3.5 out of 5 stars (above average)
Star Trek Beyond is a fun sci-fi action movie that feels closer to the 2009 reboot in terms of tone and character interactions. Whereas Into Darkness caused “Khan-troversy” among the Trekkie community, this film is lighter on its feet and, as far as I know, feels more like an episode of the classic 60’s TV show. I have (sadly) never seen a full episode, but I can definitely say that this installment feels much smaller in scale and focuses more on the characters. There’s still a ton of cool action sequences, but they help the film this time rather than hurt it, emphasizing the familial dynamic among the crewmates of the U.S.S. Enterprise rather than seeming like an excuse to blow something up.
The film picks up three years into the U.S.S Enterprise’s five-year mission to explore the galaxy, with Captain James T. Kirk (a thankfully mature Chris Pine) feeling a bit burnt out and considering leaving the ship for a new position. After recovering a McGuffin artifact, he and the rest of the crew, Vulcan Spock (Zackary Qunto, spot-on as always), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (the late great Anton Yelchin), Scotty (a funny Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and snide crew doctor Bones (a hilarious Karl Urban) go to a Starfleet base for some brief R and R, only to receive a distress call from an area where Starfleet will be unreachable. Duh Duh Duhhhhhhhhhh!
That distress call turns out to be a trick ambush by the villainous Krall (a reliable Idris Elba), who wants the artifact for nefarious purposes. This attack forces the crew to jump ship on a nearby planet, being separated from one another. Now the crew must get back together and defeat Krall, with no help from Starfleet whatsoever.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The action is fun, fast paced, and well-shot, and the script (co-written by Pegg) has several bits of humor and some surprising subtlety that would have greatly helped the last film. The movie doesn’t go as deep as it could into some plot elements, but I frankly didn’t care, as this is meant to be a fun summer movie and nothing else, a promise upon which it delivered.
My favorite part of this film is its characters. They are fun, relatable, and you legitimately care about them getting home. With the knowledge of the future series pushed aside, the threats they face are pretty hardcore, making you wonder how they will get out of them. Lastly, there is a touching tribute to the original series at the end of the film that made even me, the most casual Trekkie, have the feels.
The performances continue to dazzle, especially Pine, who has evolved from a pompous hotheaded teenager who stole his dad’s car and treats everyone like he’s better than them into a captain who loves his ship and crew. Quinto again is brilliant as Spock, with perfect dialogue delivery as well as great chemistry with Karl Urban. Urban also does well, delivering some of the film’s best lines. Elba does his best with Krall, but the script sometimes lets him down with generic bad guy lines. The shining star here is newcomer Sofia Boutella as an alien the crew encounters. Boutella has a good screen presence and enjoyable comic timing.
The action is pretty good here. Justin Lin knows how to direct insane action and make it look awesome, putting his talents to good use. The battles are intense in a fun way, with the climax (which I dare not spoil) being one of the most enjoyable I’ve seen this summer. No sequence overstays its welcome, each lasting long enough to both progress the plot and provide the necessary thrills without going into overkill.
Star Trek Beyond respects its source while still succeeding as a modern blockbuster. The dialogue is often funny, the characters are enjoyable, and the action, while not the best ever made, completely satisfies. Whether you enjoy the original series, or just these reboots because you think Chris Pine is hot, Star Trek Beyond should satisfy your craving for a fun summer movie.
(P.S.: Though I didn’t stay for the credits, I heard they dedicate the film to the late Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy. Yelchin died shortly after the film was completed, and Nimoy passed last year. They were fantastic actors and I am personally sad to see them go.)
Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence