Ok let me tell you everything you need to know about my thoughts/overall experience with Star Trek so that you can decide right away if my opinion on the new movie is something you can take seriously. My first real experience with Star Trek was the 2009 movie. Before then, I saw Star Trek V when it first came out and hated it, but then I was young and probably didn’t understand a single thing that was happening in that movie. I have seen the first 2 seasons of The Next Generation and just a few days ago watched Star Trek First Contact for the first time. I think I also played one of the video games for the original NES and thought it was ok. That’s about it. The only reason I went to go see the 2009 reboot was because my girlfriend (now wife) is huge into Star Trek and dragged me to it. I ended up really enjoying it, probably for a lot of the reasons some fans did not. I even enjoyed Into Darkness, which apparently at some point the entire internet agreed is terrible. And hey, not surprisingly, I also enjoyed Star Trek Beyond.
I remember that the initial movie trailer definitely had some people concerned. Set to the tune of Sabotage by the Beastie Boys and featuring very little actual dialogue, it did seem to indicate that Justin Lin (the director of Fast and Furious, taking over for JJ Abrams as director) was going to take a much more, well, Fast and Furious approach to this film. It turns out those fears weren’t completely justified as there may be less action in this film than in the previous 2. Though Sabotage does indeed make an appearance in what might have been my favourite scene in the movie (though you should know that Sabotage is one of my all-time favourite songs).
The story sees the crew of the Entreprise facing off against Krull (Idris Elba) a mysterious villain with a vendetta against the Federation. Krull and his army of insect ship like things that fly around in a violent swarm, completely obliterate the Enterprise in the first act (not a spoiler if you’ve seen a single piece of marketing for the movie) and leave the crew stranded on a strange planet where they have to regroup, reship, and figure out what Krull is up to.
The crew spends much of the movie divided, with people paired up once they crash land on the new planet. Of the various pairings (Kirk and Chekov, Bones and Spock, Sulu and Uhura, Scottie and new comer Jaylah), Bones and Spock fare the best, providing much of the film’s humour with their friendly, yet antagonistic banter. I also quite liked Jaylah, who is a tough and appealing addition to the series. She quickly makes an impression and Sofia Boutella (who also played the woman with knives for legs in last year’s Kingsman) brings a great physicality to the role. Some characters are definitely given more time to shine than others (it felt like Sulu and Uhuru were largely absent for much of the film) but nobody is truly short changed and each major character is allowed their hero moment.
Krull unfortunately does not make for a very compelling villain. Elba is of course terrific, managing to bring some menace to the role even though he’s covered in pounds of make-up. There’s just not a lot that’s interesting about the character and when you finally find out why he’s doing what he’s doing, there’s still just not a lot that’s interesting about the character. The movie spends more time talking about how evil he is than actually showing it and as a result, the stakes never truly felt as high as they have in previous films.
The action sequences are definitely a highlight, with the destruction of the Enterprise being especially impressive. The scene is given time to breathe, really showing the situation unfold as the characters slowly realize there may be no other alternative than to abandon ship. The destruction of the Enterprise is not a new idea, but it’s lent a sense of gravity and escalation here that really works. Plus, there’s that Sabotage scene I mentioned earlier which definitely got me all goosebump-y.
Not being familiar with the original series, I’m not sure how much this connects there, but it truly felt like a new episode of Star Trek. The characters have small arcs but they aren’t in a hugely different situation at the end, nor has the narrative taken things in a crazy new direction. Largely this movie serves as a way to spend more time with these characters, and I was certainly up for that. The performances remain great across the board, with no weak link in the chain. And yes, it is incredibly sad to see Anton Yelchin in one of his last performances here, but he of course is terrific.
Star Trek Beyond is a step above (I originally wrote a step beyond with no awareness but I couldn’t let that stand) Into Darkness but cant quite hit the heights set by the 2009 reboot, if only because I had no expectations for that one prior to seeing it. It’s a fun two hours spent with enjoyable characters and some impressive action scenes. I will be right there again for the next one!