Star Trek Beyond review
A separated crew
Back in 2013, the sequel to the Star Trek reboot (for lack of a better term) came out to critical jeering (but not here, read our 2013 review: http://www.immersiononline.net/film/Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Review) due to the fact that Bad Robot (director/ producer J.J. Abrams and company) and Universal Studios did a terrible job of hiding/ concealing the sequel’s “twist” that many fans correctly predicted months before the film hit cinema screens. However, the movie still opened at number one and became the second-highest-grossing film in history adapted from television with a domestic gross of $228 million (Star Trek 2009 is number one with $257 million). 2016 has arrived with another sequel to the same reboot in Star Trek Beyond, continuing the mission hinted before the credits of Into Darkness. Although Beyond will go down as yet another sequel in a summer stuffed with sequels, at least it stands as one of the better choices this season with a fast pace, terrific 3D spectacle, and enough character development to help the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise grow into the soldiers they’ll need to become if they are to stop their latest threat.
In the middle of their five year charter to explore deep space, Star Trek Beyond begins with the U.S.S. Enterprise and crew stopping at a starbase designated “Yorktown” for supplies and the company of civilization before moving on to their next adventure. Shore leave without the shore. During this respite, the Federation receives a distress signal from a lone captain who claims her crew has crash-landed on a nearby planet and that the ship is stranded. Kirk and crew head out on a rescue mission before their vacation time ends and fly into a quagmire they never expected. The plot has a simple enough narrative, certainly nothing new, but it’s the character development in Beyond that sets it apart from the first two entries.
Director Justin Lin (“True Detective,” Fast Five) takes the reins from J.J. Abrams, who directed the first couple films in the franchise. Thanks to Lin, the audience notices almost immediately how the lack of lens flares helps to keep the viewer’s disbelief suspended. Abrams made some phenomenal films in the last decade; however, he can’t help but reference the camera at will. Lin isn’t the only big change for the cast and crew. As producers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman lead new, individual endeavors, it’s up to Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) to co-write the new adventure in which he also co-stars. Pegg, Lin, and co-writer Doug Jung (“Dark Blue,” “Banshee”) create a lighter atmosphere for Beyond when compared to the entry that directly preceded it. How many opportunities does Captain Kirk get to stunt around on a vintage motorcycle? Lin’s Fast & Furious experience takes him far in the newest sci-fi blockbuster.
There’s some familiar territory in Beyond that knocks it down a peg or two in terms of quality in addition to the positive changes made in the franchise’s direction. The first, most obvious example happens toward the film’s climax when a familiar music selection, the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” is chosen to play over an action sequence. Abrams implemented the same song for a chase sequence during Captain Kirk’s childhood in his 2009 reboot. What’s most annoying is that Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” gets cut off earlier in the film and would have served a more apropos function during the climactic battle if not only to bring the song back to the big screen after last surfacing in 1989 for Do the Right Thing. Another unwelcome similarity lies in the villain. Like Benedict Cumberbatch from Into Darkness, Beyond boasts a talented British stage thespian for an antagonist in Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nation). Elba plays the bad guy Krall with bitterness and purpose, but eventually follows a remarkably similar vengeful arc to Cumberbatch’s Khan by the time all is said and done—even their specific motivations come from the love of their crew.
Despite the familiar empathetic villain tropes, the returning cast provides plenty of heart and wit. Although it’s the late actor Anton Yelchin’s (Charlie Bartlett, Alpha Dog) final finished film before his untimely death last month, Yelchin’s Chekov gets plenty of screen time with star Chris Pine’s (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, upcoming Wonder Woman) Captain Kirk when the crew gets displaced. The Chekov and Kirk scenes bring about a new character, Jaylah, another stranded warrior seeking vengeance from Krall. Zoë Saldana (Columbiana, Avatar) and John Cho (the Harold & Kumar trilogy) also share a few scenes together as Uhura and Sulu. Perhaps separated the farthest from the main crew, Uhura and Sulu must prove brave if they are to survive their predicament and lead fellow captives of Krall. Bones and Spock steal the show as a couple of castaways simply trying to stay alive and keep sane. Karl Urban (Dredd, Pete’s Dragon) and Zachary Quinto (“American Horror Story,” Snowden) trade barbs, wisecrack, and support each other as the perpetually frustrated Bones and ever-logical Spock. The two doctors make their way across a seemingly unpopulated landscape as one of them bleeds from a large wound.
The Star Trek franchise clearly has plenty of life left in it as it won the box office for a third opening weekend, topping the box office bomb of Ice Age 5 or 6 or whatever. Many experts picked the animated franchise to secure another number one victory at the box office, but the viewers have spoken and what they’re saying is that live-action sequels are more anticipated than animated ones. Unless you’re Finding Dory, animated sequels have run into trouble finding an audience to give rise to The Secret Life of Pets or The Angry Birds Movie. The success of Star Trek Beyond continues to prove that established live-action studio blockbusters will always have an audience at home or abroad.