Last night my wife and I went to see “Star Trek: Beyond” on opening night. We enjoyed the movie, even beyond our high expectations. While I will save a more in depth review for later (I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not yet had a chance to see it), I thought I would give you my initial thoughts on how the latest of the Kelvin Timeline movies.
It is three years into their five-year mission, and Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise arrive at the wonderful space station Yorktown. Both Kirk and Spock begin to contemplate a future away from the ship, when a mysterious alien arrives asking for help. The Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission and quickly find themselves being the ones in need of a rescue. Before too long the ship is attacked and the crew scattered across a strange planet. Their enemy is Krall, a mysterious and violent man who is determined to push back against the Federation. With the help of a new ally, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura are pushed to their limits in saving not only themselves but the future of the Federation.
The movie is a roller coaster ride of action. It keeps you engaged and eager for more throughout the whole movie. The pacing of the movie is not perfect but is better than most movies. The dialogue is clever and fits the characters well. Everybody gets a good dose of screen time. Naturally the focus is on Kirk and Spock, but Scotty and Chekov get a bit more attention than they usually have in the reboot franchise. While it is true that the storyline is a bit formulaic and can be a bit predictable, it is still a story that shows elements of thought and planning with a few surprises here and there. Yes, there are moments when, contrary to Scotty’s classic plea, the Laws of Physics are changed. Guess what people? It’s a movie. It helps to allow yourself to ignore these things from time to time. Oh, and if there is nothing else that critics of the first two movies have to rejoice over, the lens flare effects are gone. And there was much rejoicing.
Most importantly, the movie introduces us to a wonderful villain. While not on the level of Khan (I should add, Wrath of Khan, not Into Darkness Khan), he is right up there as the best villain of the Kelvin Timeline series. Krall is intensely portrayed by one of today’s most talked about actors Idris Elba. Krall is evil, but as we learn was not always this way. To develop his character more would have required either more time or a second movie, but he did well for the time that he had. Most importantly, as in all things Trek, Krall provides the movie with some much needed social commentary. Krall is convinced that the Federation concepts of unity among different cultures is weakness, while our heroes beg to differ. In a time where the United States is choosing their next president and one of the main candidates claims that the cooperation between the US and its allies has contributed to a weakening of US influence, I found this attitude of Krall’s to be quite timely. My one critique of this theme is that it does not become fully resolved. I hope this does not give too much away, but the unity of the different cultures in the Federation does not defeat Krull or prove his ideology wrong. Instead, the resolution of this ideological conflict is forgotten.
This movie also has a healthy and appropriate dose of tribute to the past. While the previous film was heavily criticized for trying too hard to retell familiar stories, this one finds the right balance that would help the movie appeal to both the diehard and the newer fans. Events such as the Xindi War (from Star Trek: Enterprise) and the Romulan War are referenced as having an impact of the events of this story. Also, the movie pays a loving tribute to the previous Star Trek crew and the actors who first brought these iconic characters to life. Near the end of the movie there is a special scene that brought tears to my eyes as Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Takei, Koenig, and Nichols are given a special tip of the hat. For me, it was especially touching as we no longer have some of these wonderful people with us. Most recently, we lost Leonard Nimoy. His absence is specifically touched on as the movie is dedicated to his memory. When the characters discuss Ambassador Spock (and, by proxy, Leonard Nimoy), the actors are no longer acting. Their reactions are genuine, heartfelt, and true.
Sadly, another dedication for this movie brought about a certain sense of loss and sorrow. In June we lost Anton Yelchin, the actor who brought such energy and enthusiasm to the character of Pavel Chekov. He was killed in a freak and tragic accident. In recent interviews producer J. J. Abrams has stated that he would go ahead with the fourth movie but without the recasting of the character of Pavel Chekov. What will this mean for the character has yet to be decided, but there was a sense of finality when the last dedication “For Anton” came across the screen. Rest in peace, Anton. Say hi to the rest of the gang for us.
Star Trek: Beyond is a fitting film to help us celebrate 50 years of Star Trek. It has amazing visuals, exciting action, and great relationships. Whereas the other movies featuring the original cast had the benefit of pre-established characters to allow more in-depth story development, “Beyond” does well in giving us a good story. Some meaningful characters are introduced, and some familiar characters are further developed. While not the strongest of Star Trek films, it is a worthy entry into the franchise. It goes beyond the expectations of this Trekkie.