Space: the final frontier. Except, if you’re an entry in the Star Trek franchise then space usually isn’t very mysterious. Over the past 50 years, various incarnations of the Enterprise and her crew have been exploring the so-called “final frontier” on behalf of the Federation. From the original series to the next generation and a prequel, The Enterprise has gone into some fascinating territory. They’ve stopped giant sentient clouds, defeated an evil genius from the past (twice), fought a robotic alien army, and even traveled back in time (twice). The Enterprise along wth the various other crews in the Star Trek universe have seen a lot, and yet after the last Star Trek film, it seemed that we were starting to go where we had in fact gone before.
I liked Star Trek Into Darkness when I first watched it. However, I was able to recognize a major flaw with the film. If you had been familiar with the “Khan” storyline from the original series and The Wrath of Khan, then the entire plot of the second reboot film essentially was a rehash of that story. Unfortunately for Into Darkness, copying what is considered by many to be the best story in the entire franchise doesn’t do well for getting fans on board for the new adventures of the USS Enterprise. Needless to say, I was skeptical of Star Trek Beyond going it after the last film’s lack of originality. But, I’m pleased to say that Star Trek Beyond does an excellent job capturing that original series spirit while still bringing fresh ideas to the now 50-year old series.
The premise of Star Trek Beyond is pretty straight-forward. Taking place three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission, things have become relatively routine for its crew. Captain Kirk, begins to wonder if joining Star Fleet was ultimately the right choice for him. Meanwhile, Spock is wondering about his role in helping his people as Ambassador Spock has passed away. Thankfully for the audience, all these personal problems take a back seat when a rescue mission goes wrong; the Enterprise is destroyed by an unknown alien, and the crew is stranded on a mysterious planet. What follows turns into a larger conspiracy against the Federation and Captain Kirk along with his crew must stop the evil alien Krall before he destroys the Federation.
Perhaps what I like the most about the plot of Star Trek Beyond was how standalone it felt in comparison to the rest of the series so far. We get the impression that even though the stakes are higher, this is something that the Enterprise crew just deals with on a semi-regular basis. This might seem like it makes all the danger underwhelming, but it is far more satisfying watching everyone handle these dire situations with intelligence and skill that you expect from the crew of Star Fleet’s flagship. By the end, you might not feel like you’ve watched a film but rather a really long episode of the series as if it were still on the air. That might have to do with how everyone feels involved, not just Kirk and Spock.
Like all of Star Trek, Beyond is an ensemble piece, not particularly dominated by the film’s leading roles. That’s not to say that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock aren’t the focus of certain parts of the film, but it’s the main crew of the Enterprise that makes this film so enjoyable. In addition to Pine and Quinto’s solid performances, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and the late Anton Yelchin, give great performances. Even newcomer Sofia Boutella as alien ally Jaylah does a great job. However what really stole the show for me was Karl Urban as McCoy. I’ve always enjoyed his portrayal of my favourite Star Trek character, but this time around he does a stellar job. Without giving anything away, he ends up paired with Spock for a good chunk of the film and their chemistry is incredibly entertaining to watch. Unfortunately for Beyond, its villain Krall is very generic even by franchise standards. But Idris Elba does try his best despite the disappointingly predictable nature of his character.
Perhaps the reason why I had such relatively low expectations for Star Trek Beyond was the film’s director: Justin Lin, best known for his work on the Fast & Furious films. Not exactly known for their depth. But, he is certainly known for some exciting action scenes which he definitely brings to Beyond. The cinematography is solid and despite some odd pacing in the film, he manages to capture the sense of mystery that the original series was known for. In a way, he does exactly what we loved about J.J. Abrams’ first film back in 2009. He takes series tropes that many of us have loved for years and brings a new perspective to make them more enjoyable for everyone.
The film is by no means perfect. As I mentioned earlier it felt more like an extended episode than a film, which is okay but not exactly what I was hoping for from a Star Trek movie. Not to mentioned that the dialogue felt a bit stiff in certain scenes and occasionally exchanges between characters seemed unnecessary. With that said, Star Trek Beyond is not only a good summer movie, it also serves a fitting tribute to Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, but in the end it still goes where no one has gone before.