Justin Lin, director of several of the Fast and Furious films, has helmed the latest Star Trek film, Star Trek: Beyond. This plays more like the old Star Trek TV series where the crew of the USS Enterprise would travel to a distant planet and encounter an adventure that would be over in an hour. Star Trek: Beyond is a good, two solid hours of just flat out fun. This is a homage to the yesteryear of Star Trek and even though it features a new director, Lin shows he is emerging as an excellent action director. This is a franchise that goes for the gusto and has hit the mark every time, so far. Since this is the Fiftieth Anniversary of Star Trek, the expectations for this film are very high. Lin has delivered.
Sent to a far away and uncharted system, the Enterprise and its crew are stranded on a barren rock while battling Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless and savage alien bent on destroying anything and everything having to do with the Federation. The Enterprise lying in ruin and most of the crew being held as prisoners by Krall and his goon squad. It is up to Captain James Tiberious Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin; RIP). For added fun there is the lovely and talented Sofia Boutella (last seen sporting razor blades for legs in Kingsmen: The Secret Service) as Jaylah. She is another alien stranded on this rock of a planet to exact revenge against Krall for killing her family. Her “House” is the USS Franklin, one of the first Federation Starships ever produced. It crashed landed on this planet and is the only hope the Enterprise crew has of stopping Krall, before it is too late.
The whole concept of Star Trek has always been intriguing for me. I have loved the films a little more than the show, but Justin Lin seems to be a Trekkie. He knows how to create a film of recycled material and keep it fresh, fun and interesting. He has done that with the Fast and Furious films, but he does an even better job here with Star Trek:Beyond. The film is just nonstop excitement and with an interesting story that takes its time developing a rather harsh villain in Krall. Idris Elba does not disappoint as the villain. He is lost under make-up but he gives Krall a distinctive meanness, but in a surprise twist towards the end, we understand why he is doing what he is doing. We still want him to fail and die because he is a despicable creature, but at least we understand his motivation. This gives the action some depth and so we care what is happening on screen, even though it is all a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo.
The acting is outstanding from everyone involved. I especially got a kick out of Sofia Boutella as the newest character added to the Star Trek universe. Boutella is vibrant and exciting as Jaylah and I do believe she will become a new regular character for future Star Trek films. This is probably a changing of the guard, so to speak, since the untimely passing of young Anton Yelchin, who passed away in June of this year. Producer J. J. Abrams has said he will NOT fill Anton Yelchin’s Chekov character, because Anton was “Irreplaceable”. I think it shows class and deference for Mr. Abrams to do this, but I think this is where the character of Jaylah will be utilized, too. The film also addresses the death of Leonard Nimoy, briefly, but with respect and dignity.
The main players all seem quite at home in their characters. Pine as Kirk still maintains his swagger and Quinto as Spock is right at home, figuring out the eccentricities of Bones and Uhura while nursing a wound in his stomach. John Cho’s Sulu has taken on quite a change. You will either accept it or not. It did not bother me and they did not beat us over the head with it. Even though George Takei (original Sulu) has expressed dislike for what the filmmakers have done with the character he played for so many years. You will be able to judge it for yourself. Saldana is still lovely, smart and feisty as ever as Uhura. Urban is his typically funny, neurotic self as Bones and Simon Pegg is also lots of fun as Scotty. Pegg also co-wrote the script with Doug Jung and they have crafted an intelligent and thoughtful script about revenge, getting older, wiser and knowing when to move on in life. It is handled with depth and humor, as always and it works so very well. The visuals and Michael Giacchino’s score compliment this film rather effectively. I would say that I find Giacchino’s Star Trek theme is becoming as familiar and popular as Star Trek’s original theme by Alexander Courage back when the TV show was on in prime time.
After a disappointing year, so far, by MANY films, it is nice to see the summer heating up with some solid films. I saw this with a very good friend today and afterwards, I told him that I thought it was the lesser of the three films, but since the first two were five star films, I guess that is not shabby at all. But upon reflection, I began to realize just how much fun I did have with this film. It surprised me with a twist at the end I never saw coming and all of the elements of this film are very well put together. So after a little bit of thought, I would say Star Trek: Beyond IS as good as its predecessors and one of the year’s best films.
Star Trek: Beyond – ***** out of 5
Star Trek: Beyond – Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, violence, language and adult situations
Star trek: Beyond – Run Time is 123 minutes
Star Trek: Beyond is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.