“Just another day in the fleet.”
There really isn’t anything too spectacular about Star Trek Beyond. Not much inflated drama, undervalued stakes, segmented to the point it feels sporadic. The structure is more that of an elongated TV episode from the long gestating franchise than it is a film. Yet it’s very well-made, thoughtful, and in this lackluster 2016 season of blockbusters, an above average vehicle of amusement. You’ll have fun and laugh a little and care just enough to feel the slightest sense of investment in this latest excursion, thankfully less grounded and more atmospheric than its predecessors. I’m no Trekkie, but Star Trek Beyond seems just good enough to reside on the outside precipice of lore. It does justice to the rebooted franchise even if it doesn’t expand its scope.
While on its 5 year quest, the USS Enterprise is attacked by a renegade hive force. Ship damaged beyond repair, some crew members taken hostage, others manage their way onto escape pods headed for an unknown planet. There really isn’t much setup before the calamity becomes onset, and there the film trends towards divisiveness while preaching unity. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) wander through woods. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban) deal with injuries. Scotty (Simon Pegg) encounters Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), an alien renegade. Helmsman Sulu (John Cho) is captured alongside Uhura (Zoe Saldana). For about a third of its length, Star Trek Beyond tastefully bounces back and forth from point to point with zest without striking a memorable note. The beats lack animation and liveliness.
The menace here is Krall (Idris Elba), a warlord hell-bent on tearing the Federation to pieces. Elba loses nuance under all of those heavy prosthetics, but his delivery still gives chills; we hear his evil but we don’t see enough of it. He’s a solid villain, although his big reveal comes far too late and is followed by a bang-bang finale with little to no sendoff. At least his deranged motives allow for a small blip of sympathy. Krall could easily be substituted with any number of intergalactic baddies though, because Star Trek is a series about teamwork and camaraderie in the face of insurmountable odds. It never feels grim and never goes for absolute delight. Levelheadedness and good-heartedness are Beyond’s best attributes.
While the rebooted franchise is notorious for off-kilter camera angles, director Justin Lin decided to double down with unrelenting swirling and twirling of the camera, enough to deliver symptoms of vertigo and motion sickness. The technique is unnecessary. Having said that, he does shoot the many set pieces well and maintains a handle on time and place, creating defined landscapes both in space and in planetary locations. Most of this is besides the point though, because when it comes to the franchise’s foundation in movies and on television, no other series matches the positivity and inclusiveness of Star Trek. It’s a safe haven for every walk of life, and although I wouldn’t go so far as to call Beyond a rousing success, the film still pays homage to the past while concurrently paving its own path. This is how you make a balanced blockbuster.
“There is strength in unity.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5