Star Trek Beyond The Darkness
I was never a big Star Trek guy growing up. I’m not saying I didn’t like the franchise and all of its iterations. I simply watched other things. When J.J Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009, I went in with a basic knowledge of the original series and an open mind. Overall, the film was entertaining. In fact, it was one of my favorite movies of the year.
However, as I talked to my hardcore Trek friends, they were quick to point out the reboot was made to attract people like me. Fans wanted deep space exploration and sense of discovery wrapped in a science fiction ball of originality. What they didn’t want was tiny hints of Star Trek in a Star Wars wrapper tied with modern blockbuster trends…
Still… I liked it.
In preparation for 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, I watched a few of the original films. Mainly The Wrath of Khan. When I saw J.J Abrams’ sequel I instantly understood why fans who adored the original series/movies were frustrated. The film borrowed heavily from The Wrath of Khan. It may have flipped the script on a few key moments but it was essentially an homage rather than a new original adventure. Having said that, the film was entertaining though not nearly as endearing as the reboot. As a result, Star Trek Beyond flew under my radar in 2016. It wasn’t a film I was dying to see. Instead, it was relegated to ‘maybe if I have time for a matinee’ status.
With Star Trek Beyond, a new writing team/director were brought on board to right the ship. Immediately they promised fans a return to form. The third film in the franchise would pick up three years into The Enterprise’s five year mission among the stars.
Obviously I’m no expert but Star Trek Beyond feels like an episode of ‘one of’ the classic TV series. It’s a standalone adventure featuring a cast I’ve grown to love and a new villain who actually has something to say.
Too many films fall into the ‘future setup’ trap inspired by Marvel’s successful ‘shared universe’ model. Star Trek Beyond is overflowing with confidence as it weaves a single narrative that ends when the credits roll. It’s refreshing in an era when nearly all big tent pole releases spend time setting up other films instead of focusing on a single story. (Coincidentally, check out my review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.)
My biggest frustration with the film was the lack of an Enterprise. The Star Trek series was never really about combat but I would have loved to spend more time with the crew doing what they do best. I get it though. Thankfully, the crew of the Enterprise has their hands full with Krall. (played by Idris Elba) Beyond’s big bad doesn’t have an enormous amount of screen time but he packs a punch when he does. He’s definitely one of the most interesting villains of 2016’s crowded summer season. (Sorry Krang, Shredder, Alien Queen, Gul’Dan, Apocalypse etc…)
Overall, a poor outing from Beyond could have spelled doom for the series moving forward. But I think director Justin Lin delivered the sequel I wanted with respect to ‘Into Darkness’. It’s action packed, funny and features a more finely tuned blend of nostalgia and modern influences. Star Trek Beyond doesn’t need to setup a sequel, it already has a dynamic crew with a brand new ship ready for their next adventure. An adventure I’m excited to see. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t exactly anticipating this movie but perhaps that was the perfect mind set. Once again, I saw a Star Trek movie with an open mind and it delivered.