The cast itself was a great ensemble of some of the best actors working in what I like to call "Geek Hollywood" whom all stepped into the roles wonderfully while also bringing some unique character attributes to the table as the script called for alterations in the plot and characters due to it being a time shift in the original franchise that echoed through both films Abrams directed. Sadly while the theme echoed both films the second one was a mess of a rehash of the Wrath of Khan. Wrath like many other people was my favorite Star Trek film and to watch the mess of a basic remake happen where they tried to shoehorn in way too much into a basic summer action movie was pretty depressing. I enjoy moments of Into Darkness but it is pretty abysmal compared to the new generation Enterprise's first outing. I love J. J. Abrams, and the screenwriters are hit or miss for me as they also made the Transformers film, but with Abrams guidance they managed to make a great film, the second film however stinks of Damon Lindelof who went off the rails with Lost, helped make Prometheus a complete waste of a couple decades of anticipation and basically dumped his own brand of confused obvious misdirection into his try hard version of Khan. I honestly thought the franchise was pretty dead at this point but in the current game every studio clutches onto any property for dear life and Star Trek is one of the hugest things Paramount has. Thankfully they brought in fresh blood with Abrams producing as he has moved onto his Passion project which is Star Wars. We get fresh new writers John D. Payne and Patrick Mckay. I'm always ready to watch new talent bloom, but am also scared of how newer writers can easily get their visions compromised by working for the first time in a studio setting. As Guillermo Del Toro has said the hardest word he had to learn in working with a studio was, "No." Then we get the announcement of Justin Lin stepping into the directing chair. I honestly have never seen or cared to see any of the Fast and the Furious movies and the only thing by him I think I've watched are the episodes of Community he directed which I enjoyed. My biggest fear was on the tail end of a story mess of a Trek film we would receive an action mess of a Trek film. The one thing that gave me hope was Simon Pegg, whom has earned more Geek cred then most "A list celebrities", stepped in and completely rewrote the script along with Doug Jung who had written a lot of great television series. Pegg guided the film as a true fan of the original series as well as someone whom has participated in all three films and understood the concerns and outcry from the second film. With that hope I went in to Star Trek Beyond hoping for a perfect marriage of action and story. While not perfect, I was not disappointed.
It is three years into the U.S.S Enterprise's five year exploratory mission into space. Kirk and his crew push through the boundaries of the Frontier finding new Alien species and forming alliances making peace between them. In one such mission a race of savage aliens has a shaky hatred with another species and Kirk is brining a peace offering from the other species to hopefully end the conflict between the two. The peace offering is a piece to some ancient machine that means a lot to the species offering it, but the offer is declined by the more savage aliens and in a daring escape Kirk gets back to the enterprise with the machine piece in his possession. The crew is tired, their lives episodic, drifting from world to world risking their lives with nothing but the steel structure of the Enterprise itself to call home. All the members of the Enterprise have something they hold dear that they miss that has emotionally crippled them, taken them to dark places aboard the ship and have made them question whether they want to continue on in their adventures. After refueling at Starbase Earhart, the Enterprise goes further into space and is attacked by a swarm like barrage of ships that completely tears the Enterprise to pieces and kills many of the crew, forcing Kirk to separate pieces of the ship and order an immediate evacuation down to a nearby planet. As the Enterprise is evacuated the swarm ships capture the escape pods and take them down to the planet where they are held in captivity by the leader of the alien forces known as Krall. Krall has much knowledge of Starfleet and of Kirk as well as the piece of machinery within Kirk's possession but no one knows who Krall is, how he knows so much or the significance of the machine piece he ruthlessly hunts the rest of the crew for. Kirk and Chekov search the planet for remnants of the Enterprise, Bones and Spock evade patrols from Krall's forces as Bones tends to Spock's fatal wounds, Scotty is saved by a mysterious alien woman named Jaylen who may hold the key to their escape and Uhura and Sulu are trapped with the rest of the crew in Krall's base planning their escape. Each group of the Enterprise's bridge crew must survive their perils and regroup, to discover Krall's past in order to escape and possibly save Starfleet from the horrors the mysterious piece of machinery Krall wishes to poses.
