SPOILER ALERT: There. It’s out-of-the-way. You know this review contains spoilers, so if you don’t want to read spoilers, don’t read this review.
Star Trek: Beyond marks the third installment in the new line of films. I wasn’t a member of the Star Trek fandom, but this retcon/reboot helped me see the appeal. While the first two films laid on the drama, Beyond cranks up the action to eleven. This doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it does give it a different feel than the others.
Major events have transpired since Into Darkness. The Enterprise is on a 5 year mission into deep space, and docks at a massive space station known as Yorktown. Immediately, you can see the amount of work that went into making this setting look like every sci-fi nerd’s vision of utopia. Everything is bright, busy, and peaceful. Captain Kirk is disillusioned with exploration and applies for a Vice Admiral position with Starfleet and recommends Spock for Captain of the Enterprise. We find out later that Spock has other plans when he learns of the death of Ambassador Spock, his future self. Scenes of Sulu reuniting with this husband and son, Uhura and Spock amicably breaking up, and Scotty repairing the ship all establish where each character is in this new film.
The tension begins to build as an escape pod drifts out of an uncharted nebula. Kalara, the alien recovered from the pod claims that her ship is stranded on a planet inside the nebula. The Enterprise sets on a rescue mission but ambushed almost immediately after reaching the planet. A spectacular action scene, heavy with some of the best CGI in film, unfolds while Star Trek‘s most iconic ship is torn to shreds as it’s crew fights desperately, only to abandon ship. We learn that Kalara is actually an ally of the main antagonist of Star Trek: Beyond, Krall. The story about her ship being stranded was a ruse to bring Krall the Abronath, an ancient weapon stored on the Enterprise due to a failed diplomatic mission.
To make a long story short, Krall is really Balthazar Edison, captain of the USS Franklin (where another character, Jaylah has been living). Krall mysteriously gained the ability to drain the life force from other beings, keeping him virtually immortal and is out for revenge against Starfleet, who he believes abandoned him and his crew. His plan is to release the destructive power of the Abronath in the center of Yorktown. While rescuing the remaining crew of the Enterprise and repairing the Franklin Kirk and his crew formulate a plan to stop Krall and save Yorktown.
In my opinion, the focus on big action sequences in Star Trek:Beyond is a refreshing change. The frantic escape while the Enterprise is ripped apart, Kirk in command of a Beastie Boy’s blasting Franklin exploding a wave of ships, and the wild gravity ride Kirk takes through Yorktown to stop Krall are all beautifully shot and directed. The mix of CGI and practical effects makes the world of Star Trek seem believable and even plausible. I was also delighted that the movie contained no wasted scenes or filler. Everything moves the plot forward and every interaction between characters has an impact.
That isn’t to say this film is without faults. Idris Elba is by no measure a bad actor but Krall feels nothing like the tragic villain Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan was in the previous movie. Krall is simply angry and it makes for a bland, one-dimensional character. Jalyah is the supposed tragic heroine but comes off as a typical female badass trope. Despite a few lackluster and throw-away characters, Star Trek: Beyond is still one of the best movies this summer.