I wasn’t the only one to be completely disappointed with the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond (even screenwriter and Scotty actor Simon Pegg expressed disdain). It promised outrageous, over-the-top action from a series that has its roots in exploration, team work, and subtle messages about the changing times. With 2016 being the 50th anniversary for the beloved TV series, Justin Lin proves the trailer wrong and brings the series back to its roots in an excellent balance of action, spectacle, and that amazing sense of discovery the show originated half a century ago.
Maintaining pretty much the same structure of an episode of the original series, Beyond sends the crew of the Enterprise off into the deep reaches of the galaxy. Tired of monotony, Kirk (Chris Pine) considers leaving the helm. The brash captain no longer has the same excitement he once did, and the rest of the crew simply goes through the motions as they struggle through the halfway mark of their five year mission which takes them far from home and family.
But things go south: on a simple rescue mission spawned by a ship in distress, the Enterprise crash lands on an unknown planet in an isolated part of the galaxy with many of the crew taken captive by the merciless Krall (Idris Elba). As the third film in the series, Beyond feels the least expository; we don’t have to meet many new characters—and we’re already familiar with everyone else—so now we get to explore different dynamics within the crew.
Being the third film in the series, it was surprising to see just how much effort was put into every element. From its grandiose score from Michael Giacchino, to jaw-dropping special effects, all the way to the meticulously designed sets, costumes, and scarily good makeup, the cast and crew really go above (and…beyond) to deliver one helluva thrill ride. Whether it is dazzling space battles, brutal close-quarters combat, or a motorcycle ride through enemy terrain, Beyond consistently proves itself to be some of the most impressive fun you’ll have all summer.
With the deaths of both Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nemoy in the time between Into Darkness and Beyond, their presence–and lack thereof–is truly felt. Combine that with ideas of unifying races and aliens and introducing Sulu as a homosexual, and what you get is a film surprisingly rich in emotion and social awareness all while honoring the dead and what has passed on into history. It’s a fitting tribute to the series, as well as those who made it so monumental, but it also reinvigorates after the much divisive Into Darkness.
For as radical of a show that Star Trek was (featuring the first interracial kiss on television and all), the writers do an admiral job in honoring Roddenberry’s progressive ideals. The diverse races and alien species in the universe can either fight together or die alone, echoing America’s (and the world’s) strife with anything different or “foreign.” It’s a film for our times as it was a series for the times in the 70s, yet it still leaves a foul taste in the mouth as we are still dealing with the same shit fifty years later.
Despite doubts about the way the series was heading after Into Darkness, Beyond clears my mind and excites me for the future. With more of an appeal to the original series while actually going into space (no fucking battles in San Francisco anymore), Beyond goes all out to set up more adventures with the crew of the Enterprise as we continue to go where no one has gone before.