Star Trek Beyond is a respectful addition to the film franchise paying tribute to the old without diminishing the newer canon.
When Justin Lin, the Taiwan born director mostly known for his successful run with The Fast and The Furious franchise, was announced to be the new director for the next installment in the retconned Star Trek films… many fans were understandably apprehensive. The tire burning, caper series was never remembered for being of academy nominated caliber and more for its explosive fun, classic action film bravado. Fast forward to a week before Star Trek Beyond’s debut and the general consensus is that the film was quite possibly one of the best Trek films to date. Could this be true or is this just a case of lowered expectations being graciously refuted?
Where JJ Abrams’ Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness seem to be homages to the film series that started in 1979, Beyond is a steadfast love letter to the original Star Trek television series of the 60s like no other film in the franchise (including the classic films). This should not come as a surprise as Lin has showcased his ability to make a franchise shine without lens flare, remain faithful to its own mythology and build on its own continuity with significant character growth in the Fast and Furious films. Add in actor Simon Pegg who serves double duty as a writer and is also known for his attention to detail in his own works, and you now have a film that is successfully fun, funny and a thrilling science fiction ride that is impressive without being a universe ending blow-hard of a block buster. It is simple without being dumbed down and should be enjoyable to all movie goers. That being said, the plethora of “Easter Eggs” in the film serve to add to the joy that is Beyond for the Trekkies or Trekkers out there. From plots to jokes, CGI sequences to the background music for some of the fight scenes, the movie is a spectacular homage to the classics.
Although, I may seem to pin the success wholly on Lin, I will not discredit the writing in any form as Pegg and Doug Jung bring together a story line that is extremely close to perfection. All the characters have equal shares of interesting showcases. Whether they were thrust into situations that are new to each or paired together with other characters you wouldn’t normally see them paired with, this aids in bringing out great, diverse performances from the entire cast, new to old. From Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock dealing with the aspects of fate and destiny, to the USS Enterprise itself becoming a major character in the movie as its destruction is unlike any other that has been filmed before. Normally, the ship either explodes in grand fashion or plummets into a planet in fiery glory in a five minute sequence. In Beyond, the Enterprise shows just how much damage it can take and still keep fighting to survive over a long grueling sequence for those of us who view the ship as their personal “Arc of the Covenant”. Even when she is down, as Kirk says, “She still has a couple of surprises”.
If I had any complaints, it would be trivial. Before viewing the movie, Beyond was being touted as an excellent action film, but I will not agree with that description as it is more of an excellent film all on its own, highlighting story over fighting sequences. I could have used a little bit more back story with newcomers Jaylah and Krall, played by Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba respectively, but both give such assertive performances that it isn’t truly needed so much as it would be a great addition to see on a director’s cut. I could complain about little things like plot holes or some bad editing, but to be honest, I found myself totally thrown into the entertainment. Maybe upon more viewings, I will see the missteps or the errors, but for a one time viewing, this film is simply an accomplishment for fans and new fans alike.
All in all, Star Trek Beyond is a must see for those of you who have become a fan of the new series, or have been lifelong fans since the days that we finally found interest in something that our parents could share in. The Trek series has always been a bit of a “thinking man’s” sci-fi fantasy and Beyond continues to build upon that regard. The 3D is good, but neither adds nor takes away from the experience. Children should find this movie interesting as it moves at a pace that is smooth and engaging.