Nobody was excited for Star Trek Beyond until like, a month ago. The first Beastie Boys-infused trailer hit, and it was hailed as the least-Star Trek thing to ever Star Trek, and the marketing and promotional push from about a month ago, along with the positive buzz have skyrocketed excitement, and it’s nice to see a film not outright bomb at the bomb at the box office, especially a good one.
Star Trek (2009) is one of my favorite movies ever made. JJ Abrams had crafted a movie I could watch that flick on a loop for days, and I have before. Seeing that movie in startling IMAX with my closest friends in Arizona is an extremely vivid memory of mine. Even the heavily criticized and admittedly problematic Star Trek Into Darkness was a bright and zippy romp that many forget came out the same summer as brooding and stupid blockbusters like Man of Steel and World War Z. I’m not here to talk about any of those movies, though cause they’re not movies that came out in theaters today.
One movie of relevance that came out the year the Into Darkness mystery box was revealed was Fast And Furious 6, directed by who would eventually be JJ Abrams’ post-Star Wars replacement; Justin Lin.
I like the Fast and Furious movies, not as much as others, but I can see their value. They’re movies about family. They’ve got muscles and cars and muscle cars and most of all, explosions. Justin Lin has a competent, logical eye for action and can make complex sequences intelligible, which is no small feat. Matching that with a return-to-roots, big sci-fi vision of space exploration shared by co-screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, and you have what’s actually a juxtaposition, and one that the film doesn’t make gel quite like the predecessors.
You may not have liked Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, but JJ Abrams and co. knew exactly what they were making and exactly how they wanted you to feel watching it.
Here, all the pieces are in play. We have an incredibly charming, impeccable cast, a three-dimensional villain played by the brilliant Idris Elba, and a fascinating new character named Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. Michael Giacchino returns to score the feature, and with it, he plays with his astounding themes in experimental ways, but seems to pulls back the reigns when things get too ‘weird.’ There aren’t any pieces like “London Calling,” a memorable song from Into Darkness.
What’s left is a promise from co-star and screenwriter Simon Pegg, the self-elected Star Trek Reboot spokesperson that the series will return to its roots as a space exploration series. With Beyond acting more in tune with The Original Series, acting as both an epilogue to the show and a launching point from it, taking place three years into their five year mission (if you could possibly care about continuity at this point).
Let me get this out of the way, the movie is good. Make no mistake of that from the pessimism in my voice, the film is fine. The story is there. The cast is there. The set pieces are there (including a mesmerizing third act), and the charm seeps through, despite an apparent desire to disregard the previous film and wrap up every x thematic loose tie the previous films could’ve created. The characters you see in Star Trek Beyond are the characters you love from the original series from th60’s, and that’s probably exciting to many of you. Kirk growing up without his father, a casualty from the Kelvin Timeline, made him an inherently different character than William Shatner’s character, and that was very interesting to me. I thought that was interesting to everyone?
Now, we have obvious visual cues that Chris Pine has been watching and emulating William Shatner’s mannerisms, his signature expressions, and I definitely felt that. Everyone suffers the same fate. JJ Abrams’ Flanderization of the cast has been reversed, and the Star Trek films are now simply big-budget episodes of The Original Series, and that’s probably the best move for Paramount, Star Trek, and everyone involved, but it teeters on boring, and it’s definitely not the kind of film JJ Abrams would’ve made. Though JJ Abrams got to make the film he wanted to make, it’s called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Let me reiterate: Star Trek Beyond is fine. There are jokes. There are thrills. There are IMAX 3D tickets available on Fandango. It’s without a doubt one of the best blockbusters you’ll see this year, and in the upper-echelon of films, you’ll see this year, period. It has a Rihanna song in it! There’s not much more you could ask for from a Star Trek film or any film for that matter. So why am I feeling empty? What am I missing? Is it lens flares?
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).