Star Trek Beyond (aka Star Trek: Beyond) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
This is very much the Star Trek picture everyone has been waiting for from this fresh, young crew. Past the soft rebooting and needless amounts of nostalgic winking, the ensemble of the USS Enterprise can finally do their own thing on that five year mission they kept talking about it. There’s no shameless insertions of obvious references and no shoehorned cameos by the original Trek crew. For the first time, the new Trek has taken off the training wheels and ready to become its own original picture.
Star Trek Beyond actually begins by both tying up loose ends and weaving their effect into the characters. With Leonard Nimoy’s passing, the old Spock is revealed to have been killed off. When the new Spock (Zachary Quinto) learns of this news, he’s stricken with coming to terms with his own mortality amid his breakup with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) faces a similar dilemma, realizing he’s reaching the same age his father was when he was killed in combat. The characters are built up so well that impending action sequences actually have a little more emotional investment behind them.
The driving plot for the action is nothing all that original, but fitting for Star Trek. The Enterprise is called upon for a rescue mission of a downed vessel on the planet Altamid. When they arrive, they are greeted by an ambushing swarm of alien fighter craft that attack and board the Enterprise. Forced to abandon ship, the crew escape to the surface of Altamid and must regroup to take down this new threat to the Starfleet Federation. The leader for this angry group of white-colored aliens is Krall (Idris Elba), a no-nonsense villain with typical intentions of assembling a doomsday device. He appears to be another atypical antagonist until the third act reveals his more sordid history with the Federation and his reasoning for desiring their destruction.
Despite being another action-heavy scenario for the Enterprise crew, still distant from the more challenging episodes of the original series, there’s some great moments of character development that appeared to be lacking from previous pictures. As opposed to just finding something for every character to do, there is more family element present as the Enterprise crew deal with conflicting relationships. Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness which banked hard on blunt callbacks, Beyond makes much more subtle references to Wrath of Kahn. There’s a scene where Kirk speaks with Bones about coming to terms with his age that likens back to the Wrath of Kahn scene where Bones delivers Kirk a birthday present of eye-glasses. Both of these powerful scenes are of similar themes, but handled with different tones and emotions. As the original Kirk feared himself getting too old, Chris Pine’s Kirk fears he won’t live long enough to see old age.
These actors are all at their best in what is easily the best entry of the new Trek ensemble. Chris Pine really comes into his own as Kirk as opposed to his usual mugging and cocky attitudes of the previous Trek movies. Zachary Quinto feels more comfy in the role of Spock in how he has more chemistry with the Karl Urban’s Bones character. Even John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin have a little more on the line in this struggle as we get to know more about them and their families. For as much makeup as Idris Elba has caked on, he still delivers a solid performance that becomes much more than snarling and growling.
My only real qualm with Star Trek Beyond is in its special effects which range from spectacular feats to lackluster. The doomsday device is nothing that special as it appears to just be a mass of black particles that devour whatever they touch. Thankfully, more of the budget was put towards the stunning destruction of the Enterprise and a thrilling chase through the fluctuating gravity of a Federation colony. The finale in particular is one of the most unique Trek moments for this trilogy.
Though still an action blockbuster, refusing to become a more thoughtful piece of science fiction in its current tentpole format, Star Trek Beyond still has enough thrills, character and creativity to succeed as its own thing. It’s the closest that current Star Trek will come to echoing the original series without just shoving in references amid starships exploding. The series is finally starting to go boldly where no Trek film has been in quite some time.