action sequences, Anton Yelchin, “Bones” McCoy, “Fast and Furious”, camaraderie, Chekov, Chris Pine, Chris Roll, Doug Jung, Enterprise crew, Galaxy Quest, Guardians of the Galaxy, Idris Elba, James T. Kirk, Jaylah, Justin Lin, Karl Urban, Krall, Leonard Nimoy, Marvel, Mission Impossible, Montgomery Scott, movie series, rating, Scotty, Shohreh Agdashloo, Simon Pegg, Sofia Boutella, space travel, special effects, Spock, Star Trek, Star Trek Beyond, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars, Sulu, the Federation, trailer, TV series, Uhura, villain, William Shatner, Yorktown, Zachary Quinto
By Chris Roll
One of the biggest complaints about the rebooted Star Trek film series has been that, while entertaining films by their own merit, they really haven’t felt like Star Trek films.
The first film, simply called Star Trek (2009), owed more to Star Wars in terms of storytelling and themes. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) was a different animal altogether, feeling more like Mission Impossible with space travel.
And, going by the trailers, Star Trek Beyond appeared to be aping the success of Marvel’s 2014 smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy, focusing on humor and swashbuckling action as opposed to the cerebral, character-driven tales the classic Star Trek films and TV series offered.
Although Star Trek Beyond definitely has its nods toward Guardians of the Galaxy (and, to a lesser extent, Galaxy Quest, the 1999 parody of a love letter to Star Trek), it is a surprisingly poignant tale, which addresses the death of original Spock actor Leonard Nimoy in a fittingly bittersweet way. And, at long last, it’s safe to say the new Enterprise crew has finally come into its own (which is also bittersweet in light of Chekov actor Anton Yelchin’s untimely death before the film’s release). Chris Pine has mastered not only William Shatner’s confident presence but also his cadence of speech as Captain James T. Kirk. Zachary Quinto has Nimoy’s detached yet compelling demeanor down to a fine science. And Karl Urban’s Leonard “Bones” McCoy is the cranky doctor incarnate.
Joining the established cast are two standouts: Luther star Idris Elba as Krall, the film’s fearsome antagonist, who lures the Enterprise to its apparent doom on an uncharted planet, and Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Jaylah, a fierce and beautiful survivor who seeks the aid of the Enterprise’s chief engineer, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the film), to find a way to escape the planet and Krall once and for all. The always-stunning Shohreh Agdashloo also features as a Starfleet commodore in charge of the Yorktown, an advanced starbase where the Enterprise docks early in the film.
Krall is a magnificent villain, different in appearance from anything seen before on Star Trek, and Elba portrays him with his usual gravitas. And although the film makes his motivations rather clear (he really hates the Federation, and everything it stands for), it would have been nice to see him given more screen time, allowing the audience a longer look inside his head. His fleet, too, makes for an exciting visual, tearing though everything in its path like a swarm of bees. The film’s trailer gives away much of the damage done to the Enterprise; suffice it to say it’s rare to see a situation even Kirk’s strategic mind can’t find a way out of.
Justin Lin, most famous for directing most of the Fast and the Furious films, might seem like an odd choice to direct a Star Trek film, and indeed, the news of his hiring led some to believe the franchise was drifting even further from its roots to become just another Guardians of the Galaxy ripoff. But even though Lin does jam-pack the film with mind-numbing special effects and pulse-pounding action sequences (some of which require significant suspension of disbelief), he doesn’t let them overshadow the masterful story he, Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung are trying to tell.
At the end of the day, Star Trek must always be about its characters and their lives together exploring the vastness of space. And in this film, we feel Kirk’s restlessness, Spock’s uncertainty, McCoy’s exasperation, Uhura’s defiance, Scotty’s optimism, Chekov’s exuberance and Sulu’s resolve. We follow them. We care about them.
And, even though the film ends with a sense of finality (driven home by the tributes to Nimoy and Yelchin in the credits), it nonetheless ends with hope that we will follow this crew on many more missions to come.
If you’re just looking for an action-packed popcorn-muncher, this movie will definitely fit the bill. And if you’re a die-hard Trekker, who has followed the franchise from the original series to The Next Generation, from Deep Space Nine to Voyager, and maybe even Enterprise . . . then you’re going to enjoy it all the more. There are plenty of clever in-jokes, but ultimately it’s the camaraderie amongst the crew — so different from and yet so similar to the cast you grew up with — that will leave you cheering in your seat.
Overall score: 4.5/5