For any Trek fans that may have been wary about the third installment in the Kelvin timeline, following the first action-packed trailer, stow those worries. Star Trek Beyond is the closest movie in spirit and tone to The Original Series.
On Wednesday night of Comic-Con, Paramount launched the World Premiere of Star Trek Beyond at Embarcadero Park, with an accompanying light show, fireworks display and performance from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra also accompanied Beyond by playing the score to the movie, and if you ever find yourself faced with the opportunity to experience a film “in concert,” jump at the chance. It was, without a doubt, an experience that will remain completely unparalleled for me. (Goosebumps doesn’t even begin to cover it.)
Of course, it’s an emotionally conflicting time to be a Star Trek fan. This year marks the 50th Anniversary since the series first premiered on television, an understandable cause for celebration, but it has also seen the passing of both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. The event paid tribute to both in an incredibly touching way and a minute’s silence in memory of Yelchin — who should have been there alongside his castmates promoting the film, though his parents were in attendance — was the least that fans in the audience could do to commemorate him.
As for the cast themselves, it did not go unnoticed that they were all sporting a lapel pin of the Starfleet logo, but in black — these pins were being worn to honor Anton Yelchin’s memory, and I’ll admit to getting more than a little choked up at the gesture. For as difficult as it may be for fans, myself included, to mourn Yelchin’s passing, this was his “family” — a tight knit cast he’d spent years working alongside, who were (and are) required to “continue performing admirably” on this difficult press tour.
In the end, the World Premiere provided the opportunity to mourn those who were no longer with us, but also celebrate the part they played in the Star Trek franchise — not least the movie that we had all gathered together to see, which (despite the spectacular pre-show) still managed to steal the night for this fan in particular. No small feat for a third installment plagued by naysayers prior to its release.
So, without further ado, here’s our review for Star Trek Beyond.
A true ensemble movie
There’s no denying that much of Star Trek has always been heavily focused on Captain Kirk, Spock and the relationship between them — however you choose to read into that. Certainly, Star Trek and Into Darkness verged on becoming the Kirk and Spock show, but despite that central relationship, which I have always been a fan of, the rest of the Enterprise’s Bridge crew equally deserved their time in the spotlight — something that had been sorely missing from both movies prior to Beyond, especially for someone with a glaring soft spot for Leonard “Bones” McCoy.
Due to a catastrophic event alluded to in the trailers, and reminiscent of The Original Series, the crew is splintered into some unconventional pairings — at least for the Kelvin timeline. Kirk and Chekov find themselves partnered together, to great effect, with the pair heading up the search for their missing crew. Hikaru Sulu is at the forefront as the de facto leader of a sizable group of the missing Enterprise crew, alongside Uhura — who finds herself with a more active role outside of the shadow of Spock. Scotty finds himself tangled up with like-minded engineer Jaylah, a newcomer to the franchise that we will touch on later, and their interactions were a constant delight.
But the highlight of these mismatched couples was undoubtedly Spock and Bones. Harking back to the relationship on screen between Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, they traded thinly-veiled barbs that masked their grudging respect and friendship — it also showcased exactly why Leonard McCoy is such a hugely valued member of the Enterprise crew. His unprecedented medical knowledge is put to the test in extreme circumstances, and is responsible for saving Spock on more than one occasion.
It truly felt as though every single crew member got an equal billing in Beyond — something that has certainly been a long time coming.
Respecting its origins
As long-time fans of Star Trek, it really should have come as no surprise that Justin Lin and Simon Pegg have a respect for where it all began — and that’s never more evident than in the incredibly subtle nods back to The Original Series.
From a conversation between Kirk and Bones, reminiscent of one from Wrath of Khan, to Chekov’s pride in his Russian heritage, to toasting to absent friends a la Search for Spock, to the Yorktown, to McCoy’s colorful insults, to the Franklin’s serial number, to ripped shirts, to an ‘original’ photograph, to a giant green space hand, and much, much more, there are countless references to classic moments that don’t feel forced or shoe-horned in.
Star Trek Beyond also took the time to remind us exactly what the Federation stands for — both in the mission that the Enterprise finds itself on and also in an internal conflict that Kirk faces due to the extended time he (and his crew) have spent in deep space. Beyond was as much about exploration and discovering uncharted corners of space as it was Kirk rediscovering himself and what it truly means to be a captain in Starfleet.
Is there a more fitting way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary than that?
Much like the heartfelt pre-show leading up to the movie, Beyond itself featured a touching tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy, which also added a depth and conflict to Spock’s plot. It was, like many of the nods back to The Original Series, incredibly understated, yet beautiful — culminating in a particularly tear-jerking moment toward the end of the movie.
Beyond addressed the question of mortality in a sensitive way, without feeling as though it was added as an after-thought. It also linked back to a primary issue from the first film in the Kelvin timeline, regarding the destruction of Vulcan and what became of its people in the time since that devastating event took place.
Joining a cast of beloved characters and standing toe-to-toe with them without skipping a beat is no easy task, yet it was one that Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah managed with style. She was, by far, one of the stand-out characters, and one that I would be eager to see more of moving forward in the Kelvin timeline — and the opportunity for her to join the Enterprise crew was certainly left open ended at the close of the movie.
Jaylah was formidable, confident, and smart — a genuinely delightful role model for women in STEM — yet had the opportunity to be vulnerable and scared. Boutella played her with flair, and she’s certain to become a fan-favorite with new and old Trek fans alike. (She even had shades of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy to her, which was a lot of fun.)
I deliberated for a long time over whether or not to put Krall in this section. And, while I did genuinely enjoy his arc, it is the weakest part of the movie. That’s not to say that his motivations to oppose the Federation and come to blows with the Enterprise aren’t understandable — they are, and perhaps more so than any Kelvin timeline villain before him.
A little more time could have been dedicated to rounding out Krall’s character, as he did retread the paths previously forged by both Nero and Khan, though he was a formidable force for our heroes to come up against. Krall was certainly a villain that slowly unraveled — rather than landing his punches consistently throughout Beyond — but whether or not that’s a good thing will be mostly up to personal preference.
Star Trek Beyond was a triumphant return to the Trek I loved growing up. It felt more like an extended episode of The Original series, with an admittedly higher budget, and touched on everything that stole my heart in the first instant — from the relationship between the crew, to the steadfast belief in everything the Federation stood for, to the whip-smart dialogue at every turn.
And if you were worried about the inclusion of the Beastie Boy’s “Sabotage” and that motorbike scene from the trailer? Don’t be. The usage of them — no matter how you felt about them in the original film from the Kelvin timeline — is warranted and seamless within the film, but also brought one of the most genuine laughs I had throughout the course of Beyond.
The film is packed to the brim with edge-of-your-seat action, but doesn’t forget the story in its haste to up the ante. More than anything, Star Trek Beyond was a tribute to everything Star Trek, and one that any fan will enjoy returning to over and over again.