Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin
Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Directed by: Justin Lin
Rated ‘PG-13’ for action, violence, dramatic situations, science stuff, bio weapons and more
Runtime 120 minutes
Seven years after the Star Trek reboot, we are finally getting the nu-crew’s first real adventure. Divorced from the timeline mechanics of the first, and the shaky retread of a prior film in the second, the members of the Starship Enterprise, under the sure hand of new ‘captain’ Justin Lin, boldly goes where they haven’t gone before: uncharted territory. The result is a brisk and solid sci-fi caper, written by Simon ‘Scotty’ Pegg, that stands tall amongst the better offerings of a disappointing summer movie season.
The Enterprise is in year three of its five year mission. Ennui has set in. They’ve been to the undiscovered regions of space and have grown bored, tired and homesick. Kirk is engaged in a negotiation between two alien races and even that doesn’t go well. There’s a wonderful sense of been there, done that to the escapades that is so very traditional Trek. When you’re on a mission of discovery, not everything you discover is ideal. In fact, everyone is considering the next thing. Kirk (Chris Pine) is contemplating promotion; Spock (Zachary Quinto) is considering what it means to be an endangered species. Then, the call to adventure: a lone survivor calls on the Federation to venture into a dangerous nebula and attempt a rescue mission.
The chemistry between all the cast remains at the forefront. After a fierce one-sided battle, our plucky band of heroes are separated on a foreign planet. This allows Lin to rearrange the usual pairings; Spock and Bones (Karl Urban) are thrown together, and it’s all witty banter and bickering. Kirk and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) are embroiled in a fetch quest, while Scotty gets to employ his technical skills aiding mysterious warrior Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). The rest of the crew, including Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are taken prisoner and have to try their best to escape from the nefarious Krall (Idris Elba), a strange being with megalomaniacal aspirations.
Lin gives everyone a purpose towards escape; find this piece of a lost ship, discover this little bit of the grand plot, hide this very important object. The plot is similar to many episodes of Star Trek: problem, technical jargon, solution, new problem, new solution, more jargon and over and over until all the pieces fit together. Through all the heavy plot mechanations, Lin always manages to keep the characters in focus. He even manages to advance their characters along every so slightly. All the returning cast handles themselves wonderfully; they are very, very good and comfortable by this time. Nor does anyone particularly steal the show or stand out; for the first time, it feels as if everyone has something to contribute to the story.
The two newcomers, Elba and Boutella join an already strong cast. Even underneath their five hours worth of make-up, they fit right into the larger cast. Elba’s Krall continues the new Trek’s run of sub-par villains. He’s menacing and powerful, but his motives are cookie-cutter: the Federation has done him wrong and he wants revenge. Pegg’s script does switch things up towards the end, and to the film’s credit, it always knows when to mix it up just when things threaten to get stale. Boutella’s character, Jaylah, is not the second feminist coming. She is a perfectly functional warrioress with just enough charm and emotional range to let her stand out. She carries herself admirably during the action moments, oftentimes doubling or tripling herself via technology. The script doesn’t give her much more to do other than that. Though, to be fair, the script gives little wiggle room for non-plot related purposes, and most of those moments are already used up by the main cast.
Director Justin Lin, of the Fast & Furious franchise, continues to excel at the vehicular mayhem. The various starship encounters, which do crib a lot from the recent Ender’s Game film, are great. He has an excellent sense of pacing for these large scale, destructive CGI-fests. He still lacks a competent ground game, however. There were bits of hand-to-hand combat that suffered from some terrible shaky cam and there is little sense of location for the characters. A cunning little rescue sequence, involving multiples of a certain character, is undone by lousy editing. He does redeem himself at the final one-on-one encounter, if only because there is a heavy CGI presence involved.
Still, the film features one of the most grin-inducing-est moments of action cinema all year. If you thought the music sequence of X-Men: Apocalypse was fun, just wait until you see what Beyond has to offer.
Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic time at the theater this summer. It has the fun and energy of the original reboot and a lot of the technical knowhow of Into Darkness (review), with none of the bullshit conspiracy theory nonsense. In the long line of Trek films, Beyond will stand amongst the better offerings. It lacks the emotional gravitas of Khan or the science-fact grounding of TMP and even the familial longing of Generations (seriously underrated), but it will remain a fan favorite long past this five year mission.