By Kyle G. King. The Star Trek canon spans an immense history of episodic television that has famously explored new life and new civilizations. And as J.J. Abrams passes the directorial torch of new age Trekking onto Justin Lin, the Fast & Furious journeyman steps forward by going backwards, towards one of Star Trek’s classic, patented and true ‘stranded on an alien planet’ tropes — a place this new Enterprise crew had yet to boldly go.
At year three out of a five year exploration of deep space, day-to-day life has begun to feel a bit perpetual for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew aboard the USS Enterprise. (“It feels… episodic,” he muses.) But after a distress call from an unknown source leads the crew into an ambush that maroons them without a ship and without each other, the team is split into groups, left to find a way to survive (and escape) a hostile and strange new world.
The strength of the bromantics between Captain Kirk and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) has embedded itself into the new Trek franchise just as it did in the original series. But a smart script, penned by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, splits the Enterprise crew into odd pairings and allows the dynamics of them to be tested in new and interesting ways. Carried more by the charisma of a magnetic and distinct cast, Star Trek Beyond stays within its orbit of familiarity, even when it tries new things. Though nobody can still find a damn thing to do with John Cho and Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban as Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy and Quinto’s Spock have a cowboy vs. scientist dichotomy that is delivered with far less ego and pretense than that of Spock and Kirk. The pair make for some of the film’s best gags. Bones and Spock triumph best when they’re left to work together, barely succeeding.
Thus has been the appeal of Star Trek for decades: interesting characters put in weird situations that could lead to action or comedy (or, when this film is at its best, both). Star Trek Beyond — as a third installment of an already unwieldy franchise — plays it safe as a hyper-aware yet still satisfying episode amidst the final frontier. It comes with a few new faces: a nearly unrecognizable Idris Elba intimidates as antagonist alien-noid Krall, a typically gruff-n-tuff agent of chaos; and an unrecognizable Sofia Boutella enters the fray as newcomer alien-warrior Jaylah. (Expect to see her again soon.) Both are fun yet needlessly trite characters thrown in during our crew’s latest voyage. Beyond promises to go somewhere, well… beyond, but ultimately it amounts to little more than than a solid two-parter you’d watch on TV. Say what you will about the first two films, but Lin’s Beyond is missing some of this new franchise’s revisionist bravado.
Nevertheless, Star Trek Beyond delivers a brand of conspicuously lens flare-less sci-fi action. As Into Darkness seemed to whack the trilogy off course, Beyond re-stabilizes the franchise without pushing it forward much. Though there are inevitably going to be those with bowl-shaped haircuts who may admit this calculated progression is wholeheartedly logical.
Directed by Justin Lin.
Produced by J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Roberto Orci.
Written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung.
Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba.
Rated PG-13 because movies rated PG don’t make money, we guess.
7.5 out of 10