It is unfortunate that the title “Star Trek Generations” was wasted on the franchise’s mediocre 1994 installment because if any installment in the series truly brings the spirit of the distinct generations of Star trek together, it is “Star Trek Beyond.”
While the last few Trek films have certainly been exciting and action-packed, they lacked what the franchise is supposed to be all about – venturing out into “the final frontier.” Since the 2009 reboot, audiences have seen Romulans bent on destroying the Federation and Khan seeking revenge, both recycled plots. “Beyond,” written by Simon Pegg (who plays Scotty, the Enterprise’s chief engineer) and Doug Jung, follows a refreshingly new story with twists and turns that are actually surprising.
The best of the “Original Series” movies all had something in common: Each character was fleshed out and had something valuable to contribute to the story. “Beyond” borrows this strength, having the new version of the classic crew work together to survive on an uncharted planet as aliens hunt them. In some of the best scenes, Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Karl Urban (Bones) swap antagonistic banter that would make Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, the originators of the roles, proud.
Idris Elba, who plays the movie’s villain, Krall, doesn’t deliver much of a memorable performance. Sofia Boutella, on the other hand, is interesting as Jaylah, a newfound ally for Kirk and crew. Speaking of whom, the Enterprise seven at last feel as comfortable in their roles as William Shatner’s crew once did.
It is worth mentioning that “Beyond” explores the potential of Star Trek’s sci-fi setting better than perhaps any of the previous movies, save 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” The way that the villain’s ships swarm and the design of the gravity-defying Federation space station both bring cool new ideas to Star Trek’s somewhat stale visual norms.
As one would expect, “Star Trek Beyond” is littered with in-jokes that will make Trekkies chuckle. It also appeals to die-hard Trek fans, however, in evoking not just the old TV shows and films, but in also remembering and using the fact that there was an entire series, “Star Trek: Enterprise,” that the time-bending of the series reboot did not erase from continuity.
At the same time, “Beyond” finally perfects the formula of this newest generation of Star Trek. The madcap action and frantic stunts that have replaced the earlier films’ calm diplomacy and careful investigations are executed perfectly. Where the use of anachronistic 20th century music and vehicles was distracting and relatively pointless in 2009’s “Star Trek,” in “Beyond,” director Justin Lin (whose credits include several of the Fast & Furious films) makes them fit in a way that actually adds to the exhilarating fun of the movie.
“Star Trek Beyond” is a can’t-miss chapter for fans of the series and a perfect place to introduce viewers who wouldn’t know a Ceti eel from a Regulan bloodworm.