Alas, Gene Rodenberry’s vision of Star Trek is no more. Paramount’s revamp into a newer, hipper, action-driven franchise is complete. Star Trek Beyond is a popcorn, big-budget, summer FX film with a mundane plot. Director Justin Lin has done exactly what they hired him to do, make a Fast and Furious in space. There were nuggets of gold that could have been mined into greatness, but it settles for bangs and whistles instead. The beloved characters meager bit of nuance disappears into the spectacle. Star Trek Beyond will entertain the majority, but leave Trekkies like me nostalgic.
The film opens with the crew in the third year of their deep space mission. The shiny veneer of adventure has worn off. As his birthday approaches, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) questions whether he is following his dream or his deceased father’s. The same self reflection has also hit Spock (Zachary Quinto) hard. Recent events have thrown love and duty into conflict. The entire crew is going through the motions as the emptiness of space creeps in.
The Enterprise is forced into quick action while re-supplying at the space station Yorktown, the Federation’s crowning jewel. A stranded ship in an uncharted nebula needs the finest crew and most capable captain to rescue them. What the Enterprise finds is a lethal enemy (Idris Elba), unlike anyone they have ever encountered. He has a long simmering grudge against the Federation and the Enterprise unwittingly has the key to its destruction.
The script by Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, and Doug Jung is unfortunately predictable. It has every beat and note that we have seen previously. What it does differently is update the humor with modern pop culture references that are ‘classic’ in the film. This is where the semblance to olden Trek vanishes like a fart in the wind. On one hand, I admit I laughed at some of the gags, but the film lost me when they became pervasive and instrumental to the outcome. The climactic space battle’s resolve is utterly ridiculous. Nothing like that could ever have been done in the previous Star Trek regime. It’s like watching a music video.
Idris Elba is wasted here. His casting as the villain was fantastic news, but sadly does not nearly live up to expectations. Justin Lin and Simon Pegg had one of Hollywood’s best actor’s to work with, but they reduce him to a trite, unmemorable character. This was a colossal letdown. They had a Ferrari and drove it in circles around a parking lot.
Star Trek Beyond is Trek for the ADD era. The explosions are pretty with a pedantic plot and minor chuckles. It’s certainly not akin to classic Trek in style and substance. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. The franchise has to appeal to a younger audience to survive. I sincerely hope this is an anomaly; that the future films hearken back to a stronger science fiction base.
It’s heartbreaking watching Anton Yelchin play Chekov. He was a fine young actor who fit the role like a glove. Regardless of my dislike for this story, the cast has incredible chemistry and he was a big part of it. J.J. Abrams has stated that Chekov will not be recast. That’s a great tribute. R.I.P. Anton, you will always be a part of Star Trek.