A new Star Trek movie is always an event for a nerd like me. Known in most circles as Star Wars less-cool but more science fiction savvy step-brother, the long-lasting brand has endured the change of era’s while making history along the way. Very few realize the original show was the first to feature a diverse cast, and also featured the first interracial kiss in television history.
Star Trek has always been a series dealing with ethics of society through its science fiction lens. Recently however, that has gotten lost in the shadow of the bombast that plagues blockbusters. The last two entries in the series, while they had their merits, felt less and less like Star Trek.
Not even Cumberbatch could save the movies.
With “Star Trek Beyond”, the series goes back to its aforementioned roots. Keeping a foot in the past, Beyond is sentimental in the best possible way, while still keeping a modern edge. This fairly well-realized combination is what makes the film one of the series best.
Unlike a lot of summer blockbusters, Beyond starts fairly slowly. After a great deal of time in space, Kirk is beginning to grow weary of the seemingly episodic nature of their adventures. He has lost himself in space, wondering just who he is and what’s his purpose. On the same coin, Kirk’s bromance partner in crime Spock is dealing with his mortality and his weighing obligation he has to his race the Vulkans.
This may seem rootamentary, but giving time to develop textures with the main characters is important. It’s screenwriting 101, but it's that way for a reason, as it helps develop characters to truly care about. Too many blockbusters these day forgo developing characters or giving them arcs of any interest, making this simple concept feel welcomed.
Star Trek has always been about the ensemble, and that still holds true here. In Beyond, the crew of the beloved Enterprise have the same oddball family dynamic that made the show so great, with every character getting their moment to shine. It also helps when the script is so sharp, with Doug Jung and Simon Pegg having a natural talent at creating funny quips.
With this being the third film in the series, Beyond feels like an effort made with a great deal of confidence and comfortability. This is especially apparent in the cast, with the all-star ensemble finally settling in their roles. Chris Pine is in top form as Kirk, bringing charm and gravitas in full force while also establishing his interpretation of the character as his own. Zachary Quinto has always been a perfect Spock, with Karl Urban, John Cho, Zoe Saldana, and Anton Yelchin also delivering solid performances.
That confidence seems to be a product from the series’ new director Justin Lin. Lin, who is previously known for his work reviving the Fast and Furious series, crafts films like well-oiled machines. Lean and mean, the movie moves at a full-throttle pace, making its 122 minute running time fly by. Most of the action here is incredibly inventive and expertly crafted, with there being genuine thrills and steaks in every moment.
What took me to surprise was just how sentimental and emotionally involving Beyond is. With the devastating deaths of Leonard Nimoy (who brilliantly played Spock in the original series) and Yelchin (who shockingly passed away at only 27), Beyond pays tribute to both in slight, yet effective ways. The film also nicely plays tribute to the original series, with a few small easter eggs making for an even more enjoyable experience for fans.
"To the Enterprise... and to absent friends."
Now the film is not quite perfect. Like a lot of modern day blockbusters, the villain here is fairly weak. While Idris Elba is a talented actor, his character is severely under-written and generic. I was also let down slightly by the finale, which opts for a large scale chase scene in a futuristic city. Compared to the more creative setpieces that preceded it, the finale felt like a slight letdown.
That being said, Star Trek Beyond delivers in so many ways. It’s a fun summer blockbuster, a heartfelt tribute to what was, and a begining to many more exciting adventures to come. Fans and newcomers alike are sure to have a great time.