Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Continuing the enterprising reboot franchise ignited by J.J. Abrams in 2009's Star Trek, the latest installment in the retooled adventures of young James T. Kirk and Commander Spock finds the series diving deeper into both the coveted Trek lore, as well as the franchise's essential star-gazing crew and their own individual struggles. Packing in a hefty action-thriller with just enough character development to keep the USS Enterprise in orbit, Star Trek Beyond may have lost Abrams from the last two films, but managed to retain its effective formula to make for an riveting summer blockbuster.

Three years into their five-year voyage across the unknown reaches of space, the crew of the USS Enterprise soon find themselves drawn back into action after a mysterious new threat (Idris Elba) enacts a deadly attack on the crew's massive starship. Crippling the crew's defenses and sending Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the Enterprise crew into the cryptic landscape of the planet Altamid, the now-scattered members of Starfleet must rally together in an effort to prevent this new threat from utilizing a deadly bio-weapon against the universe. With the help of their new alien ally, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), the Enterprise crew faces their most challenging adventure yet as they explore the newest world in their ever-expanding search through the most unknown reaches of the final frontier.

Finally diving into the latest adventure from the Starfleet crew, I was happily greeted by yet another fun-filled, highly-explosive summer blast. Graciously accompanied by a near-perfect cast -- once again embodying the well-known faces of the original 1966 Star Trek television series that started it all -- as well as a plethora of space-age gadgetry to keep things interesting, Star Trek Beyond effortlessly managed to evoke a very similar sentiment I've received from the last two installments of the rebooted franchise: Pure excitement. Yes, while Beyond may not have been an all-together stellar film, with breathtaking performances and eye-popping visuals, it offered up a unique set of thrills and enjoyment that makes it one of the most delightful and satisfying films of the summer. While Beyond might not have ventured too far into the more expansive reaches of space, it worked well with what it had and didn't ask for more than that.

While the special effects and all the alien make-up you could ask for may be notable elements of the film, one of the most impacting aspects of this rebooted series that never fails to draw me back in would have to be its cast. Led by its irreplaceable crew of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), the latest adventure of the star-gazing voyagers once again managed to keep me entertained for the majority of the film mostly due to the likable performances of its unique crew. Dipping further into the personalities and motivations of its central characters, especially focusing on Kirk's questioning of his leadership on the Enterprise and Spock's sudden urge to rekindle his connection with his fellow Vulcan kind (following a pretty massive -- if not predictable -- plot development), the film also managed to explore how its 5-year voyage is impacting the rest of the crew. While the film may not explore them in terms of emotional development as much Kirk or Spock, characters like Anton Yelchin's Chekov and John Cho's Sulu do offer up enjoyable performances once more.

Enjoyable and nevertheless continually maturing into their established roles made famous by actors like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the cast of the film was not all perfectly sound. Tossing in a plethora of new characters from Sofia Boutella's ass-kicking alien Jaylah to Idris Elba's menacing new threat to the Enterprise crew, one of the film's main problems was its lack of fresh substance when it came to some of its characters and plot details. While I can look over Boutella's decent performance as a new ally to the crew after they crash-land on a distant planet, it was difficult to ignore how cliché the character of Elba's villain Krall eventually became. Anchored by a forgetful plot of revenge against Starfleet, Elba delivered a performance that, while favorable, felt for the most part pretty lazy. Following a far-more menacing performance in April's The Jungle Book as the villainous tiger Shere Khan, Elba's performance in this film lacked a good amount of the actor's true acting skill, choosing to cover him in rocky make-up for the film's majority instead of developing his character more.

Its cast aside, another element that drew me in right away into another adventure with the rebooted crew had to be its once-again brilliant score by composer Michael Giacchino. Bringing me right back into the action with his fast-paced soundtrack inspired primarily by the sounds of the original Star Trek franchise, it was a delight to once again be immersed in an epic space-age sound not to far off from that of Star Wars. Tying in his own unique compositions with the popular fanfare created for the original series, the music of the film was another aspect that managed to keep my eyes (and ears) open and alert as the unexpected voyages of the Enterprise continued deeper and deeper into the far reaches of space.

Overall, this action-packed trequel offered up not only a worthy successor to Star Trek Into Darkness, but also an enjoyable surprise from what first looked to be Fast & Furious in space. With director Justin Lin delivering just the right amount of action set pieces and favorable storytelling to keep this franchise alive for another voyage ahead, Star Trek Beyond proved that the franchise can not only survive without J.J. Abrams, but it can also pack a might punch with its younger and well-versed cast. That being said, if you enjoyed the last two entires of the Star Trek franchise, and just want to sit and bask in another explosive Hollywood summer blockbuster that isn't Ghostbusters, I'd recommend checking into Star Trek Beyond.

I gave this film a 7 out of 10 for its still-entertaining and just-as-likable cast, its limited yet valued effort to bring something fresh to the franchise of phasers and Vulcans, and its high-octane action that brought the essence of Fast & Furious to space, but didn't cause it to completely implode on its own ridiculousness.    

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