By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
In 2009, J.J. Abrams presented a new vision of the classic Star Trek franchise. At the beginning of his meteoric rise, Abrams had Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible III and Cloverfield to his name, but many skeptics still were unsure whether or not the director could deliver a reboot worthy of the Star Trek name. Now, seven years later, the Star Trek reboot franchise stands alongside Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy as the key examples of a reboot done right.
History has not been kind to Star Trek: Into Darkness, the second film in the series and the last directed by Abrams, which at the time of its release was a rousing success but once the luster of seeing the picture on the big screen bore dangerously close resemblance to Wrath of Khan. Needing a fresh injection into the series and with Abrams turning his revitalization powers to the Star Wars franchise, turned to Justin Lin, who re-booted the Fast and Furious series, to continue his work.
Star Trek: Beyond is yet another step in the right direction, changing the franchise’s directive that closer aligns with the themes of the original series. Highlighted by strong performances by Chris Pine, Karl Urban and Idris Elba and an fresh story, Star Trek: Beyond is a return to form for the USS Enterprise and her crew, and should leave viewers excited for what’s next.
In the midst of a five-year mission, Captain James T. Kirk (Pine) of the USS Enterprise is conflicted about his future in Starfleet. However, a supposed rescue mission turns into a nightmare scenario, with an unknown enemy leaving the Enterprise crew stranded on a desolate planet.
The biggest problem with Star Trek: Into Darkness was the redundant plot, something that has not only plagued Star Trek, but an issue throughout modern cinema. Beyond injects a story and feel close to that of the original series. This is the third go around for Pine, who exploded onto the scene with a dynamite performance in the 2009 original, and he returns to form in Beyond, showing a maturity in the character that has not been seen in the trilogy. Pine’s turn as Kirk exemplifies a captain who is worn down in the midst of an elongated mission in deep space, something that the movie simply could have skimmed over but instead utilizes as a key piece of the film’s momentum. It’s a welcome detraction and provides a strong plot devise that will quickly convert viewers who questioned the necessity of this third entry in the series.
Leonard McCoy steals the show, with Karl Urban taking the character from his immensely underused position in Into Darkness to arguably the primary protagonist of Beyond. When the film reverts to its tried and true action roots in the third act, McCoy is the one who surprisingly takes the reigns and is a key contributor to the action. In addition, McCoy’s injection of humor provides a majority of the laughs in the movie, especially when the Enterprise crew is first stranded on the foreign planet, and McCoy is forced to interact with Spock.
One of the best aspects of Beyond is how each of the Enterprise crew has their own moment of triumph. Spock’s impact is surprisingly diluted in this new movie, with a lot of the focus turning to the relationship between Kirk and McCoy along with the re-establishment of McCoy, but Quinto seems more than comfortable with the shifting priorities, still bringing a great deal of charisma and confidence to Spock.
Sofia Boutella enters the fray as Jaylah, the white-colored alien peppered throughout the film’s advertising. She is a breath of fresh air into the franchise, which hasn’t really seen a protagonist emerge outside the Enterprise crew. She holds her own, is responsible for many great moments in the movie, especially when partnered with Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott, and will hopefully remain on board as the franchise continues to expand. Idris Elba comes in a close second behind Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan (or John Morrison) for the best series in the reboot trilogy. A third act twist brings with it a thought-provoking plot device, but Elba’s performance throughout the film provides the Enterprise with its first non-conventional threat, adding another layer to where the franchise may be able to go.
Tragically, Star Trek: Beyond cannot be discussed without mentioning the two major role players in the film that passed away prior to the film’s release. The movie is dedicated to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, and in the case of Yelchin it is especially hard to see him portray the young and charismatic Chekov on screen for the third time, knowing that it is the final time that we can enjoy the character. A truly talented presence on screen, the loss of Yelchin will be profoundly felt in the Star Trek franchise, along with the remainder of Hollywood. Nimoy, who spent nearly 50 years with the franchise, was such a monumental presence, and even became a key cog in this new timeline, provides one final, impactful influence with a mention in Star Trek: Beyond, a moment that will definitely be tough for long-time Star Trek fans, but still provides a proper farewell to the cherished character.
Lin asserts himself as a multi-faceted director with his masterful work with Beyond. The action sequences are incredibly well done, from the drone attack in the first act to the explosive finale. Trailers show the Enterprise being attacked, but luckily the trailers do not unveil a high degree of the action. This is truly a summer blockbuster, and one that not only continues the Star Trek franchise, but begins what could be a series-altering shift in perspective, moving towards what made the original series great rather than retreading redundant ground.
Saying that Star Trek: Beyond is a drastic improvement over Into Darkness is a double-edged sword; by injecting fresh air into the franchise Beyond avoids the stale feeling left by Into Darkness, but by still keeping the action-oriented feel of the first two entries in the series, Star Trek has guaranteed itself at least one more entry in the franchise. Justin Lin moves his expertise from cars to spaceships, and in doing so makes a Star Trek film that will not only satisfy summer moviegoers, but in all likelihood, Star Trek fans as well.