somehow missed hearing or forgot a couple of crucial lines somewhere. But the black stuff that came out of it reminded me of the Aether in Thor: The Dark World. Then when Spock called it a bio-somethingorother I was puzzled. So… Was it a living thing? I don’t really know. Then it seemingly consumed Krall/Edison at the end. But what happened to it after that? Did it self-destruct or go wandering off on its own into space? If the latter, it’s a terrible idea to let something like that loose. If the Federation took it… That’s also not a good idea. I’m confused about that thing and its end.
The Other Stuff
- The Chekov’s gun principle. Haha, yes. It was good but almost too good. When Kirk sees the vintage motorbike aboard the long abandoned USS Franklin, I just knew that was going to come into play later – and it did. The bike was simply too random and too much of a callback to the first rebooted Star Trek movie where Kirk’s introduction includes him riding a futuristic version of a motorbike. It couldn’t not be used later in the story. Some other things were more subtle applications of the principle, such as the music Jaylah finds and listens to on the Franklin, which later turns out to be useful for interfering with the signals that Krall’s army of ships use. The repeating video footage of the Franklin‘s crew in one of its rooms also turns out to be useful in the end, but though it’s much less in-your-face than the bike was, it was… A bit random? I didn’t quite understand how Uhura put two and two together about Krall’s identity through that.
A good outing for Star Trek on the whole!