For the fans who wondered if the Star Trek franchise could bounce back after the underwhelming Into Darkness, then Star Trek Beyond is a breath of fresh air. The first film in the rebooted franchise not directed by J.J. Abrams (Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame takes over this go-around), Beyond is the closet film to the original series and films that this new franchise has produced. It’s an original story that doesn’t feel like a retread of previous films (like Into Darkness was to The Wrath of Khan) but also feels deeply inspired at the same time. The film is also entertaining and interesting enough for the non-die hards of the series such as myself. Granted, there’s a few problems scattered throughout the film, but Star Trek Beyond is a welcome return to form for this franchise, and will make you look forward to further adventures with this rebooted cast.
Beyond feels more like a Trek story in the fact that the Enterprise is still exploring new planets and so forth when we pick this story up. During a routine maintenance check at a space port, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and company comes across a runaway from another planet who leads the crew into an ambush by an evil Alien race led by an intimidating/heavily prosthetic-faced Idris Elba. The crew crash-lands on a foreign planet, and has to come together in order to save the crew and stop this alien race.
Lin directs a screenplay co-written by Simon Pegg, who also reprises his role as Scotty in the film. Pegg is beloved by his fans (myself included) as being a nerd who understands the lore of massive IPs such as Trek. Its his banter and acting abilities that helped him steal the show in films like last summer’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. This new rebooted franchise has stayed consistently funny thanks to the charisma of all the cast members, but Beyond feels much funnier than any previous edition thanks to Pegg’s screenwriting credit. He also helps craft an interesting Trek story that as I mentioned earlier, feels right at home with any episode from the Original Series.
Which brings me to Beyond’s biggest pro but also one of its biggest cons. While Beyond feels very familiar if you’re a hardcore Trek fan, the film at times often feels like an extended television episode. It’s the same problem that Into Darkness faced, but the filmmakers don’t make it as clunky as Into Darkness felt. The film feels big while also feeling very confined and small at the same time, if that’s possible. Maybe I feel this way just because I still love Abrams’ first Trek film to death, and each film after that one has to live up to unimaginable expectations. Beyond is still a helluva good time, but this was one of my nitpicks with the flick.
The cast is stellar as always. Pine is charming and funny, Zachary Quinto as Spock is just as stone-faced and literal as he’s ever been, Zoe Saldana isn’t given a whole lot to do but is still effective as Uhura, Karl Urban and John Cho as Bones and Sulu respectively continue to do fine work, and Pegg as Scotty is funny and witty as always. It’s a shame that this film is unfortunately the final screen portrayal of Chekov by Anton Yelchin, who passed away last month. While Yelchin’s character doesn’t play a huge part in the film other than a welcome and terrific supporting role, you get sad watching the film knowing that we won’t get to see the late actor on the big screen anymore. He was a fantastic actor who did terrific studio work as well as terrific indie work (Like Crazy is one example of the latter that I highly recommend). We miss him dearly.
Idris Elba is okay as the lead villain. There’s not a whole lot for the brilliant actor to do here other than snarl and plot his plan. It’s great to see the actor getting roles in big Hollywood films such as this one, but we were all hoping for a more nuanced role for Elba to play. The man is too talented to play poorly written villains dammit! Speaking of new roles, Sofia Boutella (you may remember her from last year’s KIngsman) plays an alien named Jayla, who the Enterprise meets while stranded on this planet. She’s good, I guess. Nothing really spectacular or memorable to be honest with you (I forgot to even mention her role until I got to this part of the review). She’s a talented actress who has a bundle of roles coming up, so we’ll get to see more of her in the future.
To sum it up, if you’re a Trek fan of a fan of this rebooted Trek franchise, you’re probably gonna dig Star Trek Beyond. It’s a fun summer blockbuster in a year where a lot of summer blockbusters haven’t been very exciting. Justin Lin directed a film that’s respectful of its original material while also making it appeal to the masses in a seamless blend. When Paramount officially greenlights the inevitable fourth Trek film, hopefully they bring back Lin and Pegg to work on the flick, as they seem to know what to do with this franchise. And keep Abrams in the fold as a producer, please. The man is a talented director but he’s a much better producer. His Mission: Impossible flick was solid, but the two films that came after it were even better. I have a feeling Trek might be on the same path, and maybe even Star Wars as well. Either way, the Trek franchise doesn’t have to worry about getting stale or becoming irrelevant if this film has anything to say about it.