This September will mark the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek,” but the franchise is as fresh as ever with the arrival of “Star Trek Beyond.”
The third installment of the reborn cinematic universe has the feel of a really good episode of the television series, and that’s a huge compliment. The cast so well inhabits these roles that it’s just a joy to see them take ownership of these classic characters. Quick roll call: Chris Pine is Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto is Spock, Karl Urban is Bones, Zoe Saldana is Uhura, Simon Pegg is Montgomery Scott, John Cho is Sulu and Anton Yelchin is Chekov.
This film is marked by the passing of two “Star Trek” luminaries in Leonard Nimoy and Yelchin. There’s an in-film tribute to Nimoy, which works its way into to story. Yelchin, who died tragically in June at the too-young age of 27, is so wonderful here, giving a bright, engaging performance, easily his biggest and best of the franchise. He will be sorely missed, both the actor and the character.
“Beyond” begins with Kirk and Spock mulling personal crossroads. Is their future on the Enterprise or elsewhere? But there’s no time for introspection here. After docking at the starbase Yorktown, they’re quickly back in action when a strange alien ship shows up with a strange alien woman pleading for help. Her crew was stranded off in uncharted territory and it’s up to the intrepid crew to save them.
Strange new world? Check. New life and new civilization? Check. Boldly going? Check. We have achieved “Star Trek.”
Of course, things don’t go well. They arrive at the planet and are ambushed by a literal swarm of ships, with the Enterprise is grounded and the crew is scattered around the planet. The enemy here is Krall (Idris Elba), who is seeking an ancient artifact for your standard destroy-the-Federation purposes. Meanwhile, you get to explore some history of Starfleet in a very cool way.
One of the smartest things the film does is split up the crew on the alien planet. And it also manages to makes some unusual pairings, so you’re getting to see interaction between characters who don’t often get to share much screen time. Especially enjoyable are Kirk and Chekov, as well as frenemies Bones and Spock, who make for a funny odd couple.
Scotty ends up finding your new favorite “Star Trek” character, the badass Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, who played Gazelle in “Kingsman: The Secret Service”), who is star- white with striking black markings on her face – and is one impressive fighter.
The film is marred by two stupid plot twists that seem like they’re there more because a cast member or producer wanted them, rather than existing to serve the plot. That said, to comment more would be to spoil, and so they will go unmentioned. But there is so much to like in “Beyond” that it’s easy to look past those two critical flaws.
Director Justin Lin – taking over for J.J Abrams, who helmed the first two films before leaving for “Star Wars” – brings a lot of the kinetic energy that was found in the many “Fast & Furious” movies he’s made in the past. It helps that the script by Doug Jung and Pegg keeps the story moving and sprinkles a lot of humor alongside the grave danger.
It really is a great time to be a “Star Trek” fan. There’s a new streaming series on the horizon; NYC is getting its first “Trek” convention in years with“Star Trek: Mission New York,” running at the Javits Center from Sept. 2 to 4; and right now you can go to “The Starfleet Academy Experience” at The Intrepid.
“Star Trek Beyond” is just another ace entry point into this fandom. Beam aboard now.