Star Trek Beyond is action spectacle, but lacks smarts
Once considered the more cerebral of the two major sci-fi franchises, Star Trek Beyond takes the series to a louder, hollow and more explosive frontier. Yes, it’s still fun, but it comes by it in a cheaper, eager to please fashion than its predecessors. Beyond will likely be the most divisive of the recent Star Trek films.
I don’t envision fans who thrilled to the original late 1960s show to be especially fond of this chapter. Beyond bears little resemblance to their beloved series. Those without such a deep attachment, particularly those who just came aboard the franchise with the 2009 reboot, will likely love it.
Since J.J. Abrams took over the franchise in 2009, the series has gone a more action-focused route. That tone gets supercharged with Justin Lin assuming directorial duties. Lin, the driving force behind making the Fast and Furious a blockbuster franchise, excels at character beats and action. Plots and steering scripts (with screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung) along? Not necessarily in his wheelhouse.
Long into their five-year mission, the crew of the Enterprise is at a crossroads. Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) is questioning his purpose. Spock’s (Zachary Quinto) sense of obligation to his Vulcan heritage are straining his relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Those issues get tossed aside once they’re ambushed by an alien race led by Krall (an unrecognizable Idris Elba) and his armada.
The makeup and costuming team outdid themselves here. Beyond is heavily populated with various alien species that blend in naturally with the human characters. That galactic sense of diversity has always been one of the series’ strengths. On that front, Sulu’s (John Cho) much discussed sexuality is more of a quick nod than significant story point.
Krall’s swarm incapacitates the Enterprise separating the crew as he prepares to launch a Doomsday weapon at a Federation outpost. The crew along with new ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, Kingsman: The Secret Service) have to discover a way to stop Krall and his unstoppable army.
Jaylah would have seemed a lot fresher if she wasn’t doing Drax’s super literal shtick from Guardians of the Galaxy. Krall’s undercooked plan feels more like a thin foundation to base around the action.
Lin brings a liveliness and bombastic energy to the franchise that hasn’t been seen before. This new take hadn’t exactly been dull, but Lin makes sure Beyond is the most action-taxing entry in the series.
With the cinematic chaos unfolding Beyond is too dizzying to watch in 3D. There’s a reason Lin’s Furious films never utilized the format. Even at the impact to the total potential gross ticket sales. Lin likes to keep the action constantly moving. For those even with the slightest trace of motion sickness seeing it in standard 2D might still be too overwhelming.
Not especially surprising, the film is at its best when the Enterprise crew is playing off each other. Beyond splits the main seven in different duos leading to some very fun combinations.
Karl Urban is a blast with his cantankerous and frequently ‘over it’ portrayal of Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy. His pairing with Spock is the biggest treat of the film. Quinto commendably maintains his valiant, but vain effort to fill Leonard Nimoy’s considerable shadow.
Conversely, Pine has so firmly established himself as Kirk his cavalier take stands apart from William Shatner’s performance. Kirk partnering with Chekov gave a much needed spotlight to the late Anton Yelchin, who ironically got the most screen time in his final appearance in the series. Elba (The Jungle Book) is wasted in a role that could have gone to any number of actors who could have been g buried under makeup and growl menacingly.
Beyond isn’t a revelatory installment in the franchise. The reboot kickoff retains the captain’s chair of this new trilogy as the best installment. For folks seeking Star Trek with a heavier dose of action, Beyond is the final frontier.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Picture Credit: Paramount Pictures