We really should have listened to Simon Pegg.
After huge backlash from the fanbase over the very first "Sabotage" teaser for Star Trek Beyond, we were all assured by Pegg and other members of the cast that despite director Justin Lin being at the helm, the movie was not "Star Trek Fast and Furious" and was in fact a great and respectful callback to the franchise's origins in the year of its 50th anniversary.
Still, with very little buzz compared to other summer blockbusters and a bad teaser in front of it, we had every reason to be skeptical. In fact, that skepticism didn't start to wane until just a month or so ago when the first full theatrical trailer was released and we started to see what the movie really was: a deep space adventure that pits the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise against a seemingly unstoppable force of destruction where the odds are against them and the situation is grim.
That is exactly what we got with Star Trek Beyond and it is absolutely glorious.
To say that there has been great debate among the fans about the most recent Star Trek movies, now officially known as "The Kelvin Timeline," would be a massive understatement. This new era of Star Trek at the movies, while resounding hugely with new and younger audiences, has all but completely alienated a large chunk of the older fans who have embraced Gene Roddenberry's original vision of "Wagon Train to the Stars" for almost five full decades now. We have been reintroduced to the Original Series (TOS) crew, who have come together almost a full decade earlier than they all should have, aboard a still fresh U.S.S. Enterprise that is considered the flagship of the fleet. At the end of the last movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, the crew had just been assigned its five-year mission of deep space exploration, meaning that to many fans the first two of these rebooted Trek movies haven't really shown us what Star Trek always was from the beginning.
With Beyond, it's as though Simon Pegg, Doug Jung and Justin Lin all heard that complaint and decided that this movie would be nothing short of a two-hour long episode of TOS, filled with everything you might have seen in one of the many five-year mission stories from 1966 to 1968. The movie begins with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) completing a not so successful negotiation of peace between two alien worlds that requires an emergency beam out. The crew is on Year 3 of the five-year mission and stops at the new Yorktown starbase for a break. It is there that they receive their next mission, which involves rescuing a stranded crew on an unexplored planet beyond a large nebula.
Upon approaching the planet, the Enterprise is attacked by a literal swarm of ships commanded by an alien named Krall that tear the starship apart in an incredible sequence that involves the destruction of the Enterprise (again, dammit) and the abduction of the entire crew, scattering the senior staff and other survivors across the alien planet known as Ultimate. From that point on, the mission is simple: gather the senior staff, rescue the hostage crew and takedown Krall and his swarm of death before they lay waste to the Federation.
Almost every ounce of this movie is taken straight from the TOS playbook in terms of story, dialogue, character development, setting, action and even the music. Michael Giacchino is now a Star Trek veteran composer with this being his third Trek movie in a row that he has scored, and he all but channels TOS composer Alexander Courage all throughout this movie from start to finish. Giacchino still maintains his original themes that he created in 2009 for these reboot Trek movies, but he does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of how the more thrilling moments of a TOS episode sound and balances them well with his themes throughout the movie. It's one of his best scores, without question and likely his best one for these movies.
The cast is at their very best here, having hit their stride on their third jaunt as the heroes we've come to know and love for 50 years. Chris Pine is the closest to William Shatner's Kirk in terms of seasoning and leadership as he's ever been to this point, Zachary Quinto is once again in his element as Spock, doing incredible justice to the late Leonard Nimoy's original performance in the role, and Karl Urban continues to harness the essence of DeForest Kelley's Doctor McCoy with his gruff bedside manner, southern drawl and constant irritation with Spock. The dynamic of these three truly resembles the dynamic of the original three so well now while still bringing their own energy and unique qualities to the roles, and it is a testament to them that they have been able to do what many thought years ago was impossible in terms of taking up the mantle of these legendary characters.
The same exact thing can be said for Simon Pegg's Montgomery Scott, Zoe Saldana's Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (I'm still very happy that her first name finally became canon), John Cho's Hikaru Sulu and the tragically late Anton Yelchin's Pavel Chekov. Just as with Pine, Quinto and Urban, these four have been down the rodeo before and now fully inhabit these characters, bringing to them a level of definition and depth that we may have never truly seen with these characters before.
Idris Elba is appropriately menacing and diabolical as Krall, a villain with a unique past connection to the Federation that feels like it was ripped from an unseen draft of a Roddenberry script from the 60's. He's not quite Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan from Into Darkness, but he is well ahead of Eric Bana's Nero from the first Kelvin Timeline movie as far as the villains go.
The real highlight of the newcomers to this movie is Sofia Boutella's Jaylah, an alien prisoner of Ultimate who also happens to be an engineer hiding from Krall and his forces on the planet in an effort to eventually leave it via a suspiciously crashed federation starship. The chemistry between Jaylah and Scotty make for some great moments in the movie and Pegg and Boutella really make it a genuine emotional setting, whether it's comedic or dramatic. Without giving too much more away, one hopes that she might find her way into the next Star Trek movie as her character was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie.
As is customary now with these new movies, Star Trek has never looked better visually. Yorktown Station is beyond breathtaking and an absolute treat to see on screen, and as heartbreaking as it was to see the Enterprise destroyed yet again, it is by far the most action-packed, dramatic, visually visceral destruction of a starship scene ever done. She literally doesn't go down without a fight. A long, knockout, multiple round TKO of a fight. Justin Lin's visual style from The Fast and Furious franchise does carry over, but it was built for a Star Trek movie, especially with his affinity for establishing wide shots to show the landscape and setting. It's very much the opposite of Abrams, who made everything as intimate and close-up in many cases as he could with the first two movies, but despite the change in style, Beyond feels like it fits right in with Star Trek (2009) and Into Darkness, picking up where they left off.
There are tons of references, nods and easter eggs in this movie as to be expected, and some of them are on some pretty emotional beats, especially considering a heartbreaking subplot that weaves its way through the movie from start to finish, culminating in a simple, yet incredible nod to the original Enterprise crew from the Prime Timeline that hit me emotionally as a huge fan of the franchise. Even as I tell you about it here, if you're a longtime fan, you won't see it coming and when it does, you're a cold-hearted bastard if you don't feel something in your heart for that moment, especially considering what it means for the story of the movie at that point.
At the end, just before the end credits begin, the film literally goes silent to acknowledge Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, both of whom were indelible parts of this franchise and will never be forgotten. To many, Nimoy will always be the definitive Spock and Quinto would certainly agree, and Yelchin, an incredibly talented actor that hadn't even reached his 30's, had made his mark as Chekov in these movies and will always be remembered as such. J.J. Abrams has already confirmed that he will not be recasting the role for the next movie, leaving us all to wonder and later find out just how the cast and crew will handle this tragic situation. For now, it's great to see Anton on screen in this movie and know that he will always live on as Pavel Chekov in the Kelvin Timeline.
The bottom line is that Star Trek Beyond is the Star Trek movie that many of us have been waiting for since the Kelvin Timeline started. It's the closest one to the feel, sound and look of a TOS episode and it is a more than fitting tribute to the franchise for its golden anniversary. It is truly one of the best Trek movies ever made and easily can go in the Top 5 of the list of all 13 movies, well ahead of both of the other Kelvin Timeline movies. Longtime fans of the franchise should not be disappointed with it at all, as it calls back so many classic hallmarks of TOS and the franchise as a whole, but never goes overboard with it. Newer fans will thoroughly enjoy the latest adventure of Captain James T. Kirk and his gallant crew, as Star Trek continues to cement itself as now a summer blockbuster franchise.
Thank you to the cast and crew and thank you to Simon Pegg. We should have listened to you when you said the movie was awesome. It most certainly is.