To boldly go.
The 2016 summer movie season has sucked.
Alright that may be a little hyperbolic. We did get Captain America: Civil War and The Nice Guys, but both of those came out in May. Since then, nearly every major Hollywood release has been a lifeless sequel, reboot, or both.
What’s been missing this season are fun, energetic, popcorn films that balance character with spectacle.
Luckily, we’ve finally got one…
Suicide Squad !!!
Star Trek Beyond takes place three years into the USS Enterprise deep space exploration mission. Monotony has set in for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), and Spock (Zachary Quinto) receives troubling news from his rebuilt homeworld, New Vulcan. Just as both characters are about to leave their current positions to pursue a greater purpose, the Enterprise is attacked by a mysterious and powerful foe. Stranded on a barren planet, the ship’s crew must reconvene to stop this enigmatic threat from destroying the Federation.
What makes Star Trek Beyond the most refreshing film of the summer is its ability to expertly combine a smart script with bold direction, making for an incredibly fun theater experience.
Unlike the first two films in the Star Trek reboot series, Beyond was written by Doug Jung and Scotty himself, Simon Pegg. Much more so than the previous films, this script focuses on character. Pegg and Jung have a strong understanding of how to characterize the crew of the Enterprise, and this is done through giving them each ample screen time and funny dialogue.
For most of the film, the crew is separated into pairs, and through this, we get new character interactions unseen in the previous films. Most notably of these pairings is Spock and Bones (Karl Urban). The scenes featuring these characters are the highlights of the film, as their conflicting personalities make an interesting dynamic. Who steals the show though is Karl Urban. Frustrated and agitated, Bones putting up with Spock’s logical reasoning is usual hilarious, and always entertaining.
Bones isn’t the only character who keeps things light. The script as a whole isn’t nearly as dower or grim as Into Darkness. When tragedy strikes, it is never dwelled on, and never does Spock beat someone, like poor Benedict Cumberbatch, to a pulp. Along with this levity is an emphasis on the legacy of Star Trek. Also unlike Into Darkness, Beyond never beats you over the head with a reference to prior Trek canon, rather it gentle winks at the audience, and moves on with the story. Additional, the passing of Leonard Nimoy is addressed, and handled with great care and respect.
Justin Lin (Fast Five) has taken over directing duties while J.J. Abrams was off making The Force Awakens. Fortunately, Beyond isn’t 2 Star 2 Trek. The film still feels like Star Trek, only now with more visceral and fluid direction. Lin adds new energy to the series through direction that emphasized long and smooth shots that are great for not only the action, but also smaller moments, like when the characters have to make quick decisions. In particular, Lin has a lot of fun with shots of the Enterprise in space, as moment and screen space is played with, making for an awesome viewing experience, especially on the big screen.
For those who saw the abysmal first trailer of Beyond prominently featuring Kirk doing stunt work on a motorcycle while “Sabotage” is blaring, don’t let that scare you off. Again, the film never feels like an over the top Fast and Furious sequel; it is restrained, while still bringing the energy.
(Here’s the best trailer)
Beyond succeeds with its script and direction, but it struggles with the villain. Krall (Idris Elba) is a mysterious foe who believes he was wronged by the Federation, and now wants revenge. If that sounds familiar, it’s because his motivation is exactly the same as Nero and Khan’s from the previous films. Kroll is just boring. He drags the film down during the second act, and when we finally learn who he really is, and his true motivation, it’s not until way late in the third act. You’re left wondering why he was even a significant presence earlier in the film, and it’s just a bummer.
(ALL OF THIS SUMMER’S VILLAINS LOOK LIKE IVAN OOZE)
Also, not every character pairing is given equal screen time, and really, things to do. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) are paired up, but they have the least to do plot wise, and they’re unfortunately just not as interesting as Kirk and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin), Scotty and newcomer Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), or especially Spock and Bones. Despite this, when all the characters eventually reunite, the team dynamic between them all outweighs weaker duo scenes.
The 2016 summer season hasn’t been great, but Star Trek Beyond is currently the best reason leave your home and go to the theater. It’s smart, energetic, has great direction, and most of all, it’s fun. The summer blockbuster doesn’t have to be a bloated sequel with bombastic effects lacking characters to make you care. The summer movie can be a fun ride, that boldly goes where no film has gone before.
FINAL SCORE: 4.2/5