Need a summer pick me after a few misfires in June? Star Trek Beyond may be the surprise knock out of the blockbuster season. See how well it worked before you go out this weekend and beam up.
Beyond has suffered some well documented production issues that could have turned this into a dumpster fire. First, we all knew Abrams left to direct his dream project of Star Wars: A New Hope (Think about it for a moment). Then there was the litany of rewrites and pass overs until somehow Simon Pegg was left in charge of the script and the guy responsible for the loudest and most unrealistic (And somehow wildly successful) car heist films, Justin Lin got the director’s chair. Even after that, Paramount has actively attempted to bury this film by barely marketing it and attempting changes. So with that backdrop, how did Beyond fare?
Pretty Dang Good
I wore a smile on my face for about ten minutes thinking this isn’t bad. I kept waiting for the film to disappoint me and that moment never came. Eventually that thought gave way to a sheer amount of excitement I had as the movie really got going. There’s a few hokey moments between the crew but for the most part these actors have really grown into their roles. It’s similar to the kind of swagger that the TOS crew had in the original movies. The seasons together built great chemistry so the films came rather naturally to them (Even if some of the plots weren’t that great.) That’s exactly where this film crew is operating; these characters are on autopilot.
The Trio Shines; The Crew Not So Much
Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto embody this the most. Having the majority of the screen time through two movies will do that, but it pays off in this film. Even being separated during different parts of the film, they maintained a solid presence between them. Pine’s Kirk isn’t over the top like Into Darkness despite a few moments. Pine has developed a more even temperament that wasn’t used much in STID. Sure, he was supposed to be angrier, but even his more intense moments are delivered better. Quinto has a great handle over his Spock portrayal although I have to fault him with the hammier scenes. His death contemplation is getting a tad old; maybe if it hadn’t already been explored in the past movie it would have been fine. We are suffering some fatigue from this storyline; it could have used a visit to Vulcan or bring that conflict into the forefront. If it’s that big of a deal, make it a big deal otherwise drop it. Bones is…well Bones; there’s not much more to say. If anyone has their role figured out, it’s Karl Urban. He’s removed a bit of the gravel that he used in his delivery from the past two films while not losing the Doc’s charm.
The rest of the crew are still alive and kicking. As previously announced, Sulu is now revealed to be gay. While it’s a nod to George Takei’s sexuality outside of the show, it’s honestly not a surprising addition. Being in a future utopian environment with aliens, orientation takes on a greater level of meaning than we have available to us in the real world. It’s surprising in this reboot we haven’t seen more, but that’s a conversation for another day. Every one fulfills their roles nicely, but I always lament not getting to see more of them. Since the internal conflicts don’t really involve them, it makes sense to focus on Kirk and Spock as previous films have. Given this was late actor, Anton Yelchin’s last Star Trek film, it’s sad there were only a few key moments with him.
Equal Parts Action and Thoughtful Trek
Justin Lin does what Lin does best. While the Rock was a big factor in the huge success of the new Fast and Furious movies, Lin also learned how to manage a ensemble cast. He successfully adapted those skills to the sci-fi setting and keep the cast moving along like a well-oiled machine. There’s only a few choice shots that made me a little weezy in 3-D because they went a little shaky cam (Probably just need to zoom out a tad on those three moments, nothing huge). Other than that, the action sequences were well choreographed and rival for the best of the reboot series. While I hate seeing the Enterprise getting blown up for the hundredth time, it was forgivable since it was certainly against a capable foe they had no strategy against. When you see the villain’s overall plan and motivation, it actually makes a ton of sense.
The plot is pretty slick and moves well, with subtle references to the 2009 reboot and some *not* so subtle that you simply have to encounter for yourself. The struggles that Kirk and Spock go through this film are easily identifiable and make good moments of character progression. The film picks up at Year three from the five year mission that started at the end of Into Darkness. Being at the forefront of the frontier has made Kirk weary and makes him question his place in Starfleet. The largely quoted line in the trailer plays well here as he remembers the differences between his father joining and his journey in Starfleet. Spock’s quandary is primarily rooted in Spock Prime’s death (Leonard Nimoy’s actual death) and what his responsibility is now without his guidance.
Between the action set pieces along with those two threads, the film has more meat than we would have expected (especially modeled after the J.J. Abrams pop fizz formula). While the villain is still a bit lackluster (more on that in a second), it hits plenty of threads to be enjoyable, have us question where our characters are headed, and delve into some intriguing new areas of the reboot (Even if that’s remains the most shallow part.)
The Head Scratcher
The only disappointing thread that didn’t get fleshed out well was Krall. There was a opportunity to have the most engaging and complicated villain in the reboot series … and they missed it. I can’t go far without spoiling it, but suffice it to say, his creation and motivations would have put Into Darkness to shame. This is the kind of character we could pitted against Kirk in the last film and it would have made more sense.
Also, the way they destroy the final wave of drones is one of the hokiest moments of the entire 2009 series. However, if you’re okay with Dom Torretto jumping across a bridge to catch Letty, this won’t upset you that much. Hardcore Trek fans, get ready to roll your eyes, but honestly it’s the only *major* technical stretch in the film.
I will probably go see this again at least once and I’ve only done that with one other film this summer (Civil War). You will have a blast the entire time. You don’t need to cut the brain off with this one either. No, it’s a not cerebral thriller by any means, but it certainly matches or exceeds the 2009 series saver and jumps over the flaws by miles.
Star Trek Beyond 9 out of 10
Hope you enjoyed that review. There’s certainly more where that came from, or feel free to enjoy Trek Week here at Nerd Union.