Space...Space truly is the final frontier and three years well into their first deep space, five-year mission, the crew of the Starship Enterprise is beginning to show all the signs of wear, especially its captain. Although an established living legend within the halls of Starfleet and the Federation, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself questioning his place in the cosmos, even as they push further than even they imagined in Star Trek Beyond.
The third installment of the “reboot” franchise which recast “The Original Series” when it relaunched in 2009 with J.J. Abrams at the helm. That film successful reignited interest in the now 50 year old brand, which continues to endure and managed to explain itself by splintering the Star Trek timeline and in fact running alternatively to what fans have come to call the Prime Timeline. Things have evolved rather differently in this alternate realm.
Indeed events are moving at warp speed. After defending the planet against the terrorist attack from a war-mongering rogue faction within Starfleet and the genetically engineered Khan Noonien Singh, Kirk and his crew are rewarded with a retooled Starship Enterpise and a coveted 5-year mission to seek out new life, new civilizations and go boldly. After nearly 3 years Kirk is feeling the ensigns of his command.
Life on the Enterprise has proceeded as normally as can be expected from a crew expanding their presence in uncharted space, but it would seem that in this alternate reality, the pressure of a five-year mission is indeed burdened indeed. So much so that when Kirk and crew pull into the Federation’s newest starbase, The Yorktown (diehard enthusiasts will enjoy the irony of the name) Kirk has put in for a promotion for Vice Admiral, effectively resigning from active duty.
No sooner is the Enterprise docked and its crew set loose aboard the Yorktown to visit with friends and family; Spock (Zachary Quinto) meets with a delegation from New Vulcan, Sulu (John Cho) is reunited with his husband and daughter during shore leave, and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) is exploring her life newly single, a mysterious interloper arrives on station begging for assistance in rescuing her stranded crew. Kirk volunteers to lead the mission.
The Enterprise ventures through a dense nebula and on the other side finds a planet, but before they can enact their rescue the ship is violently attacked by a swarm of alien ships that swiftly eviscerate their ship. The crew is forced to abandon the ship as the Enterprise crashes onto the planet’s surface, and then begins a fight for survival, against a mad man who is threatening to annihilate the Federation and in effect the entire way of life in the Twenty-Second Century.
Written by Simon Puig (who also plays Scotty in the series) and Doug Jung both self-proclaimed Star Trek aficionados for sure, Star Trek Beyond is most certainly, of the three reboot films in tempo the most “like” an Original Series episode, which is appropriate considering fans are in the middle of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. For this third film, it was evident and imperative that a proper homage play out on screen especially after the last film’s dark plunge.
Puig and Jung toted that their script, directed by Fast & Furious franchise filmmaker Justin Lin, would be filled with allusions to Trek’s legacy — and, yes — there are plenty of random references in there to Star Trek from as early as Star Trek: Enterprise chronology, to the 24th century, courtesy of Spock “Prime” (the memory of the now departed Leonard Nimoy) run heavily throughout the film, but Star Trek Beyond falls short in expectation because it lacks nostalgia.
The film is massive in scale and scope — the Enterprise has never looked bigger, the space station is enormous, the attack is unparalleled — but lacks originality. When it comes to the central dilemma facing the crew in Star Trek Beyond it feels like we’ve been there before; the major crisis that has motivated the film’s villain Krall (Idris Elba) to rage against the Federation is not well detailed. The audience is left to figure it out in an epilogue at the end of the film.
Although Star Trek Beyond is “fun to watch” it does’t have the naturalness at heart amid its central characters that makes a Star Trek film authentic. Even at the franchise’s most dim, an example might be Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or Star Trek IX: Insurrection — these films at least more genuinely gave us the crew of Starship Enterprise (in two generations) at their best, doing exactly what we most enjoyed seeing them do: be a family.
Now it’s very important to note that Star Trek Beyond is worth the ticket! Of this summer’s blockbusters it is a standout. It’s a great popcorn flick and thoroughly enjoyable; its great to revisit with the cast of the reboot and see them in action one more time. It’s too bad the Enterprise gets shot up in the first act of the film, and it’s quite spectacular — this “refit” Enterprise — but we hardly get to spend any time examine the subtle details.
Fortunately by the film’s end we see that another Enterprise is quickly put into production, right in the heart (ironically) of the Yorktown and it’s this new Enterprise-A that we’ll have to wait to revisit with, and hopefully learn what truly lies beyond.
Next: My favorite moment in Star Trek Beyond.