To boldly go…where many others have gone before…with the latest installment of this iconic franchise hitting theatres everywhere, Star Trek: Beyond certainly does enough right to keep the hardcore fans of the franchise happy. However it lacks any epic scope or sense of drama and plays more like a really good episode of a series rather than a necessary piece of viewing in a film franchise.
Three years into their five year mission exploring the outer reaches of deep space, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is understandably feeling a little bit of boredom and ennui and a getting a little lost in the vastness that is the unexplored domain of space. Tasked on a rescue mission into the heart of a dangerous and uncharted nebula, they are betrayed and mercilessly attacked by the mysterious Krall (Idris Elba) who is hell bent on destroying the Federation and every single thing that they stand for.
With the team of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams handing over the collective writing/directing responsibilities on this installment it makes sense that the tone would shift a little here with Star Trek: Beyond. While it lacks the scale and immediacy of some of the better films in the franchise it still works as a solid entry into Trek lore that feels more like a really good episode of a bigger show rather than a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Justin Lin is certainly a solid choice as he knows how to make scale and tell and action filled story. It moves well from beginning to end and is allowed to work in much more of the human equation of these stories that we fell in love with so many years ago. It’s not earth versus the aliens, it’s his crew and they’re in trouble so we see Captain Kirk in all his improvisational glory. The script from co-star and lifelong fan Simon Pegg and Doug Jung plays well and it works even better because they aren’t trying to recreate any iconic moments from the history of this extensive lore. If they had needed to go back in time to save the whales; let’s just say my eyes would still be rolling as I write this review. It’s quality sci-fi and it works in the grander context of this universe as it isn’t go out of its way to reinvent the wheel. It wants to honor the fans and make them happy, which for the most part this movie does. It might have been nice to get something a little more, epic but it plays well into the history of the series as it allows for some of the characters to actually get a little bit of growth.
This film marks the death of the indecisive James Tiberius Kirk and finally allows for Chris Pine to bring some of the classic Kirk swagger back to the role. He’s on a strange planet, his crew is in danger and he’s really pissed off…for any Star Trek formula to work, we really don’t need much more than that. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban finally get to explore the dynamic of the relationship between Kirk and Spock with solid results while the others get to add some additional wrinkles to their characters. It was admittedly a little sad watch this one especially as Anton Yelchin in the role of Chekov brought the character up from being a one note wonder like the rest of the characters did. The ensemble got the chance to make it a story about a crew of unique individuals and not just the people in charge of it all.
Is it the ideal Trek movie? Yes and no, it lacks the genuine scale and scope of a monster budget movie where there are supposed to be some very real emotional stakes but Star Trek: Beyond was made by an ensemble of people who are entirely invested in holding up the honor of this long running franchise and it still works as a solid piece of high quality entertainment that should win over most audiences even if they aren’t ultimately bowled over by it all.