So, I finally saw Star Trek Beyond this weekend (just a wee bit late, I know). While I’m too lazy to write a real review—and who the hell cares this far after the fact—it’s a damn fine time. Not the best movie of the summer by far, it’s still in the upper echelon as far as big-budget studio blockbusters go—though that’s admittedly not the highest bar this year.
What Star Trek Beyond does best is synthesize what makes The Original Series so special with what makes the new generation (at least the 2009 reboot—while I don’t harbor the outright disdain some have for Into Darkness, it’s not very good) so damn much fun. It has action, heady genre themes, and, perhaps best of all, it doubles down on the hard sci-fi edge its predecessors too often lack.
While the last two films revolve so heavily around Earth, Star Trek Beyond finally finds the crew of the Enterprise in the midst of their iconic five-year mission. Exploring new worlds and boldly going, home is nowhere in sight—a fact the film actually uses this to its advantage.
Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) take center stage in Star Trek Beyond. Their various relationships are well rendered and in earnest, and their quip-y, pointed, loaded dialogue drives much of the movie and provides the tone and humor, as well as deeper concerns. This charm that allows the pace to breeze past stickier moments. Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, also wrote the script wit Doug Jung, and his ability to balance humor with dire consequences and emotional payout shines through.
This focus does mean that some of the side players are largely left out and relegated to minor roles of little consequence. Uhura (ZoeSaldana), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) all have nice moments, but they’re pushed too far to the fringes to have much impact.
Jayla (Sofia Boutella) is a fantastic new addition to the canon, though Idris Elba’s new villain, Krall, is the weakest spot in Star Trek Beyond’s armor. His motivation and characterization are strained and dubious at best.
New director Justin Lin definitely shows his Fast and Furious pedigree, kicking the action into overdrive at every opportunity. For the most part, this strategy works—the scene where Krall’s forces swarm the Enterprise like a wave of space bees is great stuff. But there are swings and misses—one big action/music cue is laughable to the point of distraction.
Overall, Star Trek Beyond is an entertaining sci-fi rocket ride into deep space. It even comes with an extra emotional kick in the stomach as we lost both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin recently.
Not as massive a hit at the studio hoped, Star Trek Beyond has done moderate business worldwide. Apparently it’s enough of a haul that Paramount started teasing another movie (maybe with more Chris Hemsworth—they probably locked the pre-Thor Aussie into a multi-picture deal on the cheap and want to use that to their advantage while they can). Maybe the rebooted franchise may have more left in the tank than we thought. [Grade: B]