Here Be Mild Spoilers in this movie review of Star Trek: Beyond. You’ve been warned.
Let me start by saying that I had my doubts going into Star Trek: Beyond. I had been pretty disappointed by Star Trek: Into Darkness, and I was afraid, judging by the trailers where I saw the Enterprise breaking apart and crashing, that we were in for more of the same.
I’m quite delighted to say I was wrong. I enjoyed it! I laughed and gasped, and came out of the movie feeling uplifted, which is something that I’ve always loved and been missing in Star Trek.
The Star Trek style humor that I love so much was back in full force from the first moments, and it carried throughout the film. While some of the humor is situational, the best parts of it are character driven. The crew, as a result of the crash landing, is separated into various pairings, and some of them are not the usual pairings. Bones and Spock are a classic pairing, but I really enjoyed the pairings of Kirk and Chekov and Uhura and Sulu. It gives them a chance to shine away from their usual counterparts, and by its nature, functions to give more attention to all the crew members, not just Spock and Kirk.
There were some great call backs to the original series, and to other iterations of Star Trek. I really appreciated the attention to detail at weaving in some of the history you learned in the Star Trek: Enterprise series. I’m sure everyone noticed that Beastie Boy’s Sabotage was used in the trailers. It ends up being a rather large part of the plot, and oh, the way in which the song is deployed is satisfying on an almost visceral level. Jaylah was intriguing to me, and I hope that maybe the character can make a return. She was competent, capable, and nobody’s fool, and the crew of the Enterprise needed her help.
I was also pleased with the action scenes, especially with how the destruction of the ship was handled. I was worried that, once again, we were going to have the Enterprise coming apart at the seams as the penultimate moment, or even worse, just because it looks cool. That turned out to not be the case. The destruction of the ship brought the plot along in a logical manner. Even as the ship was being destroyed, it wasn’t about the ship, but rather, about the crew, their duties, and their loyalty to each other and their mission. The other action sequences felt well placed and not excessive, though there are a few improbable (but fun!) moments.
It’s not without its flaws. There’s some minor logic problems here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be covered by deploying your imagination a bit. There were things that had a bit of a clarity problem; for example, I was not following the physical appearance changes of Krall (Idris Elba) until it was almost too late. Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but think it was a shame to hide Idris Elba behind so much makeup and prosthetics, but by the end of the movie, I understood. There’s an actual purpose to all the makeup. At times, the pace could be frenetic (dare I say fast and furious?), and at one point, during a fairly complex battle sequence, I was losing track of where the various players were, and how they would intercept each other. My quibbles are minor, though.
The tributes and dedications to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin were touching and well done. It’s honestly hard to say anything about it other than that; we are poorer as a world without them, their talents, and their good cheer.
The best part of Star Trek: Beyond is what it did to the audience. We all laughed at the humor, and you could feel a collective current of anxiety during the tense scenes. There was simultaneous cheering at triumphant points. At the very end, everyone sat quietly as simple dedications to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin came on the screen, and there was a sad murmur that went through the audience.
For a movie that was about finding strength in the unity of differences, it was all rather fitting.