Up until a few years ago, audiences typically didn’t associate Star Trek with action. After J.J. Abrams stepped into the director’s chair, however, the franchise became an exhilarating rollercoaster ride. Given the critical and financial success of Abrams’ two films, many would argue that this was a step in the right direction. Yet, lifelong Trekkers continue to argue that Star Trek isn’t about action. When it was announced that Justin Lin of the Fast & Furious franchise would be helming Star Trek Beyond, diehard fans became concerned – after all, Fast Five and Furious 6 are certainly entertaining flicks, but they’re not exactly what you’d call a thinking man’s blockbuster.
This third installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise is perhaps the most action-packed entry, which might upset the purists. If you’re a mainstream moviegoer looking for a fun time, though, Star Trek Beyond delivers the goods and then some. While matters can get a little chaotic at times, the action set pieces here are consistently inventive, exciting, and just an all around blast. At the same time, the filmmakers set out to do more than just make some noise.
Action aside, Lin understands what Star Trek is really all about: characters. Star Trek Beyond is one of the franchise’s best ensemble pieces ever, putting each major cast member to effective use. On this voyage, the USS Enterprise crew is attacked and marooned on a planet that looks speciously like the Forest Moon of Endor. Their nemesis this time around is Krall, played by Idris Elba, an alien commander trying to obtain a powerful artifact, which we’ll just call a plot device.
The entire crew is separated as Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is paired up with Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin), Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) tends to a wounded Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is taken hostage along with Hikaru ‘Oh My’ Sulu (John Cho). By breaking the group up into multiple couples, we get some great character development, interactions, and dialog. Even if the crew finds their way back to each other, however, it’s possible that this may be their final mission together. After three years of boldly exploring the universe, both Kirk and Spock seem ready to settle down with cushier jobs. Deep down, though, neither can deny their true calling.
The screenplay truly respects these characters and gets everyone’s personalities down to a T, which is no surprise considering that the film was written by Doug Jung and Scotty himself: Simon Pegg. In addition to the characters we know and love, Jung and Pegg also introduce a few new players. The standout is an unrecognizable Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, an alien scavenger who fortunately isn’t solely there to provide fan service. Elba also makes for a menacing baddie, although Krall’s backstory and motivation are kind of muddled. Then again, that’s the case with every Star Trek villain outside of Khan.
If there’s one drawback here, it’s that Star Trek Beyond doesn’t really further the narrative or break new ground for the franchise. Considering that the word, “Beyond,” is in the title, one would expect the film to take us where no man has gone before, but that’s not the case. At one point Kirk says that his adventure have seemingly become episodic and the same could be said about the movie itself. As a standalone Star Trek picture, though, Beyond once again blends dazzling action with timeless characters while also working in a touching nod to the late Leonard Nimoy. On the whole, the franchise continues to live long and prosper.