While the new Star Trek Beyond lacks a little bit in soul and story cohesiveness, it scores high on the zip factor, and introduces a creepy new villain. The third film in the franchise's reboot might be the weakest chapter featuring the newish cast, but it is still a lot of fun.
J.J. Abrams stepped down to direct his revamped Star Wars, relegating himself to a producer's role. In steps Justin Lin, best known for making cars jump between skyscrapers in the Fast & Furious franchise. It's no surprise that Lin's take lacks a certain depth that Abrams managed to bring to his two installments. It's also not a surprise that some of the action scenes motor along with the efficiency of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat.
The film picks up with James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew in the midst of their five-year mission. Kirk (as he did in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is starting to get a little bored. He's up for an admiral's position, and might soon find himself grounded to a desk job.
The movie has barely started up when the U.S.S. Enterprise is attacked by thousands of marauding spaceships, and the crew finds themselves shipwrecked on a sparse planet inhabited by few. Unfortunately, one of those few would be Krall (Idris Elba), a nasty looking alien with evil intentions involving an ancient weapon. The crew must reform to band against Krall, get off the foreboding planet, and save the Federation.
Star Trek Beyond is basically Star Trek on steroids, with crazy action sequences involving motorcycles and thousands of ships rather than just a couple squaring off against one another. Some of this action is topnotch, but occasionally hard to follow thanks to the editing style Lin employs.
One of the script's greater aspects isolates the grumpy Doctor "Bones" McCoy on the planet with his spiritual nemesis, Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Spock is dealing with some awkward news being that Spock Prime, a parallel universe's version of himself, has passed away. So, he's dealing with the realization of his own mortality in a most bizarre fashion (The movie does pay a touching tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, as well as the classic Trek cast).
This, of course, will be the final journey for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, who has a formidable role in this installment. It's actually a little hard watching the movie when Yelchin is on screen. It's very strange knowing this excellent young actor has left the planet.
There are times during all of the chaos that it's hard to connect the dots and comprehend what exactly is going on with the story. There are many subplots at play (Kirk's spiritual dilemma, Spock's relationship with Uhura, Bones's perpetual grumpiness, etc.) along with the Krall confrontation, and portions of it don't make a lick of sense.
Those portions are often wiped out by the film's blast power, most notably during a space battle that deftly utilizes Kirk's favorite Beastie Boy's song (Yes, Adam Yauch helps save the universe). If the makers of the new Star Trek series were concerned that the new Star Trek movies were lacking in action dazzle, Star Trek Beyond helps quell those worries.
This new film has a lot in common with the campy TV series, and has a throwback element to it. Your enjoyment of this chapter probably hinges upon your preference for the TV show or the movies. While some of the goofier plot elements do recall old school Trek, the action sequences definitely have a more Fast & Furious, modern feel. I was half expecting Vin Diesel on the bridge in a wife-beater.
The next chapter is allegedly in the works and supposedly aims to bring back Chris Hemsworth as Kirk's dad. While I'm glad to see Justin Lin didn't totally blow his chance at the Star Trek helm, I'd like to see somebody with a more nuanced touch take a stab at it the next time.