Hmm…Maybe in this series of Star Trek movies, it’s the odd numbered ones that are better!
I went to see Star Trek Beyond the other week, going in not sure what to expect, especially since the first trailer left me a little concerned. Its impression suggested that Beyond would be nothing but action-action- action. To my delight, this is not the case. Instead, Beyond has a style that is way more in tune with the original series. Introspection is a key element, but the viewer isn’t beaten over the head with it. Like the previous Into Darkness, there is reference to the original series, but unlike Darkness, it is refreshingly subtle, sometimes humorous and most importantly, respectful. This makes Beyond far more enjoyable for old and new fans alike. (And yes, there’s plenty of action too).
The adventure opens with Kirk attempting to give a peace-offering to a race of beings who glare down at him from a cliff. His ambassador skills fail in way so comical, it’s no wonder he doubts his ability as captain, (now three years into the Enterprise mission). And Kirk isn’t alone with his doubts. Spock’s relationship with Uhura is strained, and he’s apprehensive for his future with Starfleet, especially since receiving the sad news of Spock Prime’s death.
The Enterprise answers distress signal, but it leads to trouble and threatens whole Earth in doing so. The crew finds themselves split apart, their beloved ship destroyed. This may sound like tried and true Trek trope, but it makes the characters boldly go where the two previous movies didn’t; forcing them into confrontations with their own mortality, and questioning their worth.
We see crew members paired off after they’re scattered on the harsh planet of Altmid, facing their fears together. Spock and McCoy, Kirk and Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, and most notably, Scotty and Jaylah. As they work together to find their way home, friendships become bonds and they realize that their obligations to their starship family goes well beyond duty, but to survival itself.
The cast has evolved in as any acting family would in a nearly 10-year space (!) since this reboot began. Chris Pine has grown a bit more serious and much less frat-boy into his depiction of Kirk, better fitting his character . Zachary Quinto’s reveals subtle layers of Spock as a Vulcan still learning to hide his emotions. His inner struggle leads to a very funny moment when he is injured, which leads Karl Urban’s delightful Bones to utter “My God, he’s delirious!” Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is kick-ass class at it’s best, and a strong role model for young women, as is Sofia Boutella, as the lone fighter, Jaylah. It’s bittersweet to see Anton Yelchin in his last outing as Chekov, he is as charming and as smart as ever, but hasn’t nearly enough time on screen as I wished he would. I give props to Simon Pegg, whose screenplay written with Doug Jung, gives Scotty a lot more adventure to bite into this time. They’ve also added subtle backstory to Sulu (John Cho) as we briefly see his husband and daughter. The writing team has added a lot of the warmth back into the series without being smarmy. It also deals with the the emotional tug of war that becomes an all-powerful being, as Krall (Idris Elba) has become. One suspects there more to Krall than his merciless destruction, and eventually we discover his tragic core. It’s classic Trek storytelling, with moral consequences. And yes, there’s a touching homage to Spock and the original crew too. <3
My one complaint here is a cosmetic one. Spock’s Vulcan haircut is too darn short! It needs to sprout a little more above his ears and have sharper sideburns!
Looking forward to seeing this again, and I urge all of you who have abandoned the reboot after the much shunned Darkness to come back and see how our beloved Star Trek can be true to itself again. This Star Trek has come home to its TOS roots, and I cannot think of a better way to honor the original series in its golden anniversary.