I am going to do my best not make this not a review in which I fangirl for a solid thousand words, but I can honestly make no promises. This is a good one, folks.
Let’s take a look at Star Trek Beyond.
The plot begins with Kirk feeling some malaise while on a five year long journey across space, aimless and wondering who he is. After docking in a new space station known as Yorktown, an alien is recovered whose crew is in trouble. However, the Enterprise crashes into the planet and the crew finds that they aren’t prepared for what they find on the surface. They find Jaylah, a survivor from another crashed ship who helps them stop a terrible attack impending on the Federation.
The single greatest thing about the movie is that it finally understood the whole point and appeal of Star Trek. Unlike the disastrous Into Darkness, this film does have a weird plot about someone from contemporary Starfleet wanting to throw the universe in chaos. It instead has a plot about an early Starfleet captain wanting to throw the universe into chaos. While that seems like the same basic plot, the fact that war and destruction are very much treated like archaic and disturbing ideas is what Star Trek is about. Let me be clear here, this franchise shines when its about unity, strength in diversity that works together, and this film encapsulates that perfectly.
Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have to be commended for their excellent script. I’m not sure if these two are big fans of the show (John Cho reportedly is) but they managed to pin down a true Star Trek narrative. Character driven drama moving away from the Kirk-Spock show it has been for the last two films, Bones finally has something to do rather than being on the B-team, and the script is smart enough to pair off characters we don’t usually see together — Spock and Bones, Chekov and Kirk, Uhura and Sulu. There’s a lot less punching in this movie, because someone must have realized, “Hey, you know, we have these massive, cool-looking space ships, why don’t we have them doing most of the action?” That and the fact that Star Trek was less about punching the older it got and more about diplomacy (the Original Series relied a lot on fight scenes but there wasn’t much you could do then on a shoestring budget).
There are lots of cool new alien designs, including Krall’s ever-changing facade and Jaylah’s face decoration. The action is, of course, excellent, thanks to the masterful directing by Justin Lin. Lin knows how to craft a good star battle as well as action scenes without making them feel heavy and brutal. Personally, I think he’s good fit for the franchise. The core cast are excellent as always, and I’m glad they gave Karl Urban, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace) lines this time, rather than just being in the background. All three standout as funny and engaging characters, especially when paired with now more popular three of Kirk, Spock, and Uhura. And yes, the chemistry of the crew remains intact, perhaps even strengthen by the excellence of the script.
Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, is one of the surprisingly good additions to the cast. She is a kickass female alien who save Scotty from scavengers and helps the crew of the Enterprise get a ship up and running. She has the whole “I don’t have mastery of English so I will sound vaguely foreign the entire time” which I thought would get old fast, but Boutella’s charisma triumphs and makes her an interesting character. If there is one actor who is criminally underused, it is Idris Elba as Krall, who is amazing as the old, tired war hero looking to recreate the world as he once saw it. He’s got the dark brooding down pat (probably still from his Luther days) and he is incredibly menacing. He gets the last big fight scene with Kirk which is thrilling but still highlights how little Krall we get.
Some have argued that the movie is too frivolous, that its use of pop culture jokes takes them out of the experience, I have to ask if any of them have seen any of the original films. Not the reboots, but the movies made with the original cast, which had jokes like “There is an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China,” and “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.” Star Trek IV, most popularly known as “the one about the whales,” is packed full of cheesy jokes and references to the 1980s. I mean in one movie, there’s a whole character building moment around a rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” This is not a franchise whose humor is particularly dry and witty is all I am trying to say.
All in all, this film is just shy of perfect, with a stellar cast, wonderful script, strong direction, and a story that resembles the things Star Trek actually embodies rather than just a bastardization for the sake of action that was the last movie. Let Justin Lin direct the next one so that we don’t go backwards on a good trend.
– Excellent script.
– Excellent acting.
– Gets Star Trek right.
– Needed more Idris Elba.