Watching the ‘Star Trek’ marathon with my son was one hell of a movie going experience. From beginning to end, these three movies are an absolute blast. That being said, ‘Star Trek Beyond’ will likely work better for me when it’s not immediately following Abrams dual powerhouses. Again, I had a blast with the movie, but instead of thinking about how awesome it was, I’ve just been thinking about how great the first two were.
Which is why I’m looking forward to seeing it again this weekend. I really think it will benefit from a stand alone feel. If I’m honest, my biggest issue with the movie is how much it reminds me of all the Star Trek TV shows. Sure, there are some mind bending special effects sequences that really steal the show, but a lot of it is characters marooned on a planet and trying to save their friends. That’s what I remember best about the old Star Trek, and that’s fine.
The thing I loved so much about the Abrams movies was their genuinely unique brilliance in this world. Abrams made all the things that I thought could be cool about this series come totally alive. He provided his specific visual style. He utilized the perfect shot, with the perfect music, at the perfect time, and delivered one fantastic scene after another. Those movies are as close to perfect as a movie can be. They borrow from the lore, but the craftsmanship is signature Abrams.
In the new one, director Justin Lin takes over and his particular style is less impactful. The action sequences are a lot of fun and when vehicles are moving the movie seems to truly be in its element (Lin directed some ‘Fast & Furious’ movies), but the depth of emotion is gone. There are some of the character moments that work because of the actors and Simon Pegg’s clever script. But the emotional manipulation that Abrams is so good at is basically gone in this film.
What replaces that is old school ‘Star Trek’ antics with state of the art visuals and an improved cast. Which is a recipe for a lot of fun. There are sequences of hoards of ships taking down the Enterprise, motorcycles doing jumps from all directions, and even a faltering gravity sequences that is quite cool. Take these elements, combine a simple rescue mission, the best crew in the movies, and you have a working recipe for a fun hit. Which is exactly what you get.
Still, despite all its qualities, there are still some issues. My second biggest issue being the bad guy. Idris Elba stole the show with his voice in ‘The Jungle Book’, but seems quite underwhelming here. Again, it may be because I watched Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan right before this movie. So, give me a chance to watch it again. It may be better than I remember. For now, he is underwhelming.
The other issue is the lack of real emotional stakes in this film. The crew never truly feels like they are in the unimaginable danger that they should be, because the director doesn’t do a great job of using the writing, music, or some sort of unique artistic expression to get us there. We still care about the characters because of how good these actors are, but there is nothing extra in the emotional department to make us feel stirred like the previous two.
Those are the only real issues though. The movie looks great, Giacchino’s score is still great, the action sequences are fantastic, and these will always be some of the best characters in the movies. So, while I think it’s a slight step back from its predecessors, this movie is the difference between very good and great. I’ll always take a very good movie. Don’t miss it!