Beyond. Beyond all the plot macguffins, beyond all the deus ex machina, beyond all the convenient excuses your characters can contrive, Star Trek: Beyond is a rip-roaring space adventure up there with the best of them.
The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are about three years into their five year mission. And Captain Kirk is feeling the boredom. The ship docks at a giant spaceport called Yorktown for a little R&R when an escape pod hurtles into the area with a story of a lost science crew, just beyond the nebula. For some reason, the Enterprise is the only ship that can travel through the nebula, which appears to be a combination of asteroids and electrical storms. Kirk jumps at the chance and sends them through, only to find an ambush waiting for them on the other side.
It’s not much more complicated than that. And it shouldn’t be. This is the bad guy of the week, played by the always amazing Idris Elba. Even if he is shuttled away under layers of makeup and prosthetics. The film was written by co-star Simon Pegg and his unique blend of humor definitely shines through. The plot moves quickly from point to point and neither the audience nor the characters are held up for long. There’s also a decent twist that you can spot if you’re keen enough. It’s not shoe-horned in and the clues are there if you look for them.
But the action sequences, which account for the best and most annoying parts of the movie, come from Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin. The space scenes are b-e-a-utiful. Lasers a blasting, ships a crashing, and crew members a being sucked out into the ether. The shots are visually stunning, and I felt a pang of sadness when the enterprise was cut into pieces by it’s attackers. On the other end, every close quarters fight scene was so filled with shaky-cam it was impossible to follow the action or even care about what was happening. We deserve both, not just one instead of the other, Hollywood.
Star Trek: Beyond is standard fare. But it’s standard fare done right. And frankly, it’s probably the best in this new series so far. Nothing new really occurs: Spock and Uhura still have relationship drama that no one cares about, Kirk and Spock still give each other meaningful looks, Bones gets frustrated. But it is done very well, and adds to the Star Trek mythos in meaningful ways. Since we don’t head back to Earth in this outing, the universe finally feels large and unexplored. And they can finally, finally, boldly go beyond it.
3 out of 4 stars.
P.S. For those who have seen the movie, Kirk is clearly bored because nothing really exciting happens. Then, literally the majority of his crew dies and he’s all excited to jump back into space? That’s kind of fucked up.