Star Trek Beyond is a highly entertaining summer blockbuster for fans and casual moviegoers that pays respect to the franchise legacy.
Star Trek Beyond reunites audiences with the Kelvin Timeline's U.S.S. Enterprise crew three years into their five year deep space mission, where life in the Final Frontier has become monotonous for the ship's captain, James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine). Wondering what exactly they are trying to achieve flying through the infinite realm of outer space, Kirk secretly applies for the position of Fleet Admiral at Starfleet's new Yorktown space station, seeing it as his way to achieve a life of purpose. Meanwhile, his first officer Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) has doubts of his own after receiving upsetting news that impacts him personally.
Before either can make a final decision on their futures, the Enterprise is called into action once again, tasked with rescuing a crew stranded on the planet Altamid. Once the ship approaches the world, they are viscously attacked by the villain Krall (Idris Elba) and his swarm of "bees," who are after a biological weapon to wage war on the Federation. The Enterprise is destroyed in the assault, with many of the crew kidnapped by Krall and taken to his base of operations. Those who managed to avoid capture must work on locating each other - so they can save their friends and get off the planet.
Arriving three years after the divisive (but positively received) Star Trek Into Darkness, Beyond was under intense scrutiny in the months leading up to its release. The film underwent a massive overhaul in its creative team just weeks before production started, with Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) stepping in for the departed Roberto Orci, and co-star Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty again) writing a new script with Doug Jung. In addition, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, adding another layer of pressure on the film to deliver. Fortunately, Star Trek Beyond is a highly entertaining summer blockbuster for fans and casual moviegoers that pays respect to the franchise legacy.
Unsurprisingly, one of the movie's greatest strengths is its cast, now firmly established and comfortable in their roles. Pine and Quinto undergo the most substantial arcs of the returning characters, delivering well-rounded performances that drive home Beyond's emotional themes of self-discovery in ways that are ultimately rewarding. Karl Urban also shines as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, responsible for most of Beyond's comic relief. Urban and Quinto spend a majority of their screen time together, and the banter between the two is amusing, as their mismatched personalities are the source of several laughs. The rest of the Enterprise crew - Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), and Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) - each have their standout moments, even if they don't all have as deep a personal story as Kirk or Spock. In particular, Chekov is given more to do this time around, making Beyond a fitting sendoff for the late actor.
The first two Kelvin Timeline installments were directed by J.J. Abrams, so many were curious to see how newcomer Lin would jell with the formula Abrams crafted with his films. The Fast & Furious veteran proves to be a great fit for Star Trek. Unsurprisingly, he has an excellent handle on his action set pieces, creating some of the biggest and boldest sequences in the new films. It was always apparent that Beyond would have plenty of genre thrills, but it also has more than enough substance to compliment the style. The script by Pegg and Jung certainly helps in this regard, as the story moves along at a brisk pace and balances out the action with good character moments. Despite the dire stakes the crew finds themselves in, Beyond is also arguably the most humorous installment of the rebooted series, making it a fun adventure through a strange new world. Compared to some of the other blockbusters this season, Beyond is a breath of fresh air.
Both of Beyond's new principal cast members, Elba and Sofia Boutella, are welcome additions to the franchise. Krall continues the Kelvin Timeline's tradition of intimidating threats, as Elba is very menacing in the part and lends it a sense of gravitas that another actor may not have. Conceptually, Krall is one of the more interesting Star Trek characters, but the philosophical angle of his character isn't quite as developed. He's arguably underwritten at points, but he still compliments the narrative and the idea of deconstructing Star Trek very well. Krall isn't overused, which makes the evildoer all the more effective, and where Pegg and Jung take the character is ultimately fascinating, creating an intriguing dichotomy with Kirk that pays off in the end.
Boutella is perhaps the breakout star of Beyond as Jaylah, a new alien ally who aids the Enterprise crew. Those who saw the actress in Kingsman: The Secret Service know she can carry an action scene, and Boutella arguably tops her earlier performances. Not only is Jaylah handy in a fight, her connection with the larger narrative gives Beyond another emotional hook to explore, making her role a very meaningful one. As the story progresses, Jaylah develops a convincing chemistry with the Enterprise crew, particularly Scotty (the two bond over engineering). Boutella is sure to become a fan-favorite, giving moviegoers a compelling and memorable heroine.
Star Trek Beyond is playing in IMAX, IMAX 3D, and standard 3D. While the decision to purchase a premium format ticket will be up to the individual viewer, Beyond is very much worth the extra investment. The film is grand in scope and visually stunning, with striking locations that pop off the screen. Watching Beyond with the benefit of 3D will make it a more immersive experience, placing the viewer in space or on vibrant worlds, including Yorktown station and the planet Altamid. Even those who aren't necessarily fond of 3D should find something to enjoy with the upgrade, as Beyond is a tentpole that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
In the end, Star Trek Beyond is a rousingly entertaining ride that gets the franchise back on track just in time for Star Trek 4's arrival soon. Given the circumstances of its road to the big screen, what Lin, Pegg, and Jung were able to accomplish is impressive, and the end result is something that rivals (or bests) the quality of Beyond's predecessors. There's something for both newcomers and longtime fans to latch on to, as the script pays homage to the legacy of Star Trek in subtle and touching ways. Luckily, the 50th anniversary will be an occasion to celebrate, and Star Trek should live long and prosper for years to come.
Star Trek Beyond is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs for 120 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
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