I guess it says something that a die-hard Star Trek fan like myself took so long to see Star Trek Beyond. (Why did they call it that, anyway? The title makes it seem like the Enterprise crew is going to travel outside the galaxy or something, rather than stay in the nebula-around-the-corner.) This is another movie set in JJ Abrams’s “reboot” universe where the original Enterprise crew of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest, are younger — and have a much bigger budget. Though they are meant to be the same characters, and this is meant to be a Star Trek movie, I never felt like any of these new movies had the right spirit. Even in the opening voiceover for Beyond, Kirk goes on about how, after a few years in deep space, the crew is getting tired of the endless exploration. Really?! That’s their whole mission: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” How can they ever get tired of it? Regardless of whether this feels like a true Trek movie, it still makes for a pretty slick sci-fi adventure movie, and I chose to enjoy it on those merits.
Because of their homesickness, the Enterprise returns “home” to a star base called Yorktown, which is an amazing spherical city-state floating in space. I kind of wish they’d spent more time there, but they don’t, and before long, Kirk is dragging his crew off to rescue another stranded ship in a nearby murky-looking nebula. Unfortunately, before you can say “engage” they are attacked by a vicious enemy using a cleverly designed swarm ship (it’s like a cloud of tiny single-person ships that stab at the Enterprise and tear it to pieces). The battle is cleverly devised, and I was impressed that this enemy thought to do something incredibly obvious that yet no other enemy seems to have thought of before: they cut off the nacelles (the engines) of the ship, so that they were unable to move. The crew all eject escape pods and shoot down to the nearby planet (Somewhere, the villain tents his fingers and mutters, “Excellent”).
A large portion of the movie is about the various crew trying to figure out how to survive and get back in touch with each other and get home. One of the new characters introduced is Jaylah (who despite the pun of her name, is not one of the bad guys holding the crew captive). Played by Sofia Boutella (who I did not recognize as being the gracefully deadly Gazelle, from Kingsmen: The Secret Service, under all her white, alien makeup). Jaylah was also a victim of the swarm ships and has been stranded on the planet where she’s a renegade. Eventually, the crew all meet up and face down the bad guy named Krall (played by Idris Alba in even more makeup, which makes him look a lot like one of the Jem’Hadar from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). No spoilers here, but there is a bit of a twist (not sure I care, though) regarding Krall’s true identity — he’s actually Khan! Just kidding.
The characters are relatively fun (I was amused by Jaylah constantly calling Scotty “Montgomery Scotty”), and they all have pretty good banter throughout. They are pretty much playing to what they are known to be: Kirk (Chris Pine) is too reckless; Spock (Zachary Quinto) is too logical — though he struggles too much with his human-side emotions; Scotty (Simon Pegg) is too Scottish; McCoy (Karl Urban) is too much of a curmudgeon; and they are all too jokey. Though there are a few brief attempts at serious drama, this movie is pretty much cotton candy. There is no high-concept stuff here. It’s like the science fiction equivalent of a Fast and Furious movie — at least one of the better ones.
I think this movie is what you’d expect it to be — it certainly was for me. But like the Enterprise crew, I’m not sure I want to spend any more time exploring this universe (though I believe there is another movie planned). Rather, I’m looking forward to the new Star Trek Discovery TV series coming in 2017. I hope it will bring us all back home to what Star Trek should be. (4 out of 5)