REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond Poster
Promotional Poster – Paramount Pictures

The following is a review of Star Trek Beyond.

Hold on to something! Star Trek is back. While the ‘Abramsverse,’ meaning the universe created or rebooted after J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot started making Star Trek, has gotten a lot of criticism from fans of the original films and series, you cannot deny, though, that Abrams got the franchise back into the public memory with the excellent Star Trek from 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness, a solid action sequel, from 2013.

But, for the third film in the Abramsverse, J. J. Abrams, himself, hasn’t been sitting in the director’s chair. Abrams, who directed 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, has been replaced by Justin Lin, who you may know from his excellent work on the Fast and the Furious-franchise or his solid episodes from the Community and True Detective TV-shows.

I’ll admit that I’ve been worried about Star Trek Beyond. It isn’t that I don’t trust Justin Lin. I actually think Lin should be praised for having successfully revived the Fast and the Furious-franchise in a satisfying way, and I absolutely love his Community-episodes. No, my worry with Star Trek Beyond was that the franchise, without Abrams as a director, would lose the soul and feel of the newly rebooted Star Trek.

I, personally, was also worried about how Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, may they rest in peace, would exit the franchise. Would they be treated with respect in the film? Would their characters? I am so happy to say that Star Trek Beyond is a great Star Trek-sequel, and that both Old Spock and Chekov are treated with a lot of respect.

Obviously, the film was already done when the world lost Anton Yelchin, so they couldn’t ‘really’ honor him in the film itself, but Star Trek Beyond is dedicated to both Yelchin and Nimoy. As for losing the soul and feel of the Abramsverse? Don’t worry, Justin Lin does a great job, even if there is one action sequence, wherein Kirk is riding a motorcycle, that does make it clear that this film was made by one of the best directors from the Fast and the Furious-franchise.

Star Trek Beyond takes place in the middle of the Enterprise’s five-year mission. It doesn’t reference Into Darkness, and the film really sets itself up as more of a standalone film – at one point Kirk even says the mission feels ‘episodic.’ So it’s safe to say that this is somewhat different from the first two Abramsverse-films.

Although the feel and tone of the Abramsverse is very much present here, ‘change’ is all over Star Trek Beyond. Kirk (played by Chris Pine) wants to step down as Captain, and Spock (played by Zachary Quinto) and Uhura’s (played by Zoe Saldana) relationship has hit the rocks.

But before anything can really change, the Enterprise is sent out on a simple rescue mission. But when they arrive, nothing is as simple as they were told. Soon they are attacked by multiple ships and boarded by the warlord Krall (played by Idris Elba). The Enterprise crashes into a nearby planet, and the crew is separated. Now our heroes must stop Krall and find a way back to Starbase ‘Yorktown’.

This film is so much fun. It’s a blast. It is one of the very best summer blockbuster movies of 2016. The film feels like Star Trek, it has great action, and the characters are all pretty great here. Chris Pine has never been better in the Star Trek-franchise, and Spock and Bones’s dynamic is perfect and so fun to watch. For me, the highlight characters were definitely Karl Urban (Bones) and Sofia Boutella (Jaylah).

I think this was exactly what this franchise needed right now, a ‘standalone’ film that feels like a two hour episode of a Star Trek TV-show. This isn’t about terrorism and cover-ups, like in Into Darkness, and it isn’t about setting a lot of stuff up, like in the 2009 film. Star Trek Beyond stands on its own, with fully developed characters, and some of the best action scenes (and spaceship battles) in the entire franchise.

Now, it’s not all perfect, and I don’t think this film is quite as good as the 2009 Star Trek. Some of the close combat action scenes were a bit tough to follow, I thought, and you could argue that the opening twenty minutes drag on a little bit. There’s also this really cool action sequence, which features the song “Sabotage,” that I think is going to be pretty divisive – as it kind of feels like a music video. But the aforementioned sequence really worked for me. 

So, all in all, I have to say that Star Trek Beyond is one of the best Star Trek films I’ve ever seen. It is definitely a great sequel, and you could argue that it is the best film in the Abramsverse (even though I do prefer the 2009 film). This is the Star Trek movie people have been wanting for a very long time. It needs your support.

8 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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