STAR TREK BEYOND
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Sofia Boutella, Lydia Wilson
It’s a bit rocky out there in space as the crew of The USS Enterprise attempts to go where no man has gone before. They are at the three-year marker of their five-year mission into deep space. Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Pine) has a birthday looming on the horizon, which prompts some deep soul searching. He’s beginning to question his mission in life and if they are out searching for something that may not be out there. The death of his father continues to stay present in the back of his mind. His crew decides to take a slight pit stop in Yorktown, an advanced galactic city where they can restock and spend time with family. As they head out into uncharted territories to rescue a fellow ship, they head through an unstable nebula and are attacked by a swarm of invaders. A magnitude of powerful drones completely wipe out the entire Enterprise ripping it apart. The leader of the attack is an alien named Krall (Elba) who has set out to find an elusive artifact. Naturally, the crew is able to escape, but they become separated landing in various unknown locations. It makes it all the more challenging for them to work together and figure out who Krall is and stop him from causing more harm to the galaxy.
For those keeping track at home, this is the third film in the new reboot of the series following 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s lucky number thirteen if you include every movie that has come before. Now that we have fully established these characters all over again, it would help to have an understanding of the relationships at hand before going into this one. The romance between Spock (Quinto) and Uhura (Saldana) continues to take shape. The “bromance” between Kirk and Spock is present, and we get to see a new side of Sulu (Cho) as we learn he’s left behind a husband and daughter back in Yorktown. The first two films had to be a bit more universal to bring in a new audience while appeasing Trekkies. If you remember, Into Darkness was a new take on the Wrath of Khan story. Star Trek Beyond starts to branch out into its own entity without strong ties to what has happened in past iterations. The new characters of Krall, an alien pilot named Kalarah (Wilson), and the black and white striped rogue fighter Jaylah (Boutella) are new to the Star Trek universe. In that regard it may be fun for people who don’t have to worry about connecting it to former storylines. Beyond also benefits from looking more like Star Trek as it uses more galactic species and creatures in various animal, alien, and human forms than the other two films. This “traditional” feel, as opposed to the 21st century feel that the reboot has brought forth, may turn off the newer more casual Trek fans.
It’s a joy to see this cast back together again. They have great chemistry, and the themes of family and teamwork are very present. There’s banter between them that keeps it fresh and energized. Pine continues to shape Kirk into his own interpretation without doing a William Shatner impression. As Dr. “Bones” McCoy, Karl Urban has some fun moments when he’s paired up with Zachary Quinto’s Spock. He gets very irritable when trying to figure out Spock’s Vulcan way of thinking. The film works best when the gang is all together, but due to the compromising nature of this story, the middle really drags when they become separated and paired off. The individualistic traits and playful vibe to each character dissipates a bit. Idris Elba is new to the franchise and is almost unrecognizable as Krall due to the heavy make-up work he has to act through. You can recognize his distinctly low voice, so he’s not completely lost behind the character. This is his fourth film this year alone following The Jungle Book, Zootopia, and Finding Dory.
There are some fresh faces on the creative side. Director Justin Lin takes over for J.J. Abrams who was too busy working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He remains one of the film’s core producers. Lin is best known for revitalizing the Fast and the Furious movies and definitely brings that heavy action/blow ‘em up energy to it. I think he relies heavily on bringing that to the forefront with the some of the sequences being shot extremely close up and a bit shaky with the destruction of the Enterprise. Simon Pegg, who stars as Scotty, adds to his Trek commitments by tackling the writing duties along with Doug Jung. Pegg’s an extremely funny writer and actor, and while he definitely injects humor into the film, it’s not as witty or clever as I had expected. I assume there was a lot riding on getting the story just right, and maybe the uphill battle became too much. The story is fairly simplistic and takes too long for the true motivations of Krall to come into play. It’s a big third act reveal that should have happened earlier in the film. Pegg introduces some high stakes for Kirk, Sulu, and Spock and I would have liked them to be explored a bit more to really drive home the exhaustion and lack of hope that permeates throughout their mission.
It’s hard to watch Star Trek Beyond and not feel the sadness that looms over the film with the recent death of Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov. He was an extremely gifted young actor. Chekov doesn’t have a lot to do here, but you can see that spark that Yelchin brought to the character. There’s also a really touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, who passed away in February 2015. I wouldn’t consider this in the upper echelon of the Star Trek movie franchise, but I’m already invested from the those that I’ve seen, so I went along for the ride. I don’t believe Beyond will convert anyone new into being a die-hard Trekkie. Hopefully it will lead moviegoers to seek out the original Gene Rodenberry TV show with Nimoy, Shatner, and George Takei. All three seasons are currently streaming on Netflix.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Trekkies will probably enjoy it.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS