By Jack Dignan
While many franchises fail to live on for more than a few years, Star Trek is one of the few franchises that just refuses to stop, and that is most definitely a good thing. The franchise turns 50 this year, its legacy spanning throughout books, films, shows and games, and it doesn't seem to be stopping, with a fourth film in the rebooted series recently confirmed and a new TV show airing next year. The last two reboots were, in my opinion, fantastic, and with a new director at the helm, Star Trek Beyond, the thirteenth feature film, has a lot going for it. The first trailer had me convinced that this film was going to bomb, but recent marketing changed my mind about that, and now, after having seen the film, I can safely say it blew away all expectations I had for it.
Picking up three years into a five year journey, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is still commanding the Starship Enterprise, along with the help of his very large crew, most notably consisting of Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and a few others. When voyaging through space, the Enterprise is attacked by an alien known as Krall (Idris Elba), who takes Kirk's crew captive and destroys his ship, forcing everybody to evacuate onto a nearby planet. It's up to Kirk and the few crew members not yet captured to find out what Krall wants, put a stop to it and save his crew, but this may not be as easy as it sounds.
While it didn't bother me, many Star Trek fans, or Trekkies, weren't too fond of how the last two films didn't necessarily feel like the classic Star Trek they know and love, and that's understandable. It was a revamped, action packed reboot of a classic series, and it worked. Star Trek Beyond, however, should prove a much more rewarding watch for those disappointed by J.J. Abrams' handling of the franchise. This new installment is a perfect mix of the old and new, definitely feeling like something right out of the original series, all while maintaining the fun and excitement of this new series.
Right from the get go, this film is a tonne of fun. With a plot that constantly moves forward, and characters with investing stories to be told, Star Trek Beyond never has a dull moment. It's explosive, fast and completely riveting, all the way up until the closing credits. It may not be as action heavy as the last two films, but it's certainly a lot more character driven, and these are some wonderful characters to be stuck with for two hours. Not all of them are given an awful lot to do, especially the ones being held prisoner, but they all get their moment in the spotlight.
The two most noteworthy new additions are Idris Elba, who plays this film's antagonist, and Sofia Boutella, the Kingsman star who lends a helping hand as a new alien hero. Krall, the villain, has a very intimidating presence, and his design is certainly that of an antagonist, and while Idris Elba gives a brilliant and menacing performance, and his actions sure are terrible, I didn't buy into his motives. They were explained way too late for me to really care, and even when they were, only one aspect of it really gripped me.
As for Jaylah, she's yet another well designed alien who certainly knows how to kick ass. She's fun and developed, even if some of her dialogue can feel a little clunky at times and she just so happens to miraculously speak English for no reason whatsoever. Her character interacts with a lot of primary crew members, and she fits right in, adding to the story and helping to further it along, excluding the film's third act where she kind of disappears for a little while, just watching as everything unfolds before her. But that happens with a lot of the characters, as this third act, while not necessarily personal, really focuses in on the dynamic between Krall and Kirk.
Stepping into the directors seat this time around is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the seven Fast & Furious movies, as well as a couple of episodes of True Detective Season 2. While his filmography is certainly a mixed bag, he proves himself worthy of handling a Star Trek film, as it's a very well directed visual treat. The effects are great and the cinematography, at times, is pretty damn good. With a director yet to be announced for the fourth Star Trek film, if we were to see Lin return, I would definitely not complain.
To sum up, Star Trek Beyond is a fast paced, exciting, character driven mix of the new franchise and the old. It's entertaining right from the opening scene, all the way until the closing credits, and while the villain's motives could use a little work, this latest installment in a 50 year old franchise went up and beyond all expectations that had been set.