The film has one of the most fun opening scenes I've seen in a while with the peace treaty Kirk has with the "Savage Alien Race" that not only works as a great opener to where our heroes are but is also pretty hilarious and drives a main part of the narrative. It harkens back to how fun and promising the opening scene from Into Darkness was but also carries that tone with several scenes later in the film. The one thing that really got me though was the monologue Chris Pine gives as Captain Kirk recording his Captain's log. Three years into the mission and he feels how harsh it is to travel through the reaches of space. How all the crew members know each other very intimately and are possibly tired of seeing each other, of the monogamy of the same old thing over and over again which seems never ending. To push through the Frontier and discover everything in space, but isn't space endless? This sets the mood for the movie and gives us a lot of character development in a short period of time. With very simple scenes and character quirks we are given each character's place in their lives and why they would doubt themselves or their positions in the universe. It's really well done and for certain characters like Spock, their problems are pretty saddening, especially for long time fans of Star Trek in general. My fear of pure action with little story and character development was quelled rather quickly in these beginning sequences, the sequences really harkens back to what made the first one great and that is how amazingly woven these character traits can be developed into the action and how quickly you can tell these traits in such a small amount of time. Once these moments pass, Justin Lin wastes no time getting into the action though and he hits it harder than we could've imagined.
I've only seen clips and bits of the Fast and the Furious films, but from what I can tell Lin has taken his ideas for car crashing action sequences and found a way to use that choreographed catastrophe for space ships especially for the Swarm like ships used by Krall's forces. It is pure manic chaos as these ships come out of nowhere, blotting out parts of space and not crashing into but through the Enterprise with utter violence as the ship is torn up piece by piece. I'm not going to lie this sequence had my jaw dropped as there just seemed to be no way the ship or anyone aboard could survive. Once Krall's forces begin invading the Enterprise through the swarm like ships tearing through it there is a methodical madness at play that I would love to have seen played up with Khan for Into Darkness. Lin hits our heroes with this crazed barrage and leaves them utterly hopeless and defeated more so than in any situation I could think of. If the idea of sequels is to up the ante in every way Lin certainly surpasses this in the action sequences in the beginning and the final battle. I love action sequences with weight, where every move and big moment seems to matter, where the action informs character traits in a sense or you care for the characters within the chaos. Like I said I've never seen any of the Furious films but damn if they are as good as Lin's sequences in this film I have to watch all of them.
All of our beloved crew gets great moments in the film for themselves, whether it's fun lines, comedic moments or as I said before drama driven scenes in the beginning that are resolved rather nicely in the end of the film. Simon Pegg's script really balances the character dynamics and pairs characters up that we haven't really gotten to see a rapport between before now. My favorite pairing is probably Bones and Spock. Bones being the gruff, worried sarcastic he is bounces off of Spock's analytical statements and unintentional hiding of his feelings very well and it's really fun to watch the two discover things about one another, especially in a scene where Spock straight up comes out and says he has always respected Bones, which gets a great response from Bones himself. The dynamic of Spock and Bones leads into one of the coolest and tear jerking moments for me as a fan of the original films as we finally see Zachary Quinto's Spock evolve into Leonard Nimoy's Spock with a beautiful homage to the entirety of the original crew. Easily one of the best moments in the film for me. I love Sofia Boutella. She was a badass villain as Gazelle in Kingsmen with her moves utilizing her crazy sword legs to fight. Here she plays a new protagonist, Jaylah. She is a really smart and adept warrior who has spent way too much time stranded on the planet with Krall and plays a pivotal role in getting the Enterprise crew off the planet. She has tons of tech that helps take out Krall's forces and has a great sequence as a sniper taking out enemies atop a tower. She was also really fun paired with Simon Pegg's Scotty. It was especially nice to see them grow close out of respect as opposed to a romantic entanglement as most action films do. She also loves Public Enemy and Beastie Boys so I was sold immediately. Krall is a cool villain and brings about some of the most intense action sequences in the film, but up until the ending of the film where we find out his motives and origin he is somewhat bland as a character. He is a generic really pissed off villain but he utilizes a lot of really strategic and cool weapons and moves to fight the crew. His reveal at the end is a really cool twist, especially if you don't know the actor playing him and that's where he became the most interesting for me honestly.
The greatest thing about Beyond is it feels like an extension of the old television show mixed with the way the narrative of the first film was told. The scope is bigger and the stakes are bigger thanks to the combination of Lin and Pegg whom in my opinion took the franchise out of the hole it was in after Into Darkness and got it back on track. So many moments where I was hit in the heart with nostalgia that didn't pander along with newer moments that made the film stand on its own as well as brought in action sequences that haven't been done before in a Star Trek film. I think fans of the first reboot will love this like I did and there's plenty for the diehard Trek fans in here as well. I also never thought I'd watch a movie which would utilize "classical music" such as the Beastie Boys as not only a sweet back beat for an epic action sequence but also a major plot point in defeating an enemy. Thanks go to my girl Jaylah whom I hope continues on in the franchise! The next installment has a lot to live up to story wise as well as actor wise. The film ends lovingly dedicated to both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. As always Yelchin masters the role of Chekov and he is displayed lovingly in the film. Five red shirts out of five!