My Rating: 7 out of 10
I want to preface this review by saying that my knowledge of Star Trek extends only as far as the three reboot films and the obliquitous pop culture references that everyone is familiar with. Thus, my review will only be within the context of the reboot trilogy. A few months before Into Darkness was released, I watched the 2009 Star Trek with a friend of mine who owned it on DVD. I thought it was decent, not incredible, but not a bad movie by any means. I really liked the way that the filmmakers approached the reboot of the classic series in terms of the multiple timelines, which allowed Leonard Nimoy’s version of Spock to exist alongside Zachary Quinto’s. Then I saw Into Darkness in theaters and was blown away. Without any real prior knowledge of the Star Trek universe, that film easily became one of my top 15 favorite movies of all time. Needless to say, I was very excited for the followup, but as time went on and information about Star Trek Beyond began to be released, I became more and more doubtful that it would live up to Into Darkness. In the end, Beyond ended up being what I had come to expect. A good movie that was a lot of fun to see, but that didn’t live up to Into Darkness.
This time around, Captain James Kirk (played by Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise are sent into an uncharted region of space in order to rescue the stranded crew mates of a woman named Kalara. However, once inside the mysterious region, they are attacked by a swarm of hostile alien ships that destroy the Enterprise and capture a majority of the crew, while leaving Kirk, Scotty, Chekov, Spock, and Dr. McCoy stranded on an unfamiliar world. As they try to reunite with each other and find a way to save their captured crew mates, the five realize that their original mission may not have been what it seemed. Meanwhile, Krall, the leader of the deadly swarm, has plans to show the Federation that they can’t always push the frontier without “the frontier pushing back.”
Star Trek Beyond had a different feel to it from the other two installments in the reboot franchise, but still delivered when it came to the character interactions. The crew of the USS Enterprise is diverse both ethnically and personality-wise. I feel like this movie placed more of a focus on these character interactions than the action sequences. Pairings such as Spock and Dr. McCoy as well as Scotty and Jaylah produced some hilarious exchanges that made the film much more lighthearted than its predecessors. This is not to say that there wasn’t a good amount of action in Beyond. In fact, the beginning of the movie starts with a pretty intense battle scene that had me genuinely concerned that not all the members of the crew would make it out alive, while the ending is exciting and visually impressive if not quite as urgent or tense.
I didn’t have a problem with the lighter tone of the film or the book-ending of the major action scenes, but I did feel that there was a bit of a disconnect from the battle against the swarm in the beginning of the film and the battle against Krall at the end. During that first battle, the swarm is portrayed as such a dangerous, unstoppable force. They are able to destroy the Enterprise and capture the majority of the crew, but as the film progresses, Krall’s forces seem more and more beatable. This took away a bit of the urgency, especially in comparison to Into Darkness, in which Kirk literally died and Spock had to finish the battle with Khan on his own. The final battle is certainly spectacular (especially in terms of the visuals), but it is less of an uncertain struggle for survival than a process of whittling down Krall’s forces until Kirk can fight him one on one.
While I was a bit confused about some of the specifics behind Krall, I thought he was a really cool villain with an interesting backstory, even if his end goal did feel a little hazy. In the first half of the movie, Krall seemed to be fighting against the colonization of the Federation, whereas in the latter half, when his true identity was revealed, he was clearly out for revenge against the Federation for leaving his crew stranded and for trying to phase out war, which Krall resented as he lived his life as a solider and wasn’t interested in making peace with his enemies after the Romulan Wars. Regardless of the slightly disjointed approach on Krall’s character, his way of viewing the world allowed the audience to think about the ramifications of the good intentioned Federation. Unlike in Into Darkness, there is no corruption or bad intent when it comes to the Federation’s role in Krall’s story, but the Federation’s goal of brining peace to the universe does require a transformation of entire cultures and civilizations that otherwise might not agree. While I agree with Kirk’s view that making peace with one’s enemies is better than fight constant wars, Krall does make a strong argument that it is difficult to fight an enemy for decades only to be forced to make peace with them and pretend nothing had happened.
Overall, Beyond was a solid film that had a lot of funny moments and some exciting action sequences. The acting was great as always and the story was interesting, even if not perfectly crafted. The filmmakers were also able to include a few scenes that paid respect to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, both of whom passed away since the release of Into Darkness. If you enjoy Star Trek and enjoyed the other two reboot films, this one will not disappoint. I didn’t love Beyond as much as I did Into Darkness, but it is regardless a fun film that I recommend seeing on as big a screen as possible.