(WARNING: I’ll try to keep the spoiler quotient low, but there may be a few. Be advised.)
It’s no mystery to anyone I’m a Star Trek fan. I loved the show in all its incarnations. I’ve adored all of the films (even Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had its virtues). So when it came time for the franchise reboot in 2009, I had hope and faith that J.J. Abrams would keep the spirit alive and give us fans a treat that we could cherish as part of the venerable Gene Roddenberry’s legacy and gift to the world. My words on exiting the theater when Star Trek was released seven years ago? “That’ll do!”
Come to yesterday and seeing Star Trek Beyond, I had little trepidation that it would be anything but an excellent continuation of an already significant duo of films (Star Trek Into Darkness was a terrific sophomore effort in the new canon). Though Beyond has some flaws, I was in no way disappointed.
Firstly, the cast continued in their roles in stellar fashion. Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban were given some excellent rapport building opportunities, the culmination of which was honestly quite unforgettable and very charming. I am a fan of these actors and have seen them in other films or series and have yet to be less than impressed by them.
Anton Yelchin gives Pavel Chekov’s youthful wide-eyed wonder great expression. He had shocking presence, that young man, and it saddens me terribly that he was taken from this life so soon. He would have gone on to become one of Hollywood’s greats, I think, and his loss will echo through Star Trek and beyond.
Chris Pine’s Kirk is, of course, heroic, but not without showing some wear and tear. Three years into the famed Five-Year Mission, an unexpected tedium has set in and he questions the truth of his destiny.
Spock also is confronting renewed concerns for the future of his annihilated race and whether the Star Fleet life to which he had committed — even with beautiful and terrifyingly intelligent Uhura — is the right one in the current clime of his universe.
Whatever will they do with with these qualms? How will they be settled?
With a galaxy-threatening conflict! As if there could be another answer in the superior, rebooted Star Trek universe. Enter Idris Elba, who I have admired for a long time, as the villainous and blood-thirsty Krall. Even though he is buried alive under a foot of makeup, his chops are bar none and he is utterly convincing in his contempt for the United Federation of Planets. He has arguably the most compelling origin story for a Star Trek enemy yet and I was honestly surprised and tickled by the sources from which film writers Simon Pegg (Montgonery Scott) and Doug Jung drew.
I enjoyed every second of the two hours I spent at the theater letting this movie pour over me. It is as delicious to look at — calling to mind such disparate visual sources as Inception and (perish the thought) Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer — as the character interplay is fun and, in the right places, beautifully sentimental.
The flaws? Well, this isn’t a criticism of Star Trek Beyond alone, but of the franchise reboot in general. The Star Trek universe has become an uncharacteristically violent place. In Into Darkness, Captain Kirk boasted that he had not lost a single crew member, but by the end of that film, he’d lost a considerable number — not to mention half of San Francisco. The body count in Beyond is also shockingly high. While this scale of violence is not completely new, what with the Borg conflicts (Star Trek: The Next Generationand Voyager) and the Dominion War (Deep Space Nine), they at least unfolded over time and the depth of the atrocities and anguish of war could be explored, a beauty of episodic television. In the latest three films, billions have died with the barest pauses to reflect on the truly mammoth scale of the horrors just witnessed.
This is not what Star Trek is supposed to be about.
I still imagine a film where there isn’t a villain who must be defeated, but our erstwhile Captain and crew venture out into the unknown galaxy on a voyage of pure exploration and discovery. What wonders must there be out there, what beautiful peoples and planets, where awe is the rule and not bloodshed? A boy can dream. Surely we all can.
But until then, Star Trek Beyond, with it’s remarkable detail, admirable characters, and magnificent implausibility, will be an enjoyable event for Star Trek and sci-fi enthusiasts. Just as I said all those years ago, “That’ll do!”