Star Trek Beyond (2016) Movie Review

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“Star Trek Beyond” is the third film in the post rebooted J.J. Abrams universe.  This time we have “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin stepping into the director’s chair because Abrams was a bit too busy directing this other big blockbuster franchise called “Star Wars”.  The movie is being released just in time for the big 50th anniversary celebration of “Star Trek”.  The first season premiered in the year 1966 and what better way to celebrate this big 50th birthday than with a new movie?  I have been a “Star Trek” fan for the great majority of my life so I’ll take any chance I can to see a new “Trek” film.  But I will say I was a bit nervous for this one.  This movie only really had one decent trailer and the other ones were lackluster to say the least.  The marketing just wasn’t grabbing my interest like previous movies and I wasn’t sure if Lin was the right guy to take over from Abrams in the directing chair.

I came away from “Star Trek Beyond” having surpasses all my expectations and crushing all my worries.  “Star Trek Beyond” pays a lot of respect to its 50 year history and provides a fun and “classic” feeling “Star Trek” story.  The characters are put into interesting situations and the dynamic between is still enthralling as always.  I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Abrams’s two previous “Star Trek” films (“Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness”) and I did occasionally miss his frantic editing and action.  But Lin does a great job in his own right and “Star Trek Beyond” will please fans of the original series and causal movie goers as well.

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This “Star Trek” adventure takes the classic story (that has been so many times in the various TV shows) of the crew of Enterprise being separated on an uncharted planet and now have to find their way back to each other.  Many of them are captured by the mysterious Crawl after blasting the Enterprise straight out of the space.  Kirk has to form together his crew to stop Krall from his deadly schemes.

Some hardcore “Star Trek” fans have been very vocal with their disappointment with Abrams’s rebooted direction of the franchise.  To each his own, but I haven’t understood the disappointment completely from my own end.   But, that being said, “Beyond” plays out a bit like the filmmakers trying to win back some of that hardcore fan base.  As such there appears to be a bit more of an effort to feel like classic “Star Trek” (while still not losing the tone that J.J. worked hard to establish).  As a fan of both I was please nearly all around.    There is a bit of the feeling of having been there and done that (since this is a tried and true “Star Trek” troupe story) but the movie still has more than a few surprises and twists to keep the experience feeling fresh.   The pace of the movie is slower than the previous two movies in the series with Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s screenplay making room for quieter moments between characters in between the large set pieces.

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Those expecting to see the large faster pace action sequences to go away won’t find that here.  There are several large action sequences that are well done and well executed by director Justin Lin.  There are a few that are quite memorable (especially in the third act).   Lin though directs the action much closer up; which during the hand to hand fight scenes sometimes makes it a little hard to see what exactly is going on.  These types of scenes are far and few between though.  As a style preference I still much prefer J.J. Abrams’s direction.  His action carry a much more frantic, visceral and dramatic punch to them.

That being said Lin does a much better job than I ever hoped he would.  I didn’t know if his direction would fit with a “Star Trek” movie.  I really enjoy his later “Fast and Furious” films (“Fast Five” and “Fast 6”) but those movies are just fun action movies.  Let me doubt him no more.  He directs the actors well enough and helps tell a really good “Trek” story.

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The story is really broken up into 3 separate but distinct acts.  Each one builds upon the other.  So if the first act doesn’t grab your interest right away, don’t worry, the movie keeps on getting more and more interesting as the film progresses until you realize the stuff you weren’t so interested in the first act got a whole lot more interesting because of a second or third act reveal.  The movie really does have quite the buildup.  Not only that but we get another good “Star Trek” villain played by the always great Idris Elba.  I will say he doesn’t become a great villain until his back-story is revealed.  And, I wish it was revealed a little sooner.   Before the reveal he is a fine villain but I was completely locked in and engaged to him once we found out about his past.  And, by that point we’re reaching the final confrontation.  So, Krall isn’t given quite the time to be able to reach greatness stasis amongst “Star Trek” villains like he could have.

The crew dynamic has always been strength of these new “Star Trek” films and once again they prove to be a highlight.  Chris Pine as Kirk is fantastic (with a few more William Shatner influences inserted in the film) and Zachery Quinto could not be a more perfect Spock.  He gets paired up with Dr. McCoy here (played to perfection by Karl Urban) which makes for the film’s most tender moments and also the funniest.  Simon Pegg is a great Scotty as always, and the late Anton Yelchin works in a really great Chekov performance (the film was dedicated to both him and Leonard Nimoy).  Zoe Saldana was Zoe Saldana (meaning she was really good) and newcomer Sofia Boutella as Jaylah was excellent.  I would like to see more from her.

Oh and this movie does have the song Sabotage by the Beastie Boys (from that horrible first trailer) and it actually works!

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I came out of this movie with a big smile on my face (which I haven’t been doing a whole lot of this summer movie season).  This movie is fun, funny, well paced, and thoughtful and clearly loves the universe that it resides in.  “Star Trek Beyond” is a great feature to celebrate its 50th anniversary (and I love the little references to the long overlooked “Star Trek” series “Star Trek: Enterprise”).  Lin crafts a great package for fans and movie goers of all kinds.  It’s not quite as good as the 2009 “Star Trek” or 2013 “Star Trek Into Darkness” but it great in its own right (and avoids the series curse with odd numbered films).  I’m more than excited to see what they have in store for us next!

Final Score

8.5/10

 

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