J.J. Abrams reinvented the “Star Trek” universe back in 2009 with the introduction of an alternate reality parallel to the one seen in Gene Roddenberry’s iconic 1960s television series. Since then, the franchise has boldly gone where no iteration of the USS Enterprise has gone before.
Well, sort of. The 2013 sequel, “Into Darkness” was a partial rehash of 1982’s beloved “Wrath of Khan,” but thrilling nonetheless for new and old fans alike with better special effects, a topsy-turvy take on the classic material and a dastardly turn from Benedict Cumberbatch as the famous villain whose name is better spoken in shouting tones.
Has the nerd-centric sci-fi franchise pushed the final frontier in terms of new movies? “Not by a long shot,” says the latest sequel, “Star Trek Beyond” (released July 22). Captain Kirk and Co. are just getting started. In fact, in the words of this film’s villain, the frontier is actually pushing back! And what better way to symbolize a new chapter in the “Star Trek” mythos than new director, Justin Lin?
While the first two films were more introductory to the adventurous world of the Federation and Star Fleet, “Beyond” gives us a more seasoned Enterprise crew that has a better idea of what the hell it’s doing out in space. In other words, it’s a take on “Star Trek” that’s more akin to the original series. However, it’s also about a crew that’s beginning to question its very purpose.
The film opens with one of James T. Kirk’s infamous captain’s logs, which serves more as an educational montage video on starship workplace etiquette. It’s nearly three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where yadda yadda yadda and Kirk is becoming somewhat disillusioned with the vast unknown of the universe. Things are becoming, in his own words, “episodic” (har har).
Is his mission a futile one? Should he give up flying and take the cushy job as Vice Admiral at Star Fleet’s “Elysium”-esque space station known as Yorktown? As handsome and charismatic as he ever was in the role, Chris Pine is just the right man for the job.
Meanwhile, Spock (Zachary Quinto) dumps Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and wonders whether or not he should quit his job as first officer to pursue the repopulation of New Vulcan by shacking up with a nice Vulcan female. Moreover, the shocking discovery of Ambassador Spock’s death hits him hard. While the passing of Leonard Nimoy could not be ignored, its place in the movie never feels cheap. It’s actually a fitting and respectful send-off to the classic character while also having an important role in Quinto’s new take on the “logical” commander.
But, all these existential and occupation-related questions are put on hold when the Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission inside an uncharted Nebula where the ship gets destroyed … uh-gain by yet another crazy enemy with an irrational grudge. This time against Star Fleet and the Federation who they believe wronged them in the past. The villain in question is Krall (Idris Elba, as terrific as always), an unsettling foe with an even more unsettling Fountain of Youth-like power.
As they crash land on an uninhabited planet, the spatially divided crew must find a way to stop Krall from unleashing a horrifying biological weapon on Yorktown. The original and funny script co-written by Simon Pegg (who plays Montgomery Scott) allows for genuine camaraderie and bonding among pairs of characters like Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock and Scotty and Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), an alien also marooned on the planet with a taste for “classical” earth music (FYI, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys are considered classical in the future) somewhat of an English deficit similar to that of Drax in James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
After his work on some of the “Fast & Furious” movies, Lin knows how to successfully bring off a grand cinematic spectacle. The grand explosive set piece near the end set to “Sabotage” will blow your mind and have you saying, “bruhhh, that was awesome!” And despite his already magnificent work on these movie’s Michael Giacchino is still able to add some distinctive new cues to his lofty score.
The end credits rightfully dedicate “Beyond” to Nimoy and Yelchin who were both cultural icons, one old and one new, taken from us too soon. While this movie is fun, exciting and worthy of the “Star Trek” title, it is also a reflection on those we have lost, who really gone above and beyond in popular culture and in life. I will close out this review by saying that they, Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, have been and always shall be our friends.