-This action packed installment is a fun, if sometimes tangled, summer picture.
It’s no surprise that the most action-packed ‘Star Trek’ film is the one directed by Justin Lin of “Fast and Furious” fame, as Star Trek Beyond holds up to his style: big, loud, bombastic, and emotionally shallow.
Overall, ‘Beyond’ is a much cleaner film than a ton of the summer blockbuster fare we’ve been getting in recent weeks. There’s no massive death toll, and there’s no world-be-gone destructive climax. But the film doesn’t really find a way to balance its sense of fun with the carefully crafted character intricacies that make Star Trek one of our most appreciated franchises.
We start with the Enterprise on year three of a five year exploratory mission, and they stop for a break and refuel at a technologically wonderful base named “Yorktown.” Tensions are running a bit high in the crew; Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) has separated from his girlfriend, Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and contemplated leaving the Enterprise to take over for the now-deceased Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy, rest in peace). Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine), however, has been taken over by self-doubting after never resolving his emotional turmoil concerning his late father; Kirk is considering leaving the Enterprise to work a government position on the ground. Other members, such as Lt. Commander Scottie (Simon Pegg) and Lt. Commander McCoy (Karl Urban), Lt. Sulu (John Cho, don’t care if he’s gay, I won’t mention it again), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin, also rest in peace) are along for the ride on this expedition.
On their stop, the crew is approached by Kalara (Lydia Wilson), an alien who states that her ship and crew have been lost in the center of a debris-filled nebula, unable to escape. Kirk decides to go investigate, and possibly save some lives, when they encounter the villainous Krall (Idris Elba), hellbent on destroying the Enterprise and escaping to wreck havoc with an ancient weapon.
The film’s first act is fairly slow, relying on some atmosphere setting within the crew. The film takes everyone through the various officers’ narratives and what’s new with them, before setting up our central conflict. As much as I like Simon Pegg as a comedy writer, these exposition scenes are very clunky, unfunny, and clearly do not capture the intrigue of what makes Star Trek so interesting. Our opening is so cold, boring, and wooden, that I was worried that the film would be a complete snooze to rebel against the over-explosive action of recent filmmaking, and also the negative fan reaction to how action-packed Star Trek into Darkness was. Personally, I loved ‘Into Darkness,’ and don’t know what the fuss was about.
Once we meet Krall and begin our journey more concretely, however, the film begins zipping along at a pace that’s almost too substantial. Once the action begins in the second act, it continues all the way until the film’s closing, and barely ever lets you breathe. When it does, the character interactions are not strong enough to erase any complaints with the film’s rapid pace. Krall himself is a pretty bare-bones villain, and some of the expositional time in the beginning could’ve been used to satisfy a good back story for the villain. His “dominate the world” strategy, and how he obtained some of the powers that he has, remains fairly unclear, even to committed Star Trek viewers.
The cast performances are fine, except for Idris Elba as Krall, who was kind of spotty. Everyone returns into the skin of their characters with ease, and the introduction of Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a nice touch. Pine and Quinto are really good in these roles, but without much to work with, their performances are kind of empty.
There are a handful of really good action scenes however, whether they are revolved around a fight or an attempted escape, and they’re really well directed. These scenes make the film extremely watchable and fun, despite the background flaws. Seeing the cast everyone loves is a nice bit of filmgoing that everyone will automatically appreciate, but the action is good enough to recommend, and there are a few set pieces that are just gorgeous. Occasional issues with CGI or with bloated character development scenes are not worth any sort of nitpicking, and I’m instead happy with the final result of this Star Trek installment, even if it is worse than the first two from ’09 and ’13.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Director: Justin Lin (‘Fast and Furious’ 3-6)
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and Idris Elba
with: John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, Sofia Boutella, and Lydia Wilson
RT Score: 84%