In 2013 I was quite disappointed by ‘Into Darkness’ and the lack of ideas in there. Time flies and now we already have the third installment in the ‘Kelvin’ timeline. I really liked how they rebooted the movies in 2009 and thought they were quite clever in how they did it. All that cleverness was missing in ‘Into Darkness’. So my hopes for new ideas were quite high with Star Trek: Beyond.
The movie starts rather slow and introspective. We learn the Enterprise is on a long term mission and listen to Kirk, while he explains what difficulties the crew is facing, when going on a mission like that. It’s not always action and most of the time quite a drag. We get a glimpse into how the daily life of the crew and the relationships between them looks like. I really liked that rather personal part. It’s rare we get that in the Star Trek movies. We get a very nice scene between Bones (Karl Urban) and Kirk (Chris Pine) sharing a drink. It’s Kirk’s birthday and he is thinking about his father and the fact that he is the same age now like his father when he died. We haven’t seen Kirk like that in quite a while and I think it makes him much more human than what we know of him from the last two movies. He’s reflecting back on the decisions he made so far.
The ship is on its way to Yorktown starbase for a well deserved shore leave. Yorktown is eye candy deluxe. I’m rarely blown away by VFX anymore but what they did there is fantastic. I didn’t expect that since I avoided spoilers for this film. We get to see quite a bit of that starbase throughout the film and it’s always eyecatching. The crew splits up and we get some personal moments for all our main guys. Again something missing in the previous two films and very welcome in this one.
While the crew is having fun or deals with personal matters Kirk gets an offer for a promotion. Chris Pine does a nice job there with his character, showing how troubled Kirk is at this point in his life. In the meantime Spock (Zachary Quinto) learns that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) died. Which makes him think about things too. Some heady stuff in the first 30 minutes of this film. I liked that! And suddenly the station receives a SOS.
Shore leave is history and the crew on its way to investigate what’s going on with the SOS. The Enterprise captures an escape pod drifting out of a nearby uncharted nebula. The rescued alien tells them that their ship is stranded on Altamid, a planet sitting in the middle of said uncharted nebula. Of course our heroes investigate further and find that planet. Only to be attacked by a swarm of ships. Hundreds of ships that, out of nowhere, attack the Enterprise. Quite the battle breaks out but ultimately the Enterprise is going down. At the same time the crew is evacuating but each pod is captured by the swarm and brought to the surface. This is also the time when we meet Krall (Idris Elba), the villain of this film. After this heavy (and maybe a little long) action part I felt a little shellshocked since there was not too much build up to that scene.
The Enterprise is pretty much destroyed but our heroes made it safely to the surface of Altamid. All of them are scattered and trying to get everyone back together. Some nice writing in that part since we get some more personal moments. Especially the part where Bones and Spock are together. Spock is injured and Bones is taking care of him. Urban and Quinto make these scenes really enjoyable. That’s when you know how much you missed these more quiet moments in the past two films. And that’s all I want to go into the story at this point. Let’s just say that Krall is after something and that there are a couple of twists throughout the film. A clash of ideologies that’s a main theme of this film.
Of the ‘Kelvin’ movies this one definitely felt the most like Star Trek. Simon Pegg and Doug Jung did a great job capturing that old flair while still keeping some heavy action setpieces in there. The dialogue and banter between the characters sounded true to the original material and never felt forced. When the crew is scattered on the planet surface the story splits up too of course. Some of the story strings naturally felt more interesting than others and when the movie cut away from the Bones/Spock part it felt a little draggy here and there. It could be because Krall surely wasn’t the most creative villain. There could have been done a little more to give him a more fleshed out character. I mean, you got Idris Elba… this guy is magic… use that magic! Unfortunately we only get glimpses of his skillset.
Much like in the first two films we have a great balance between the heroes here. Everybody gets something to do and no one is left out. So we do get our Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) moments too. Especially Chekov gets some more time and I enjoyed watching him do stuff. And that’s the heart breaker in this film. Anton Yelchin is no longer with us and he does such a fantastic job here breathing life into this character. At the end of the film Kirk gives a toast to everyone lost and at exactly the right second they cut to Checkov. Damn man that hit hard. At the same time they manage to pay a very worthy tribute to the original crew/cast. Again without it feeling forced and that’s another testament to some good and solid writing. We also get a new character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets to meet when lost on the planet. I really enjoyed her and she gets some great kickass moments as well. She has some great chemistry with all the main characters.
Let’s talk about some of the themes in this film. The most visible one is teamwork. We have this villain that is all about the ‘one man show’ path to get things done. On the other side we have the crew of the Enterprise and their teamwork approach. Overall the film is about how working together gets things done much more efficiently. Our heroes try to work together in every way possible while our villain is pretty much trying to accomplish his goal alone. I’m tempted to say that he’s not doing too badly. Still, the movie promotes teamwork and does it well enough. All the interaction between the various Enterprise crew members plays out fantastically. Beside the teamwork thing we also have a layer of old versus new in here. There are a couple of nice scenes that suggest that we are finally leaving old Star Trek behind and plan to go an own way with future stories. All that is handled respectfully and I applaud the movie for that. Still, from a personal point of view, teamwork is fine and good but often enough too many cooks ruin the show. Every now and then the lone wolf approach is totally justified.
Things that do not work so well are easy to find though. Why does everyone land in the same area of the planet?! They manage to meet up pretty easy. Another thing is the habbit of destroying the Enterprise. Or let’s just say that they are on their way of making it a habbit. They should avoid that in the next film. The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation and everybody wants to serve on that ship. The way it looks now I would be surprised if anyone would feel happy to get assigned to the Enterprise. It’s like a death sentence! Almost comical. Last but not least the villain isn’t very well written. With all the character things that work so well in this film… the villain was flat. The core of his motivation is different enough to keep him somewhat interesting. Still, with Idris Elba they had something there and missed to use it. The action, for the most part, was fun and well done. The VFX and design work… top notch. Only the face to face fight scenes had too quick cuts and for most of the time I had problems following what’s going on. On a funny comparison Star Trek: Beyond felt more like a worthy ‘Wrath Of Khan’ clone than ‘Into Darkness’ did.
A thing I wish for the next movie would be… bring Jaylah back! Sofia Boutella did a great job with this character and since we unfortunately lost Anton Yelchin/Chekov, why not use that newly introduced character? Instead of trying to replace Chekov (which is impossible from my pov) try out that new character! Play around and make the ‘Kelvin Timeline’ its own thing! But that’s my two cents.
So ultimately I would say this film is on par with Star Trek 2009. Except this one has more heart and felt less ‘technical’ if that makes any sense. I enjoyed the character moments and the acting was very well through the bench. They paid a nice tribute to the original actors and the whole thing felt like it was written by someone who understands what Star Trek is about. And all that without missing the mark on the action! For some reason this film did not do so amazingly well with the box office. What’s wrong with you people? Go see it as long as it’s on the big screen!
PS: They managed to bring in Sabotage by the Beastie Boys again. And that in the most awesome way possible! Loved it! And I would have never believed that I would be able to like a Rihanna song but that end credit piece is pretty nice. Even though it feels so random having her name attached to a Star Trek movie. To round this PS up, I feel really angry that so many VFX artists that worked on this film did not get their credit at the end of the film. Shame on you Hollywood. You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, check here.