“…to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
For nearly 50 years, Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” has graced our screens, large and small. Trek isn’t limited to just one generation, but generations as J. J. Abrams successfully showed us with the STAR TREK reboot in 2009, part of what is now, officially, versed as the “Kelvin Timeline.”
Abrams followed this up with 2013’s STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. Although not nearly as successful as the previous installment, Abrams continued to build on the alternate timeline bringing in more familiar elements. Much to the chagrin of audiences, the buildup to the film’s climax was coldly received. Mr. Abrams elected to reboot another familiar science fiction property, handing the ‘helm’ over to Justin Lin for the new film, STAR TREK BEYOND. Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Doug Jung (2003’s CONFIDENCE) were brought in to fashion the new script.
In this new adventure, our crew is midway through their first five-year mission. Kirk (Chris Pine), fresh from a diplomatic mission, contemplates the health and well-being of the crew before putting into the Earth-like Starbase Yorktown for resupply and R&R. The crew avail themselves of the opportunity to recharge and reconnect, when a distressed ship raises the specter of being called into action. Kirk and company happen to be in the right place at the right time. On passing through a nebula of asteroids, the ship and crew are ambushed, resulting in the Enterprise‘s destruction. The crew are captured by Krall (Idris Elba) who is searching for an artifact which will eventually lead to more destruction and it is up to Kirk to stop him.
BEYOND is fun and vibrant. More importantly, it is respectful towards Leonard Nimoy, who passed away in 2015.
More so than with STAR TREK and INTO DARKNESS, BEYOND focuses on building relationships. While these movies are set during the Original Series time frame, the current cast has not really had the opportunity to focus on building their onscreen relationships.
BEYOND is focused on doing just that, and it is ultimately its strength. Pegg and Jung hit just the right notes. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban, who is a stitch in this universe) are the central focus and their relationship is firmly cemented throughout this adventure. Sulu’s family (John Cho) is introduced here and it is a nice moment for the character, no matter what universe you reside in. Uhura (Zoe Saldana), who was woefully underused in the prime timeline, is put to effective use
in this movie, giving her character development arc the greatest range. Chekov (Anton Yelchin) is also given his moment to shine and certainly develops his character further. Sadly, the actor was killed in an accident earlier this year. He certainly nailed the character here, making it all the more poignant. Of the supporting cast, Sofia Boutella as Jaylah is a highlight and it is a pleasure to see Deep Roy as Keenser.
BEYOND is not without its challenges. Much in the same way the previous two entries suffered from incomplete villains, Krall is no exception. Krall’s motives are ultimately ineffective because he isn’t fleshed out, a weakness of the Pegg/Jung script. Despite the vividness of the individual parts, BEYOND does feel heavy. There is a certain vanity in the Kelvin Timeline, which BEYOND celebrates rather than moves away from. Perhaps it is the mentality of the audience that the movies pander to. There is recognition of the contribution of Nimoy and the original cast along with Yelchin. However, there is also a sense of déjà vu and the only thing that escapes its gravity is the acting.
Lin understands today’s audiences, focusing on action and comedy. This is to the story’s benefit and it’s Achilles Heel: not everything needs to elicit a chortle or be shaken across the screen. Just as every incarnation of “Trek” before it, BEYOND takes advantage of today’s technology to deliver supreme special effects, compliments of Ron Ames and the various effects houses employed to bring the exciting visuals to the screen. Stephen F. Windon, who worked with Lin on the FURIOUS movies, made effective use of space in BEYOND, but the shakiness of the camera during action sequences grows tiresome. Michael Giacchino’s score, where he not only incorporates the famous Alexander Courage/Gene Roddenberry main theme from the original series, but also the hero theme he and Abrams established in STAR TREK, gives each character their musical moment as well and it only adds to the complex layers of the characters and their relationships. After three movies, the new hero theme works.
For the first viewing of the movie, BEYOND was a part of Paramount’s marathon with STAR TREK and INTO DARKNESS on IMAX. BEYOND was presented in IMAX 3D. The lack of IMAX camera scenes was deeply missed. The 3D space was used effectively, but it did not benefit the movie fully. Audio on the IMAX presentation was fully engaging.
The second viewing was on AMC’s Dolby Cinema, with the Dolby proprietary High Dynamic Range (HDR) process and Dolby Atmos. The Dolby Cinema presentation was preferred for the depth of contrast. The Atmos mix really envelopes the audience, placing you in the middle of the movie. Dolby Cinema really is the closest digital representation to 35mm film as we will get without having the real thing.
Although BEYOND is Recommended because it does celebrate all that is pure about the prime timeline, namely the contribution of Leonard Nimoy, it cannibalizes what has come before it.
A contemporary film critic, Janet Maslin, once mused “Now, this is more like it!” about another “Star Trek” movie. There is a sense that BEYOND is better than INTO DARKNESS. It does right grievances aired in STAR TREK and brings the current story arc around, much the same as the original series did in its three seasons. However, the next story needs to move ‘beyond’, truly “boldly going where no one has gone before.”