Space, the final frontier
Entices the brave pioneer.
When cadets graduate
At the start of a thrilling career.
Yet in between alien wars
And interdimensional doors,
The truth is that space
Can be one boring place
For a hero in search of encores.
Sometimes a more perilous foe
Must devastate our status quo,
Reminding us why
We decided to fly
And where we’re committed to go.
MPAA rating: PG-13
After the rebooted Star Trek had its glorious return in 2009 and its original-continuity-referencing sequel in 2013, it’s logical that the filmmakers for its third entry asked “What next?” Surely they thought it wise to distance Star Trek Beyond from the original series timeline and stories that so influenced the first two, and I’m glad to say they succeeded. Star Trek Beyond feels like it’s settled into the story-of-the-week format that the series had, and this particular story both references that potentially dull routine and spices it up with audacious sights we’ve never seen before.
The famous characters have already been established in prior films and pop culture, so the film doesn’t spend much time on new character development (aside from the brief but unnecessary implication that Sulu is gay). Yet the film still finds a way to insert emotional weight at the beginning, from a much more mature Kirk (Chris Pine) dealing with how the thrill is gone to Spock (Zachary Quinto) getting some sad news. We also get to see the eye-popping Yorktown, a space station so futuristically cool it makes you wonder why we’ve never seen it before in the Star Trek universe (though it does have visual echoes of Inception and Upside Down).
This setup is rather slow at the start, but once the action starts, it doesn’t let up. Before you know it, a swarm of bee-like ships are crashing into the Enterprise’s hull, and all hell breaks loose. Much of the crew become stranded on a nearby planet, hunted by a mysterious alien named Krall (Idris Elba). To make sure everyone in the ensemble gets their fair share of screen time, they’re split into twos, a method that works rather well in spreading the characters out and exposing them to different elements relevant to the plot. Also added is Sofia Boutella as another stranded ally named Jaylah, who helps the crew battle Krall.
Being a fan of Star Trek: Voyager, I noticed that this latest film seemed to draw some inspiration from that show. In the third season episode “The Swarm,” Voyager runs into a fleet of small swarming ships not unlike Krall’s armada, and they even defeat the swarm in a similar manner, though admittedly with less style. Voyager also seemed to have more episodes where one or two crew members were stranded on alien planets, making that aspect of the film also feel more familiar.
Even more than the others, Star Trek Beyond is an action movie, with new director Justin Lin bringing some flair from his experience with the Fast and Furious franchise. The camerawork makes the running and explosions a bit more frenetic and hard to follow at times, but there’s no shortage of dynamic thrills. Several impressive scenes and set pieces just left me saying “Dang!” (in a good way, of course), though if there was any Trek movie I would not want to be a redshirt in, this is it. The effects are still awesome to behold, not least of which is “that scene,” the one so many reviewers have noted as being particularly over-the-top, for good or ill. I for one thought it was brilliant and spectacular, especially on the big screen, as well as a nice musical callback to the 2009 film.
The only place Star Trek Beyond seriously stumbled was the villain. Elba is all right as Krall, though hard to understand at times, but his character’s backstory was far too ambiguous. Why did he look the way he did? Where did the fleet of alien ships come from? I’m not sure if these questions were answered and I missed it, or if the writers just glossed over those details. Either way, it could have been clearer.
Of the reboot trilogy, I still love the first most, but Star Trek Beyond is just as good and more original than Into Darkness. Couple the rousing action with the bittersweet tributes to deceased cast members Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, and Beyond becomes a well-rounded addition to the Trek canon. Yelchin’s death, in particular, throws the future of the series into doubt, but I certainly hope that there are more Star Trek stories to tell.
Best line: (Krall) “You can’t stop it. You will die.” (Kirk) “Better to die saving lives, than to live by taking them. That’s what I was born into.”
Rank: Top-100-Worthy (Joining Star Trek into Darkness)
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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