In 2009, Paramount did a soft reboot of the Star Trek universe with Director J.J. Abrams and a young cast re-creating the roles originated on the original television series. Star Trek Beyond is the third film in this new series and it feels like the filmmakers are finally getting their footing.
The Federation starship Enterprise is in the third year of its five-year mission and Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling listless. He’s put in for a promotion and a new assignment. Meanwhile, his First Officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto), is feeling like he needs to serve the remaining Vulcan people and follow in the footsteps of the time-displaced Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy)—the current films take place in an alternate timeline called the Kelvin Timeline). While docked at state-of-the-art outpost Yorktown, the crew receives a plea for help from Kalara (Lydia Wilson), who has escaped from Altamid, a planet hidden in a nebula, and says her crewmates have been stranded. The Enterprise is sent to help and is immediately attacked by a horde of ships that tear the Federation ship to shreds. The leader of the attacking force, Krall (Idris Elba), boards the ship with some warriors and searches for an artifact in the Enterprise’s vault. When the ship goes down, the crew is scattered around Altamid and must work to come back together to defeat Krall and hopefully escape Altamid altogether.
Let’s start with this: Star Trek Beyond is actually a pretty good movie. After an enjoyable, but stupid, first entry and a sequel that was absolute garbage, Beyond is the first that actually feels like a Star Trek film and one that is finally forging its own path separate from what has gone before. There are certainly some dumb moments in this film, but nothing that completely tears the entire endeavor down. Directed by Justin Lin and Written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, Beyond is actually fun. The crew has jelled enough that they finally feel like they’ve earned the relationships that the filmmakers have been trying to foist on them since the first film. And make no mistake, the best part about Beyond is the cast and the fantastic chemistry they’ve built amongst themselves. When the crew gets separated, they’re paired off and each member gets to shine. Well, everyone except Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who basically gets relegated to a damsel in distress. Scotty (Pegg) has a great side story where he teams up with another stranded alien, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who kicks all kinds of ass. Sulu (John Cho) is captured with Uhura, but he doesn’t really have his moment until late in the film. Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) get thrown together and the audience gets to spend some quality time with Yelchin, who was sadly killed in a freak accident earlier this summer. However, the best pair is Spock and Bones (Karl Urban), who have deftly recreated the contentious relationship originated by Nimoy and DeForest Kelley on the show and in the original films. Krall is also a decent villain. He has a clear plan and motivation and follows through. Like the other villains in this series, he wants revenge, which isn’t all that original, but at least he has an interesting back story. There’s also a lot of nice action in this one, which makes sense considering Lin is coming off the Fast & Furious franchise.
The biggest issue with Beyond, though, is similar to the other two films in that they can’t quite stick the landing. The third act kind of falls apart with a dumb solution to a narrative problem. I don’t want to spoil it here, but yes, it involves the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” Also, there are annoying little plot holes that kind of accumulate at the end of the film to derail things a bit. It just could have been a bit tighter and better thought out. I did like the final twist at the end, though. Another problem, unfortunately, is that those deep, life-changing decisions Spock and Kirk were wrestling with are barely touched upon throughout the film, which ultimately makes them feel tacked on at the end.
The cast is really great here and are finally making these roles their own. Urban is still the absolute best of the bunch, though. His delivery is just so dead on. He’s not doing an impersonation of DeForest Kelley, but he has his inflection and mannerisms down pat. At this point, he is Bones. I also really enjoy Pine and Quinto in their roles. They are far from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, but they are making their own thing and it doesn’t feel forced or out of place. Pegg shines in this film, though if he called Jaylah “lassie” one more time, I was going to plug my ears. It makes sense that the guy who wrote the screenplay would give his character some great scenes, but as stated earlier, he also gives everyone else a moment in the sun too, except for Saldana, who doesn’t have much to do aside from pump Krall for information. Elba also does a nice job with Krall. His performance was consistent throughout the film and he’s the best villain this series has had so far. Boutella is also great as Jaylah. She does very well with the action and has some really fun scenes with Pegg.
Overall, in a lackluster summer, Star Trek Beyond is one of the better movies out there. It still doesn’t reach the heights of Wrath of Khan or Undiscovered Country, but it is easily the best entry of this new series. It puts the franchise on solid footing going forward and after the disastrous Into Darkness, that’s the best audiences could hope for.