It is the true test of a franchise to see whether or not it could sustain itself without the main creative mind behind it out of the director's chair. After J.J. Abrams jumped ship to the other side of sci-fi geekdom to a galaxy far, far away, Justin Lin (of Fast and the Furious fame) took the reins and proved that the Star Trek franchise is alive and well.
Star Trek Beyond expands upon the foundation Abrams (along with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) built starting in 2009, expanding the universe and further developing the relationships among the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Co-written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, Star Trek Beyond pits Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of their mates against a truly terrifying opponent, Krall (Idris Elba).
Both Kirk and Spock are at a crossroads, each questioning whether or not venturing into the infinite reaches of space is the best use of their time. Kirk's sense of purpose has been lost with each passing year of his five-year voyage, while Spock's thoughts are with New Vulcan and preserving what remains of his race. Before too long, the ship that has served as their home for so many years, the Enterprise, is completely destroyed. Stranded and separated from each other on a desolate planet in the middle of a volatile nebula, the team has to reconnect with each other in order to escape and prevent Krall's goal of destroying The Federation.
Star Trek Beyond is at it's core, a solid "episode" of the film franchise. All of the characters have been established, and its clear that the filmmakers just wanted to put them in a fun adventure, and there's nothing wrong with that. The lack of deep character development in the film is offset with great action set-pieces (the sequence where the Enterprise is destroyed is truly visceral) and good callbacks to the many different TV series in the Trek canon.
Pegg's hand is clearly evident in the film. There are plenty of scenes of great banter between crew members, particularly Spock and Bones (Karl Urban), and his passion for Star Trek lore shines through in the film. On the downside, he gives his Scotty perhaps a little too much screen time. John Cho's Sulu also gets more screen time than expected, at the cost of Zoë Saldana, who is not given much to do as Lieutenant Uhura. On the flip side, Sofia Boutella's Jaylah is one of the film's pleasant surprises as a resourceful alien warrior.
Lin is more than capable in the director's chair, and while the aesthetic is noticeably dingier than Abram's lens flare-filled sleekness, it fits the narrative of the film. There are some moments in the action set pieces where the editing is on the cusp of being incoherent, but all things considered, the cinematography, while not as gorgeous as Into Darkness, is pretty solid. The production design is the real standout here as the designs of the Starbase Yorktown and the remote planet are distinctive and awe-inspiring.
Star Trek Beyond is not as philosophically challenging as Into Darkness or as revolutionary as the 2009 reboot, but is still a fun time at the theater, has great character dynamics, and brings something new to the series for fans and non-fans alike.Our Rating: Rent