Star Trek Beyond begins with a light, comical scene that immediately sets it apart from the rest of the summer’s apocalyptic blockbusters. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a diplomatic mission to an alien planet and ends up getting attacked by adorable space-raccoons before Scotty beams him up to the Enterprise. It’s just the latest misadventure for the cleft-chinned captain, who leans on the fourth wall when he describes his life as increasingly episodic.
Bored by his formulaic existence, Kirk decides to respond to a distress call from inside a nebula, and thus falls into a trap set by genocidal maniac Krall (Idris Elba). The next ninety minutes prove that Beyond’s first fifteen minutes were an anomaly. Kirk and crew fight Krall and company in a series of explosive encounters, culminating in a rushed last-minute reveal and a high-stakes climactic fight.
There are some cool moments along the way, like when the Enterprise crew destroys Krall’s swarm of space bees with the Beastie Boys’ song “Sabotage” (a call-back to 2009’s Star Trek). But it feels like every threat looms up to hopeless levels only to get resolved quickly and easily.
The bigger problem is that Beyond lacks the emotional core of its two predecessors. The movie seems to want us to invest in the idea that the Enterprise crew is a family and Kirk would do anything to protect them. But it forgets the fact that Kirk leads thousands of his unnamed crew members to their deaths simply because he’s bored. At one moment, after being released from Krall’s prison, Sulu turns to Spock and says “He took Uhura!” But he didn’t just take Uhura! He also took the girl with the weird spider head that was the key to your whole deception. You should know her name!
It’s not at all clear how this latest installment goes “beyond” the scope of its predecessors. Really it just reproduces the same tired action movie tropes with barely a glaze of character development to hold everything together. In the end, Star Trek Beyond boldly goes where everyone has gone before.
Directed by Justin Lin