Posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
After recycling a little too much of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, the rebooted franchise based on Gene Roddenberry’s classic sci-fi series needed a new direction to bring some freshness back to the final frontier. Thankfully, with Star Trek Beyond, director Justin Lin has managed to craft a extremely entertaining journey back into space for the USS Enterprise. It’s a sequel that blends some of the signature style of the classic Star Trek series with the action sensibilities of a modern blockbuster.
Keep reading our Star Trek Beyond review after the jump.
The latest installment of the rebooted Star Trek film franchise finds the crew of the USS Enterprise exploring space, having already spent over 960 days in space. In his log, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) says their adventures are beginning to feel a little episodic. It’s undoubtedly a tongue-in-cheek nod to classic Star Trek, which is appropriate since the opening scene feels like the end of an episode of the original series.
But even though we’re just now joining the Enterprise’s adventures in space, it’s clear Kirk’s growing weary with traveling the universe and is considering taking a more supervising role at Starfleet as a Vice Admiral. Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are on the outs, and there couldn’t be a better time for the whole crew to take a break at the massive Federation space station known as Yorktown.
A sleek addition to the universe, Yorktown, looks like an M.C. Esher interpretation of a space station built in one of the Inception dreamscapes. It feels like a substitute for Earth as a major Federation hub, but it’s aesthetically different enough and full of diverse alien species that it feels less like home and more like Xandar from Guardians of the Galaxy. The designs of the space station are detailed and impressive and it makes for a solid setpiece for a major action sequence later in the film.
The USS Enterprise doesn’t have long to relax as a strange ship comes near the space station with a distress call, an alien woman who begs for the Federation’s help after an unknown enemy threatened her people. The crew must head into an unexplored nebula to assess the situation and help this frightened woman. But what they find there is an intriguing enemy in the form of an intimidating alien commander named Krall (Idris Elba), who has a plan that is equally malicious and mysterious, one that will hit the Federation where it counts.
The alien planet has an aesthetic that resembles the sets from classic Star Trek episodes. It’s artificial enough to feel alien, but not so much that it looks cheap. The Enterprise has never faced an enemy like this as thousands of small ships swarm through space like an army of nanobots, tearing through the trademark Federation ship like tinfoil. There’s nothing particularly creative about their design or the way they attack, but that doesn’t make the destruction of the Enterprise any easier to swallow. The same can be said about another inhabitant of the planet, a stranded alien woman named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service). She gets plenty of badass moments, but the character doesn’t bring much else to the table. Though I will say it was refreshing that they didn’t try to force a romance between her and any of the Enterprise crew members (at least not yet).
Having said that, none of our main characters ever really feel like they’re in danger. The previous installments did a nice job of making you think they might divert from keeping the signature members of the Enterprise crew safe, but at no point in Star Trek Beyond are you worried that any of them will make it out of this mess alive. I’m not sure if that’s a shortcoming of this particular script (by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung) or just just blockbuster movies in general. Though there is one death in the movie that does have a big impact on one of the crew members, though it’s likely not who you would expect, and it feels like a bit of a strange revelation, at least in the way it’s acknowledged by the rest of the crew. You’ll see what I mean.
This is easily the most Star Trek-esque movie in the rebooted film franchise that has been done yet without feeling a drastic departure from what came before in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. The blockbuster action is still there, and Justin Lin seems to enjoy using the fluctuation of gravity as a way of shaking up normal chases and fight sequences. He moves the camera seamlessly around the sets, making for some engaging action, even if it’s not anything groundbreaking after seeing some action like this before in the likes of Inception, but it does liven things up a little bit. However, even though the Enterprise gets destroyed more than usual this time, it’s not quite as powerful after the beating the ship took in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Along with the action, there’s plenty of laughs throughout that come from each crew member’s unique relationship with one another. McCoy (Karl Urban) is the standout this time on the comedic side of things, delivering more laughs than even Simon Pegg as Scotty. Kirk and Spock share some fine moments as well, but it’s McCoy and Spock who get a little more bonding time in the spotlight, and that’s a relationship that should be explored even more as the franchise continues. And the late Anton Yelchin provides some comedic relief too as he’s become a bit of a ladies man on and off the ship.
If there’s a weak part of Star Trek Beyond, it’s undoubtedly the villain. While Idris Elba does a fantastic job of being an intimidating foe for the Federation to face, his motivation doesn’t seem all that engaging when all his secrets are revealed, and honestly, the secret about his past (which may have already been ruined by a TV spot or two released this past week) doesn’t really do much to change the trajectory of the story or how the villain is dealt with by our heroes. It’s essentially a Marvel villain problem all over again.
Michael Giacchino‘s score feels occasionally otherworldly in between the familiar themes we’ve heard from his previous compositions. This particular screening had the score provided by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, who played so well that I completely forgot it was being provided live. However, there’s one part of the movie where the score and silence are thrown out the window in favor of a signature hip-hop tune that I could have done without hearing in the movie. It feels like a gag that’s too easy for a franchise like Star Trek, no matter how much it fits with the more contemporary style of the rebooted franchise.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t the most unique sequel, nor does it take the franchise in any surprising directions. But director Justin Lin delivers a wholly entertaining and fun follow-up that has a little bit for classic Star Trek fans and a lot for general audiences who just want some sci-fi action to round out their summer. Star Trek Beyond moves fast and fiercely, but it’s almost too much for us to feel anything substantial for our characters, even though we’ve already gotten to know them over two films. In the end, the film is extremely entertaining, very well-made, and a superior follow-up to the Wrath of Kahn retread that came before it.
/Film rating: 7.5 out of 10Cool Posts From Around the Web: