While I will admit I didn’t necessarily grow up as a “Trekkie,” I had plenty of exposure to the various worlds of Star Trek through my best friend’s parents. They were always watching either the original series or The Next Generation, and if neither show was on television, it was a safe bet that one of the first few theatrical Star Trek films was inhabiting their VCR, especially on the weekends. It’s through them and their enthusiasm that I came to know the crew of the USS Enterprise(s) and grew up with a deep respect for Gene Roddenberry’s bold vision first established fifty years ago.
Which brings us to now. For Star Trek Beyond, series co-star (and lifelong Star Trek fan) Simon Pegg pulled double duty and co-wrote this film’s script alongside Doug Jung, and the results are spectacular. The pair delivers a story that’s not only worthy to bear the Star Trek name, but also perfectly celebrates the adventurous spirit of the original TV series with a palpable affection and insane attention to detail that fans of the Star Trek universe will undoubtedly appreciate.
There’s a genuine sense of affection from the very first frame of Star Trek Beyond to the very last, which is a huge reason that this is undoubtedly my favorite Star Trek film since The Wrath of Khan, and easily the best of the three new films to date. It has precisely everything you could hope for in a Star Trek movie, and so much more.
Star Trek Beyond begins with Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) bringing us up to speed, informing us that he and his crew are 966 days (clever) into their five-year mission, and the stress that comes from traveling in space for so long has begun to set in. The Enterprise makes a stop at Yorktown, a new Federation base, so that Kirk and his hard-working crew can get a break and return to civilization for a few days. While there, the mysterious Kalara (Lydia Wilson) arrives, informing the Federation that her crew was attacked by a hostile alien warrior named Krall (Idris Elba), and everyone else has been taken as hostages to his home planet of Altamid.
Kirk and his fearless crew sign on to take Kalara back to where she narrowly escaped Krall’s grasp, but we quickly see that the aggressive leader has his sights set on the Enterprise. Once they approach Altamid, Krall unleashes his endless army of “bees” on the fateful ship, taking down the iconic vessel in devastating fashion. Scattered and unsure of what’s to come, we watch the splintered crew of the Enterprise deal with being stranded on Altamid, and see how their respective units band together to make a stand against Krall and stop him from unleashing a biological weapon on Yorktown as his own defiant declaration of war against the Federation.
A perfect blending of action, adventure, humor, and emotion, Star Trek Beyond is easily the most well-constructed and thoughtful film I’ve seen this summer blockbuster season. There’s so much love and respect for this series poured into every single frame that I know if I enjoyed it as much as I did, there’s no way lifelong Star Trek enthusiasts won’t love this, too. The humor is well-placed (probably a lot of that has to do with Pegg’s contributions to the script) and never feels like it takes away from Krall’s evil plans, and finding that balance can be so incredibly hard.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Star Trek Beyond for me was watching the Enterprise crew divided into pairs that we don’t normally see. For much of the film, Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) team up on Altamid, and for anyone who followed the original series and knows the dynamic those two characters shared, it makes for some unique moments in Beyond, and we see the two really come to appreciate each other’s viewpoints.
Kirk spends much of his time on Altamid alongside Chekov (Anton Yelchin), which gives the latter a much bigger opportunity to shine than his prior appearances in the franchise. It’s so heartbreakingly unfortunate that we lost Yelchin just a few weeks ago, because his character has never felt as grounded and well-conceived as he does here. I have no idea how the actor’s untimely passing will affect the series in the future, but Star Trek Beyond is a beautiful tribute to both Yelchin’s talents and the iconic character he so vividly brought to life over three movies.
Lieutenants Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are captured by Krall and share some great scenes together as well, especially when they try to sneak out of their prison to send a message to the Federation. Scotty, meanwhile, starts off on Altamid alone, but befriends a warrior by the name of Jaylah (played by Kingsman: The Secret Service star Sofia Boutella), who is scavenging the planet with hopes of escaping Krall and his deadly army. And as great as the original cast is (and believe me, everyone gives their all in this one), Boutella might be my favorite character in Beyond, as she’s brilliant here—a wonderful mix of badass energy and spunk.
For the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the crew wanted to incorporate 50 different alien species into this chapter, making for a cavalcade of practical special effects. Every alien created is stunning to look at, and there are so many unique designs that I simply want to watch this again to try and catch more of these beautiful creations. There’s even one design that looks like a reverse Facehugger, and when I saw her, I audibly gasped like the nerd I am. Bravo to Paramount for embracing this idea and letting Lin and the special effects teams from around the world create some truly stunning designs.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t only just a fantastic entry to this summer’s blockbuster season, it also feels like the Star Trek film fans have been waiting for ever since it was first announced that we’d be getting a new movie series. It’s a loving tribute to these characters that fans have come to admire over the years, and I must tip my hat to Lin, co-writers Jung and Pegg, as well as the entire cast and crew for putting their all into this latest entry. There are several great nods to the TV series that I wouldn’t dare ruin for fans, but believe me when I say that when you see them, they will leave huge smiles on your faces. It’s not hyperbole in the least bit to say that Star Trek Beyond perfectly celebrates 50 years of the franchise, while taking these stories into a bold new future where anything is possible for Captain Kirk and the fearless crew of the USS Enterprise.
Movie Score: 4.5/5