In 2009, writer/director and general geek oracle J. J. Abrams performed a near miracle by rebooting the Star Trek franchise with level of success that few people – fans or detractors had suspected. Jumping forward four years Abrams’ Trek ran entirely off the rails with the trainwreck of a film with Into Darkness. Three years later and Star Trek Beyond finds Abrams still signing the checks as Executive Producer, but we have writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin having taken the helm back into surer waters.
Where Abrams was a self-avowed non-fan of the franchise (and it showed during Darkness), we now have Pegg and Lin who both have long been known to be lifelong Trekkies, and the resulting film is finally back to being something that Star Trek fans can enjoy without wincing. It’s been eleven years since a new episode of any type of Trek has aired, and this film has the all the composite points that made so many episodes (of various series) memorable. The core crew is there with their relationship dynamic driving them around, a crisis with no ships around other than the Enterprise able to take on the mission, and an alien bad guy trying to hitch a ride.
It’s not the most dramatic of the Trek films, but we have plenty of drama in daily life these days. This film is more aiming for escapism and entertainment while holding onto the hopeful tenants instilled into the original DNA by original creator Gene Roddenberry.
Arriving at the space station Yorktown, the Enterprise discovers an escape pod with an alien (Kalara played by Lydia Wilson). Claiming that her ship has been damaged and is stranded on a planet buried in a nearby nebula. As things are never quite that simple – when the Enterprise arrives they discover that it’s been a setup and and an ambush is unleashed by an alien (this one is named Krall and played by Idris Elba) commanding a massive fleet of drone attack ships.
The action is solid, the retro-yet modern crew works as well as it did in the ’09 Trek, and better than it did in at least three of the original run of pre-Next Generation films. The action scenes are quick paced and will executed (not that we’d expect much less since Lin has been the director on several of the Fast and Furious films).
You might not yet be ready to forgive Abrams for blowing off Trek to go play with his Star Wars toys, but Beyond goes a long way towards earning a smile again from longtime Star Trek fans. The echos of Star Trek The Motion Picture’s tagline of “The Human Adventure is Just Beginning” largely fits once again.
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