For those who don’t know, I am neither a die-hard fan of Star Wars nor of Star Trek. I am a Browncoat first, thank you very much.
However, I do like the new Star Trek movie series, for the most part. The first one was a very accessible movie, as it introduced me to the world of Captain Kirk, Spock, and Starfleet. I didn’t like the second one as much, however, because it tried too hard to be (essentially) a remake of The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek Beyond, however, blows the other two movies way out of the water. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first because of the trailer, but this film is definitely a thrill ride from beginning to end. I haven’t felt so breathless after the end of a movie since Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The theme of the movie returns to the themes of the original series: Growing up and dealing with life in a seemingly endless journey towards discovering the unknown. I’m hoping to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible because I went into this knowing next to nothing about what the movie was about beyond what I saw from the initial trailer.
Captain James Tiberius Kirk, played by Chris Pine, records a very contemplative captain’s log. He feels that the five-year voyage has become “episodic” and he wonders if there’s any meaning to it all. This newfound maturity is a breath of fresh air compared to the immature attitude he had during the previous two movies. He’s also celebrating his birthday. However, unlike the original Kirk, he’s not scared of getting old. He’s realizing that he’s one year older than his father, who died at the same time that he was born. Chris Pine, btw, is 35 years old. He does not look it, obviously, but I like that Kirk’s character arc is centering on defining himself beyond his father’s legacy.
Speaking of legacy, Spock’s character arc centers on what he thinks is the logical choice for the continuing of his species and following his heart to keep his relationship with Uhura intact. His contemplation to leave Starfleet would also mean not seeing his best friend. He gets a change in his logical plans when he learns of the death of Spock Prime, played by the late Leonard Nimoy.
While the previous two films could be argued as centering on Kirk and Spock too much, this movie is a great example of how to handle an ensemble cast. Even the so-called “supporting members” of the crew (Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty) play major roles in this film. As Uhura says in the film, the strength of the Enterprise crew is the fact that they stick together, even when the odds are against them. Justin Lin has a lot of experience directing ensembles in movies such as Fast and Furious and TV shows like Community and it shows in this film when the crew gets stranded on a remote planet, with limited communications.
I don’t want to say how the crew of the Enterprise ended up stranded, but I will say that the journey of the first act is a crazy thrill ride. I was legitimately scared that any one of the characters could die, even knowing that they probably have plans for the sequel.
The crew gets separated after getting stranded on the remote planet, with Kirk and Chekov trying to handle a supposed alien damsel in distress. Uhura, Sulu, and the rest of the Enterprise crew are taken captive by the main bad guy, Krall, and his band of ravagers. Bones and Spock are stranded on another part of the planet and spend a lot of hilarious moments together, even as Spock deals with a wound he received from the Enterprise’s crash landing. And Scotty, stranded in yet another part of the planet, meets Jaylah, a young alien lady who’s familiar with the territory and strikes up a good friendship with the engineer.
One thing I loved about this movie is that the only romantic relationship in the spotlight is Spock and Uhura’s. Kirk has abandoned his playboy ways since, as captain, he doesn’t want to get entangled with any of the crew and cause unnecessary drama. (Incidentally, Dr. Marcus does not appear in this movie. Which is an honest relief for me because I didn’t like her to begin with. My headcanon is that she and Kirk had a fling and she eventually left the Enterprise after the fallout of said relationship. But I digress.) The character of Jaylah stands out as a great female character who’s managed to survive on the dangerous unnamed planet in a 100-year-old starship. She spends a lot of time bonding with Scotty, but the two of them are never romantically involved. Kirk also helps Jaylah, but doesn’t get involved romantically with her, either. My usual shipping radar drove me to expect Jaylah to hook up with somebody, but it’s a breath of fresh air that she is instead a great ally who doesn’t hook up with anybody. It’s implied at the end that she’s young enough to enroll in Starfleet and Scotty pulls strings to help her on that path. I hope I see her in the next movie!
Speaking of romantic relationships, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact that there was a short scene in this film that shows that Sulu is gay. There is a lot of controversy over it and understandably so. However, the point of Star Trek was to show that the citizens of earth lived in a future with no racial tensions and that anything was possible for them. I honestly thought that Sulu was gay in the original anyway, so it’s no big deal for me that his sexual orientation is acknowledged here. I’m just glad that the film itself didn’t make a big deal out of Sulu being married to another man and having a daughter.
The sad part of this film, though, is that it’ll be the last film that Anton Yelchin, the actor who plays Chekov, will ever be seen in, as he died in a car accident a week before the film premiered. Chekov played a huge role in this movie, helping Kirk search for the Enterprise crew. His sweet demeanor provides for great comic relief at times. Of course, Spock and Bones provide most of the humor in this movie. Again, though, the shadow of Spock Prime still lingers in this film. I started crying during the part when Spock looks at an old photo of the original cast.
I can’t talk much about the bad guy here, though, for the sake of spoilers. All I can say is that these bad guys were a legitimate threat. There were scenes with this guy that are the stuff of nightmares!
Don’t be deterred by the trailer because all the action actually serves the plot here, crazy awesome rock music and all. It reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy, but with a touch of philosophy from the original series. Overall, I highly recommend you see this movie.
Star Trek Beyond is copyright to Paramount. Image is used for editorial purposes only.