Call me crazy, but sometimes I just want to have a good time at the movies. I don’t need every blockbuster busting my face in with a ‘today’s-headline’ meta-narrative or existential meditation. I don’t need every cash-grabbing reheat of a franchise to shoot-up on dark, gritty “realism” that, to be honest, is really just pessimism. That’s the sort of approach that brought us Batman v Superman and, more relevantly (though to a lesser extent), Star Trek Into Darkness. The second Trek by JJ Abrams wasn’t awful, but it was far from good and even farther from memorable because it abandoned what made Star Trek unique sci-fi pander to the trendy style of the time. With Justin Lin now at the con, there seems to be a promise that Star Trek is done with all that. It’s leaving darkness behind, but what does Star Trek Beyond find beyond it?
Beyond finds the Enterprise crew three years deep into their five-year journey to go where no man has gone before and things are becoming episodic. Though the crew has fallen into routines, Captain James T. Kirk (reprised by Chris Pine) is starting to feel existentially lost in space. Is he really the captain his crew needs? Is he living up to his father’s memory? It doesn’t really matter because before you know it the Enterprise is overwhelmed, forcing the crew to abandon ship. Scattered across a tyrant-ruled planet, the crew must reunite in a last ditch effort to save the Federation.
There are a few things worth getting out of the way from the start. The first being that yes, they blow up the Enterprise. Again. Captain Kirk is the single greatest economic stimulant I’ve ever seen by his ability to trash sick rides alone. They also manage to do it pretty quick in the runtime, negating any possibility for further star trekking, but they never go back to Earth either so that’s a plus. I also get a sense that this isn’t going to be particularly memorable, at least not to the audience at large. It won’t have the same effect as JJ’s original reboot; it’s too ridiculous at times, the stakes are relatively small, and it lacks the emotional punches the ‘09 Trek managed to give us in the first 10 minutes.
Here’s the thing; is that all really so bad? By not warping all over the universe or leaning on Earth, Star Trek Beyond actually gets to do the kind of world building that the original series was known for. We don’t get as much time with Kirk and Spock together, but we had two films of that. Beyond lets the Enterprise crew be the star with each member getting their chance to shine. No doubt this has to do with director Lin’s focus on family and teamwork in his movies (ie. his Fast & Furious films), but it also has to do with Pegg and Jung’s script. There is a team effort to redirect the franchise by going back to its roots. A lot of people are saying that Beyond is a lot like an episode of the original series. If it is, it’s probably not a memorable one. At least, it would be a memorable one in this kind of way. The part of Star Trek that isn’t intelligent or philosophic, but fun.
Just basic fun. Star Trek Beyond in a nutshell.