The third entry into the modern re-imagining of the sci-fi classic series, ‘Star Trek – Beyond,’ is a polished, if somewhat by-the-numbers, episodic outing of a franchise that appears to be humming along well. The stage was set by director, now producer, J.J.Abrams, who worked with his writers and actors to forge a series that may be rooted in the hopeful future vision of Gene Roddenberry, but decidedly updated into a strong action-adventure series that appeals to the masses. With the 2009 reboot that introduced the perfect casting of the young crew, ushered in by the great Leonard Nimoy’s aging Spock, and following with the fan derided, but excitedly propulsive entry, ‘Into Darkness,’ Abrams and crew moved the Enterprise crew into position to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before’ – this time at the helm of director Justin Lin (of ‘Fast & Furious’ fame).
With that set-up, ‘Beyond’ begins by painting a picture of a crew and captain numbed by three years of a mission to seek out new life and bring them into the fold of the Federation. This mission has started to take its’ toll on a weary Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, maturing into the role) and a conflicted Spock (the pitch perfectly cast Zachary Quinto). When they arrive at a newly built pristine utopia Federation way-station (an elaborate if overtly weak design), they are contemplating going in different directions. Before they can act on this development they (and crew) are thrust into a new adventure in uncharted deep space where they are exposed to a heretofore unknown threat and ally.
The threat comes in the form of Idris Elba’s warlord Krall and his ‘bees’, a swarm of dagger-like ships that work in unison to quickly and effectively take down the flagship Enterprise and strand its’ crew on the planet below. This scene of the takedown is rendered in harrowing detail, making this sequence one of the best in a movie with a few great moments interspersed with some less inspired set pieces and rushed fx shots. Besides some stellar make-up, Elba’s villain is more bland than inspired, his motivation is spotty at best, serving more as a counterpoint to the Federation’s message of unity. The ally comes in the form of warrior woman Jaylah (the talented Sofia Boutella), who sports an excellent design and is a promising addition to the crew.
Like its’ two predecessors, ‘Beyond’ soars on the strength of its’ cast and their easy, natural chemistry. The plot (co-written by Simon Pegg, who also plays the always exasperated Scotty), like many of the television and movie episodes, enables some interesting pairings with the separation and grounding of the crew – Kirk & Chekov, Sulu & Uhura, and best of all, Spock & Bones. This last pairing leads to some of the funniest and most poignant lines in the film – Karl Urban kills it in this role, playfully doing an impression of the original doc, DeForest Kelley. While the movie does provide some character beats, there are no major dramatic arcs, making this entry a minor, if entertaining, long-form episode of a series that will and should continue on the strength of the talent on screen . . .
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
Running Time: 122 min.
* * * (out of 4 stars) -OR- B