In the past couple days, I re-watched 2009’s Star Trek and the 2013 sequel to it, Star Trek Into Darkness, just to see if I remember them fondly for the right reasons. Shockingly, I ended up coming out appreciating Into Darkness more than the initial ’09 reboot, primarily because J.J. Abrams played for comedy an awful lot in the first go-round. And despite the obvious sideways-remake elements borrowed directly from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, I felt Abrams understood the story and more importantly the villain better with Into Darkness. I still have no previous attachment to Star Trek prior to the rebooted movies, so the fact that they didn’t explore as much in Into Darkness didn’t bother me either. I’m sure I’ll get many in-depth explanations as to how wrong I am for thinking Star Trek Into Darkness is not only enjoyable, but a good film, and I look forward to hearing it. But onto what’s “Beyond” said “Darkness.”
It’s fair to say that the trailers for the 3rd entry in the officially-titled Kelvin Timeline movies haven’t been all that gripping. They showed us to expect decent space and terrestrial sequences with a rather current soundtrack maybe, accompanied by some rather cliched action dialogue (“Hold onto something!” – Sulu; “Let’s never do that again.” – Kirk). Regardless, I still felt an elevated level of excitement for this 3rd movie just because this cast’s chemistry and the charisma of the 1st 2 movies in this series are off the charts. And the most crucial part to these new Star Trek’s has been the characters, regardless of what anyone else says. That being said, Beyond certainly delivers more of what we loved in the first 2 in terms of character work. It makes complete sense that after 3 years in a 5-year mission, a person would become burned out with the daily routine, despite being surrounded by beautiful space (which isn’t all that rare for this generation anyway). So seeing Chris Pine’s James Kirk or Zachary Quinto’s Spock traversing these quadrants of space and feeling lost or without purpose worked for me. This movie became more about a personal journey for the crew and how much they lean on each other very early on in the story.
As it relates to older Star Trek movies or TV series (I’ve seen a few of the movies for reference), they include things that were just straight up missing in the last 2 movies. Kirk is making entries into the Captain’s log and having a drink in the Enterprise’s lounge with Karl Urban’s Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. These are familiar sights to long-time fans and I think the personal moments will be appreciated by those individuals. What the newer fans will appreciate is the thrilling action sequences, which are captured effortlessly by director Justin Lin, who at this point has to feel like an action movie expert after consistently delivering actually-watchable and fun Fast and Furious sequels. The distinct difference here though between the Fast franchise and this one, is the writing of Simon Pegg and his writing partner Doug Jung in this entry. These are 2 guys who really fully understood the characters in this universe and how each relationship should be portrayed. The writers even give us couplings we never had in this rebooted series yet. We have Bones and Spock together rather often here, in what will probably be everyone’s new favorite friendship even over Spock and Kirk, which is supposed to be the actual foundation of the series. These 2 actors just clicked in their scenes together. We saw Simon Pegg’s Scotty land on a foreign planet all by his lonesome and introduce us to Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah, who is an ultimate scavenging badass (probably sounds familiar *cough* Force Awakens). Jaylah was a welcome completely original addition to the team, as much as Idris Elba is as a villain.
Elba plays Krall, whose motivations are really not explained until the last 20 minutes of the movie. It might feel a bit taxing to sit through the entire movie waiting for a reason to understand why the villain wants to find a weapon of some kind and destroy everything, which aren’t that original, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and this type of adversarial story is tried and true, even in the Star Trek universe. But when you do find out the reasoning to Krall’s actions, man, does Elba bring it hard. That shouldn’t surprise anyone though. The man is unstoppable in terms of acting ability. He’s a juggernaut. Just go watch the TV series Luther for further proof of that.
Some other items from the movie I felt worth mentioning were the thought-out designs in the varying environments. And I’m referring to environments that were even on the same planet. I also really dug how this movie struck a fine line between the jokes and the heaviness of what’s happening. It wasn’t just back to back jokes that I felt 2009’s Star Trek delivered, but it certainly wasn’t a completely humorless, joyless DC movie. It found that middle ground rather well, which is another thing to commend writers Pegg and Jung on. Also before I forget, keep an eye out for Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” as hinted at every so subtlely in the first trailer. It may not have worked in the trailer, but rocks seriously hard in the movie. (Yes, “subtlely” was sarcasm.)
For me, I’d place Beyond above Star Trek and Into Darkness in terms of the balance between Star Trek movie, action sci-fi movie, and providing character interactions we hadn’t seen before in this rebooted film series. This summer movie season has been experiencing a pretty heavy drought in terms of blockbuster quality since Captain America: Civil War, but I’d say the rain has arrived by way of Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond. It also felt great seeing the late Anton Yelchin in his last time playing Chekov, a role you can tell he was more than happy to play in these 3 movies.