by Sherry Lipp
WARNING: REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS
Star Trek Beyond hits the 2016 summer movie season with a ton a baggage. Not only is it the highly competitive summer movie season, but it’s the 50th anniversary of the franchise and the film follows the popular, but controversial, Into Darkness. Even director J.J. Abrams admitted to mixed feelings about that film. Beyond also follows the death of the legendary Leonard Nimoy, who was present in the first two reboot films, and sadly the recent death of Anton Yelchin (who portrays Chekov) has placed a very unexpected tragic spin on the film. That’s a lot of weight for an entertaining action film to carry and I’m glad to say Beyond carries it pretty well. It’s not the best of the series, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s good to see that the new Star Trek has come into its own with a unique and entertaining story.
J.J. Abrams, who is still a producer on this film, has handed the directing reins over to Justin Lin who is best known for directing three of the Fast & Furious films. Lin does a good job with the action, but I will admit some of it seems a little outside of typical Trek fare. A scene with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) racing around on a motorcycle is a little too much of a reminder of Lin’s Fast & Furious roots. That aside there is some pretty cool stuff in this film, particularly a nasty group of mini-alien ships that can shred a starship in minutes.
I do like that Beyond takes some time to ponder what life aboard a luxury starship like the Enterprise would be like. Writers Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) and Doug Jung have created a life that can be as boring as anyone’s routine job. People get up, get dressed, go to their workstation, try to spend time with their friends and families and then do it all over again. Space is vast and there’s not always something new to explore. Captain Kirk has become bored with the endless flying around and wonders if there’s something better he could be doing with his time.
I think they could have dug a little deeper into the psyche of long term deep space travel because that is the thesis of this film. Once we get into the action the personal feelings of the crew are pretty much left behind until the very end. Just when Kirk thinks he can’t take another day of boredom the space station they have docked at receives a distress call. Kirk jumps at the chance to answer it.
It’s a lesson in being careful in what you wish for because – SERIOUS SPOILER ALERT COMING UP – the Enterprise gets destroyed by the mysterious villain Krall who is after an artifact Kirk had thought was worthless. The entire crew finds themselves stranded on nearly uninhabited planet with no way home. Not only are they stranded by our main core of characters are separated and partnered with someone they don’t know, or don’t work with, well.
Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto play off each other as Bones and Spock so well I found myself really looking forward to any of their scenes together. Chekov ends up with the Captain, which gives him a little more screen time to show off his expertise in figuring pretty anything out. Scotty finds himself with a badass alien resident named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who is also hell-bent in getting off the planet. Unfortunately Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) don’t have much to do after they are taken prisoner by Krall.
What I’ve loved about the Star Trek reboot films is the interplay between the characters. They all do such a great job in both reminding us of their predecessors and making them their own. That element carries through to this film and that’s what really makes it work. This film is fun to watch, which makes it easier to forgive some of the weaker aspects of the film, particularly the murky motivation of Krall – granted it makes sense at the end, but it takes quite a while to get there.
I thought they did a great job in weaving in the loss of Nimoy and paying respect to the original crew. The loss of Yelchin hangs in the air, but I’m glad Chekov had some good moments here. A fourth film has already been announced and Abrams has said Yelchin will not be replaced. Chekov’s absence will solidify the alternate timeline, but there is some comfort that after 50 years Star Trek continues on and continues to evolve.
As Kirk says at the end, “To absent friends.”
Star Trek Beyond images: Paramount Pictures