Surprisingly enough, the hype surrounding Star Trek Beyond was surprisingly low this year, which makes me think was probably because of three reasons: a) either people just didn’t like the trailer and were convinced that it was gonna be no good by those YouTubers who analyze every frame from a three minute trailer as if it is was in fact the actual movie. b) they were disappointed at the lack of Star Trek in Star Trek Into Darkness or c) they heard that Justin Lin, the director of those dumb as nails Fast & Furious movies was taking over as director from J.J Abrams, who pretty much resurrected the franchise for the 21st Century.
But guess what? Star Trek Beyond happens to be very good. Why? Because it actually feels like a Star Trek movie.
The story picks up some time after ‘Into Darkness’, when the Enterprise gets a distress signal from outer space, only to find out they are being lured into a trap set by the villainous alien tyrant Krall (Idris Elba drenched in reptilian makeup) who wants something important in the possession of the Enterprise. Separated on a mysterious planet, Kirk and his crew try to find a way out while also hoping to counter the threat of Krall.
Many people have referred to Beyond as an extended Star Trek episode, which is precisely what makes it so good. For me, Into Darkness felt too much like a generic action movie set in space and the film’s supposed surprise twists weren’t nearly as surprising as they probably set out to be. But with Beyond, it doesn’t feel like it’s a movie that wants to be an ambitious, effects heavy, ‘throw everything but the kitchen sink’at the viewer kind of summer blockbuster. And while, it does have its fair share of those effects heavy action sequences it’s focus is more towards the show’s original spirit of exploring space and going into the unknown as well as the characters and the story.
I think it’s also worth noting that a significant creative change also helps this movie with Simon Pegg, Doug Jung and director Justin Lin taking over Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and director J.J Abrams respectively. I’ve hated almost all the Fast & Furious movies except Fast 5, but surprisingly Lin’s experience directing all those bonehead car chases has given him…experience. And somehow that translates well here, with almost all the action sequences. He clearly has a fresher and better looking visual style than Abrams and I have special respect for him for directing one sequence (also the best in the movie) to the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage.
The script also happens to be really good, written by Pegg and Jung, which balances enough seriousness and space-talk with light-hardheartedness, while also giving good character moments.
And I think all the performances work as well. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are good as usual, but Karl Urban is given some time to shine this time around and he does a pretty good job of making the most of it, and turning in a compelling performance. Furthermore, Elba’s Krall is probably the best villain of this franchise thus far. The makeup and Elba’s voice make him come across as genuinely menacing and the actual ideas that drive his character actually make sense as well, which is why he’s such a worthy adversary to Kirk and his crew.
Star Trek Beyond is both a straight-up homage to the original series and a slick piece of popcorn entertainment. Easily one of the highlights of the 2016 summer blockbuster season. I had a great time with this.