Star Trek Beyond
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban
I’ll start by saying that I was never a trekkie/trekker growing up. I had seen some of the movies and certain episodes of multiple Star Trek series, but never took the deep dive into the world of Trek. So, when JJ Abrams rebooted & retooled the series towards a wider audience, I didn’t have much of a problem with it. I wasn’t precious about the prior films/series, I loved JJ’s previous work and sci-fi adventure films in general, so, if anything, I prefer the new Trek to the old. I realize that may be blasphemy to many fans of the series, but hey – I was always more of a Star Wars kid. JJ Abrams came to the series in the same boat (Wars>Trek), and tried to split the difference by maintaining some of the Roddenberry ideals that made the series intriguing, while injecting a bit more action and adventure into the films.
With the first film, he wisely did what every studio is copying with their reboots and requels (see X-Men, Terminator, etc), he created an entirely new timeline – the Kelvin Timeline. Not only were they able to reboot the franchise, but they were also no longer completely beholden to the stories that have come before. They were free to make it their own while allowing the other stories to exist in an entirely different universe/timeline. It was a true stroke of genius that was largely welcomed by fans new and old.
With the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, he mistakenly stepped into the trap that he had avoided by making a new timeline in the previous film – he tried to both remake and not remake the fan favorite Wrath of Khan. Obviously, Trek fans were not having it, as it bared little resemblance to the storyline they deemed so perfect in the previous timeline. Many Trek fans call it the worst Star Trek film of all time. I think that’s being a bit harsh, as some of those old movies are nearly unwatchable these days. Into Darkness, while imperfect, is still a fun adventure film that’s highly re-watchable thanks to the wonderful cast and the breakneck pace at which it speeds forward.
As you may or may not know, JJ Abrams had to leave the series behind to direct a small indie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You’ve probably never heard of it…Anywho, Paramount & JJ decided to hand the directing reigns over to Justin Lin (of The Fast and the Furious franchise) with writing duties being given to Scotty himself, Simon Pegg (a noted Trek fan), and Doug Jung. The resulting film has the signature humor and heart of Simon Pegg and the impressive action set pieces that are becoming Justin Lin’s calling card.
Now, as you know, I’m not much for plot overviews, but I will say that it is wisely self-contained and well-structured. Fans of the original series will find a lot to love in the episodic nature of the story telling and the philosophical ruminations that were largely pushed aside in the more recent films. If I had to compare it to anything, I’d say it’s very much like if Guardians of the Galaxy, the 2009 reboot, and the Original Series had an action packed baby – and that’s very much a compliment.
The cast, as always, is fantastic. Simon Pegg & Doug Jung wisely decide to switch up the traditional groupings by separating and pairing up characters who aren’t ordinarily seen together for long periods of time. As usual, Kirk & Spock are given the bigger, more existential storylines; however, each of the main crew members are given scenes that explore new corners of their characters, in many instances making the film feel more fun and fresh because of it.
As for our villain, Idris Elba is able to bring some gravitas to the traditional Star Trek antagonist, Krall, even below all of that make up. Again, Pegg & Jung’s writing only helps things, as they reveal a backstory that is both interesting and certainly poignant in times as politically volatile as this. I would have loved a little more explanation as far as his backstory and appearance go, but, at the same time, that may have taken the momentum out of the movie. So, in the end, I understand the need to be vague.
Justin Lin is known for his action, and this film only adds to his reputation for being one of the slickest action scene directors in the business. There’s a lot of eye candy scenes, from the swooping introduction of the brand new Federation space station to the kinetic action on and off planet.
While there are some nit-picky issues with exposition and a few forced scenes that could have been polished a bit during the writing phase, Star Trek Beyond is one of the more structurally sound and fun action movies in the entire Star Trek pantheon of films. It also leaves you as a franchise sequel should, with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. Pegg has a famous line from his breakout show Spaced that goes: “as day follows night, as sure as eggs is eggs, as sure as every odd numbered Star Trek movie is shit…” – it seems only appropriate that he be the one to finally break that curse. And, I assure you, he does.
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10 Phasors Set to “Stunning”