Every year, the box office landscape offers mountains and valleys the likes of which would stagger even the most casual movie-goer. While opinions can be divided on exactly which films qualify as one or the other is of course subjective, but most of us can agree when the offerings are generally scant. With the recent glut of genre films (sci-fi, superheroes, horror, and so on) the consensus no matter how contentious the debates online.
So in the deep valley that 2016 has thus far been, it should stand to little controversy that Star Trek: Beyond offers reprieve in being a welcome plateau in the years sinking topography.
Though fans of Gene Rodenberry’s original shows and films shouldn’t expect a return to the old form they are used to, those of us ready to accept JJ Abrams new stamp on Star Trek will be happy to hear that the franchise hasn’t suffered at all from the poor reception of the last installment. Star Trek: Beyond is, easily, one of the best constructed films to date.
The story begins promptly with the familiar USS Enterprise and its younger, sexier crew on its familiar five-year mission to explore deep space. With Chris Pine’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk even out on a comedic diplomatic mission to forge peace between some inconsequential unseen alien race and a group of paranoid, adorably tiny aliens going adorably awry. It’s not high comedy, it’s barely noteworthy slapstick, but the scene is quick enough that we’re not left to linger on the joke too much. The cast of the series is there in their entirety, with Zachary Quinto once again stepping into the pointy ears of Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. James McCoy (the ever sarcastic “Bones,”) and Simon Pegg as Montgomery “Scottie” Scott, the ships very Scottish engineer. Pegg‘s role in this film is noteworthy, not due to any particular aspect of his performance, but more to its prevalence in the story as well as its creation. Pegg alongside Doug Jung (from television dramas Big Love and Dark Blue) wrote the screenplay, and his fingerprints are everywhere on the screen. Pegg’s love of pop culture, the tight storytelling from his previous films (such as Hot Fuzz) and excellent pacing, were essential to keeping the movie together and rolling so nicely that any faults or flaws fall to the wayside the quickly forgotten thanks to Pegg’s humor which is also prevalent.
Good use of awkward silences and undercutting of the all too common technobabble that plagues all science fiction movies is definitely something he has experience with and it pays off. Director Justin Lin, better known for the last three installments of the Fast and the Furious franchise, puts his action movie repertoire to good use here. Taking the quick cuts and disorienting pans too far only when the action absolutely calls for it, heated space battles that aren’t going the protagonists’ way being the best time for this. While sometimes the action can be a little too quick, it never feels out of pace nor difficult to follow at least the more important parts that the audience needs to pay attention to.
Some fans may feel a little jilted however; the usual group dominates the plot: Kirk, Spock, and Bones (with a good dose of Scottie, of course) and the rest of the main cast gets little time to shine. What screen time Zoe Saldana (as Lt. Uhura) or John Cho (Commander Sulu) get they do a fine job with. Idris Elba as the villain Krall puts on the weakest performance of the film, at least up until the very end of the movie. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Anton Yelchin the actor playing Chekov who passed away earlier this year. Yelchin gives us the same performance he gave us in the last two films, bright and memorable, with the same consistency as the rest of the cast. Chekov gets a good amount of screen time in Beyond, he’s just naturally somewhat dwarfed by the usually larger than life Kirk. But there’s no shame in this, it’s how these characters have always been played.
The Bottom Line:
While not standing out in any one particular way, Star Trek: Beyond is remarkably well done and a fantastic film when all assembled into one package. The film keeps its pacing well and can hold the audience’s attention effortlessly without having to resort to any cheap tricks, or lean too hard on any one effect or performer. It stands as a shining example of an action/adventure more than a science fiction but that should come as no surprise to anyone who saw either of the previous ‘New Star Trek’ films. And for this it stands as a welcome break from some of this summer’s less than stellar cinematic offerings. – 7.5/10
-Scott Anthony Wittie
Staff Correspondent: Nerd Nation Magazine