Always imitated but never duplicated, Star Trek has stood the test of time for 50 years, and has influenced not just the vast majority of science fiction generated in the decades after its fruition (film, television, comics, and books alike), but also pop culture itself. The fingerprints of Star Trek are everywhere, similar to Star Wars (original trilogy) for example, and it seems that hardly any sci-fi movies, specifically space operas like Guardians Of The Galaxy (drop the Marvel logo and the Thanos and Howard The Duck cameos and you have a pure space opera) go by without taking influence of some magnitude from these iconic franchises, whether purposefully in homage, or unintentionally. Because of the heavy influence of these two titanic properties (especially Star Trek), familiarity between properties has become an ever increasing issue in the science fiction community. What was groundbreaking then is cliche and familiar today, so Paramount Pictures has wisely chosen to embed fresh takes on old stories in their latest cinematic franchise rather than conjuring up completely new stories that might stray too far from source material for Trekkies. To the untrained eye of some of today’s more picky audiences, the familiarity of the stories is a let-down and hindrance to their movie going experiences, yet precisely what others want out of the ongoing series (a fourth installment is on the way).
Beyond opens with Captain Kirk via Captain’s log, explaining how the crew of the Enterprise has been handling the third year of their five year voyage mentioned in the last installment. Kirk, now a year older than his father George, was when he died heroically in the riveting opening sequence of Star Trek, is contemplating his position as Captain, and his place in an unlimited universe. Spock too, is grappling with his place in the universe after *possible spoiler alert* he learns that Spock Prime has passed away (a respectful way to tie up that recurring subplot). During the Enterprise crew’s all too brief shore leave at the Yorktown Starbase, they’re called into action to rescue a ship stranded on a planet in the nebula. The Enterprise comes under attack by the brutal Krall and his formidable army, leaving crew members scattered on the planet, with some taken captive by Krall. You can probably guess what happens next.
For some (and quite absurdly) the familiarity and predictability lodged within the plot of Star Trek Beyond, is a detriment to the movie. For this life long Trekkie (and Star Wars lover), to quote Bones McCoy in Beyond, “That’s just typical.” Familiarity isn’t a bad thing in the slightest in Beyond, because rather than feeling like a clone of something it’s striving to be (Into Darkness aiming for Wrath Of Khan status), Beyond feels more akin to the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Refreshing, ridiculously fun and enjoyable, yet touching and deeply heartfelt. It feels like a return to what made the original series great, performing a delicate balancing act between humour, drama, and spectacular action set pieces, none of which take a back seat in Beyond. The cerebral nature of the series, a thinking person’s movie or show with a finely tuned focus on dialogue and relationships rather than spectacle and action, has slightly diminished with the recent movie series in favour of lens flares and big explosive blockbuster action sequences, but still remains present and potent as ever. Take note of a scene late in the movie involving a picture. I won’t say anymore, you’ll know the scene when you see it, but it works because we too have been there, we can understand the emotions of the character, and our hearts bleed for them.
Star Trek has always worked best when the characters, the relationships between them, and the fun bantering, are at the forefront. They don’t talk too much in Beyond, I saw that complaint and it makes me laugh even as I type this. I’ve seen a Star Trek episodes with too much talking, and Beyond is far from those. A random and awkward complaint that the characters dictate their feelings to the audience, is just asinine by all accounts. Communication in Star Trek is key, and with a foundation built around dimensional characters, one comes to expect that they share their feelings, thoughts, and emotions between each other…out loud. Sharing in loss, expressing confusions, and bringing to light insecurities isn’t having the characters dictate their internal struggles to the audience, it’s a heartfelt way of building further connective tissue between full blooded characters, and making us care more deeply for them. That’s far from an issue in this movie.
The action comes fast and furious (try not to groan at the pun), but is as delightful, inspired, and slick as ever, popping in the 3D screening I saw, wonderfully highlighting the eye popping visual effects director Justin Lin handles with energy and style to spare. Never for a second did the action lack spacial awareness or coherence, it’s rather easy to follow. The special effects, a fine blend of CGI and practical effects, are as convincing as anything in The Force Awakens, and the 3D adds an extra layer of excitement to it all, continually involving the audience in everything from the crashes and explosions to brawls and shootouts. It’s wickedly fun stuff!
The cast is once again in fine working order, feeling at home in their roles, comfortable compared to when the 2009 reboot was launched. Sofia Boutella as the skillful, and rather hilarious fighter Jayla, is a welcome addition to the cast and bounces off the other characters effortlessly. Idris Elba fearsome and ferocious as ever, is obviously fantastic as usual as Krall, though he’s vastly underused in Beyond. A good ten more minutes of Krall could have made him all the more intimidating, but as it sits he’s a fine villain along the lines of Nero from the 2009 reboot or the typical Marvel villain. Ronan The Accuser comes to mind. In his last major film role after his tragic passing a little over a month ago, Anton Yelchin is a delight as Pavel Chekov, and will be a sorely missed presence in future Star Trek movies. I always had fun with his quick one liners and innocent nature.
Does Star Trek Beyond boldly go where no man has gone before? Not really, it lacks the harsh darkness and risk taking of Into Darkness (thankfully), the storytelling never breaks new ground, but it’s not a bad thing because it doesn’t have to. It just has to be a traditional Star Trek movie, and it damn well is. Live long and prosper Star Trek!