Review: Star Trek Beyond
PLOT: While on a rescue mission, the USS Enterprise finds itself under attack from a vicious new enemy. Their only hope is to work together and stop him from using a powerful weapon that is capable of mass destruction.
REVIEW: The modern summer blockbuster is usually filled to the brim with explosions and intense action sequences. All too often the filmmakers are more concerned with heavy loading CGI and effects, forgetting that we still need to care about the characters. With Justin Lin from THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise stepping aboard the USS Enterprise, you’d expect the same from STAR TREK BEYOND. And then it begins. With an engaging opening sequence involving a not so menacing foe, we find that there is uncertainty in the future. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is trying to figure out where he fits in the universe, and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is questioning his relationship with the Enterprise as well as Uhura (Zoe Saldana). This feels in many ways like the original series. And yes, that is a compliment. At a swift two hour running time, this engaging continuation manages to mix action, humor and surprising depth when necessary.
STAR TREK BEYOND finds Kirk in a bit of a personal crisis. His birthday is coming up and he is unsure of where he actually belongs in the Federation. While on a search and rescue mission to help a lost ship, the Enterprise falls under attack from a powerful new enemy. As their ship is ripped apart, the crew attempts to escape but only a small handful manage to avoid capture. All of this revolves around a relic, one that is part of a powerful weapon that could destroy millions of lives. As simple as this may sound, the battle for unity and peace is something that a mysterious creature named Krall (Idris Elba) will fight against. It is up to Kirk, Spock, McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Chu) and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) to stop Krall from creating massive devastation.
With a script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung (who makes an appearance in the film as well), you get a real sense that they were trying to return to the magic of the original series. While much of the script has the crew separated - Bones and Spock are forced to work together while Uhura finds herself in the company of Krall - the statement on the importance of unity is clear. With the help of an alien that Scotty meets when he lands is this strange new environment, the crew must find each other and work together to save not only their own, but possibly the entire universe. What was refreshing about BEYOND is that they avoid just relying on the action. The humanity element is a major force that runs deep within.
The cast does a fine job returning to this universe. Pine fits comfortably into his role as a commander of the fleet, and the rest of the cast continue to bring these characters to life. When it comes to those new to the franchise, Elba creates an intriguing new villain, and Sofia Boutella (KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE) brings us an exciting new ally, one who has faced off against Krall before. Boutella’s Jaylah finds a playful connection after she discovers Scotty who was able to escape the clutches of Krall and his minions. The two actors are terrific together Watching the crew find their way to each other after a devastating crash was all the more gripping because the audience is able to connect to them. Thankfully, they don’t simply rely on mind-blowing action and mayhem.
Considering Lin has spent the past few years bringing us over-the-top car chases with Vin Diesel at the wheel, you’d think the action would be far more overpowering. Yet he puts as much time into the dialogue and making this a personal tale of teamwork. By tearing the cast apart, the personal journey they must make is all the more important. Of course when the attack on the Enterprise occurs, as well as the final battle, Lin handles it incredibly well. There is a moment or two where it is difficult to see thanks to unusually dim lighting, especially in one particular sequence. You can even find a couple of abrupt edits that don't seem to fit very well with the rest of the film. However that is a minor issue that is quickly forgotten when Lin turns the intensity up a few notches.
Justin Lin has given fans an impressive sequel. The director makes for a thrilling experience, which is all the more gripping since the story is just as important as the explosions. The basic premise of them stranded on a strange world desperate to band together to fight a deadly enemy works. In fact, most of the images he presents add to the awe of it all. Lin offers up a few extraordinary sequences and gets creative with how he views a ship taking off into space. Or by using a characters reflection as he looks out into the brilliantly visualized world, there is a quiet visual power that is just as effective as the battles. It also helps that the score by Michael Giacchino adds a level of grandeur with his use of an orchestra and choir.
STAR TREK BEYOND is not nearly as loaded with action as the trailers may suggest, but that is a good thing. The human element is just as important, with a script that manages to bring an equal dose of thrills, drama and even comedic elements - not surprising coming from Pegg. And on a personal note, it is bittersweet knowing that we’ve lost both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin since STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. With only a couple of minor flaws, Lin has continued where J.J. Abrams left off and it’s oftentimes a spectacular experience, one that isn’t afraid to place the focus on both the human and the blockbuster element.
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