The third installment of the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise takes the best elements of the 2009 film and leaves out the weakest elements of the 2013 sequel, “Into Darkness”. The series has hit its stride with “Star Trek Beyond”, this time directed by Justin Lin (“The Fast and Furious” series), and packs an entertaining punch while also keeping a comic tone intact.
The screenplay was co-written by Simon Pegg, who plays Montgomery Scott on board the Enterprise. His keen awareness of the importance of the chemistry between the characters is very evident, making this probably the most rewarding experience of the three films so far.
The film begins much like “Into Darkness” did, with Kirk doing everything he can to mess up what seems to be a simple mission. The creatures he speaks to look a bit like “Star Wars” prequel rejects, but turn out to be cute little miniature Jumanji hybrids. Though chuckle-inducing, I hope this doesn’t become the standard in subsequent scripts. In fact, the series should probably take a new direction after this one, so as not to become stale too quickly.
The main plot of the film involves a husky lizard-like villain named Krall, who is looking for a relic that Kirk had in his possession in his mission to appease the creatures in the beginning of the film. Apparently this artifact has a lot of unknown power, but Krall is after it. They first encounter him after agreeing to a rescue mission from a distressed former captain of her own ship, Kalara (Lydia Wilson), and seek to aid her while going into the Nebula. While there, they’re greeted by a slew of aggressive ships, and it’s fairly evident that it was a trap laid by Kalara. It’s not at first clear why, until she admits that her crew is at the mercy of Krall (Idris Elba). This is no consolation to Kirk, whose crew is now also taken captive.
Kirk, Chekov, Scotty, Bones and Spock have evaded capture, and are aided by a rogue female being, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who has been living in an abandoned Starfleet ship, the USS Franklin. At first confused why there would be an older Starfleet ship stuck in the rock of this planet, it becomes evident that Krall may have had a link to Starfleet Academy.
Meanwhile, Uhura and Sulu try to release the captives, as they themselves are prisoners as well. Uhura is the one who realizes Krall may not be as simple as a foul tempered, scaly antagonist. There seems to be something deeper within his anger and resentment toward their race.
As mentioned before, the film is directed by the man who gave us much of the “Fast and Furious” sequels, and this film has moments of being too fast and furious for its own good. But for the most part, it’s very well paced and the character interactions are a joy to watch. Bones and Spock have some great scenes together, and Scotty and Jaylah enjoy some nice chemistry as well. The film is probably the most action packed of the three, but it’s never uninteresting; and even at its most brazen and contemptuous of suspension of disbelief, it doesn’t go so far as to take you out of the moment. As unbelievable as some of the stunts are, you’re still rooting for these characters to be safe and return home in one piece.
The strength of the series has always been its cast–that goes back to the original cast of the 1960’s in the first series. It always felt like an ensemble, and this cast preserves that. These characters like each other, and we like them for it. It’s bittersweet to see Chekov one last time, as actor Anton Yelchin tragically died this summer. But he has a nice role in this film, and we will definitely miss him.
Also mentioned before, the series should probably start to take a new direction after this one. They’ve rebooted the cast, rehashed a villain, and now I think we’ve had our fill of revenge plots. Much like the first series of original films, which went in new directions, this series needs to find other stories to tell. They have the cast at their prime, now give them something different. This film is forgivable for its messy antics at times and even confusing narrative; if this is repeated in a fourth film, the series could start to lose itself, and that would be a shame.
For now, though, sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s entertainment at warp speed.
Of course we know where this review should begin. It should begin with what “Star Trek” was all about in the first place, right? That this was a re-visioning of a franchise that began over 40 years ago. That this was something that should’ve been left alone. I mean, for God’s sake, what happened in the last three movies under the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”? After “First Contact”, what did we have? Does any real self-respecting Star Trek fan consider “Insurrection” and “Nemesis” a part of the real Star Trek narrative? Can any Star Trek fan call themselves self-respecting?
OK now I’m being unfair. After all, throughout my childhood, it certainly defined a part of who I am now. Spock’s logic, Kirk’s unapologetic attempts at singing “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, and Chekov’s inability to sound out his “V’s”.
But, that aside, so what about this new, *eleventh* movie in the “Star Trek” franchise? We “Star Trek” film buffs know that any odd-numbered film is going to be bad.
Can we call this the eleventh movie though? This is really, in a sense, before the *first* “Star Trek” movie. Not only that, before the actual first “Star Trek” series itself.
But I’m making this more complicated than it needs to be. The real question is, can a person save a franchise after destroying his own? (J.J., yes I am talking to you–“Lost” come to mind?). Well, the answer…my beloved readers…is…
…are you even bating your breath?
OK fine. It’s yes.
A resounding yes.
This is a fun movie. In fact, it’s half-Star Trek as much as it is half-Star Wars. Strange, isn’t it? I wonder if this means we’ve finally bridged the gap between Trekkie and Star Wars fanboy. Who knows? I mean, we’ve not solved world peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but there’s always a start.
The film takes an abridged view of James Tiberius Kirk and the beloved Spock, who have been pitted against each other because of a rogue Romulan (played intensely by Eric Bana, can we expect less?) who has changed the course of time by going back in time, destroying the planet Vulcan, and expecting to continue his wrath against any other Federation planet–one of them, of course, being Earth. Now I know all of this sounds incredibly complicated, but–
Oh, wait–it doesn’t? Sounds pretty simple, actually, right? Well, that’s okay. The screenwriters agree. In fact, forget the weak first two acts, and appreciate where this film really delivers: Act three, and chemistry.
Yes, what I believe no Trekkie can argue with–is the function of the chemistry of our beloved characters of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, “Bones”, and Chekov. All of them are as lively and bursting they were 40 plus years ago. Special nods go out to Chris Pine (James Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock)–their subtle grasp of their characters is unbelievably well done. But we get to know all of their origins, some in subtle scenes of brilliance (i.e. Scotty) and some in hit-you-over-the-head monologues (i.e. Dr. McCoy). But in the end, is that really the most important thing?
After all, this is a film of the summer. Does it deliver? Of course it does! The ghosts of some of the cast may be rolling in their graves–but that’s only because of their selfish giddiness of wanting to bring that character back themselves. No one in the original cast can look at this young, robust cast, and say that there is something missing. In fact, the casting of this film is the very essence of why this film works.
It’s not the photon torpedos. It’s not warp speed. It’s not the Star Trek-isms. It’s exactly why the show worked in the first place, and what Gene Roddenberry wanted you to understand. It’s because, in the face of all the science fiction and nerdiness, there are faces that you want to see time and time again, and you want to revisit them whenever you can. And that warm place you go, when you’re too much of a geek to understand and join real life and real people–there is the USS Enterprise. And they’re all waiting for you to join them. That hasn’t changed. No matter what century you live in.