It felt like, in a lot of ways, that I may have been the only person who thoroughly enjoyed the second installment of the Star Trek reboot franchise, Into Darkness. This may stem from the fact that I didn’t really grow up watching the original series, movies or any other Star Trek-related stuff. Most of my exposure was from THIS specific franchise. So most of what people were upset about, the fact that the second film bit a lot off of Wrath of Kahn, didn’t effect my enjoyment of the film. That being said, the newest installment of this series, Star Trek Beyond, may be the strongest one of the series to date. But that doesn’t mean that it is without its flaws.
Beyond takes place after the events of the second film and some time after the crew of The Enterprise has settled into its long deep-space voyage of the universe, boldly going where no one has gone before. Both Kirk and Spock are struggling with the need or desire to possibly leave their post on the ship to pursue other things. Kirk, because deep space travel has caused him to lose sight of why he is doing what he is doing while Spock is torn between his duty on the ship and his duty as one of the last surviving Vulcan to help (1) procreate and (2) lead the species. However, while on a rescue mission on a distant planet, their ship is attacked leaving the crew separated and marooned on a very harsh world full of marauders and bandits as well as a tough band of warriors that seem hellbent on taking down Kirk’s crew as well as Star Fleet as a whole.
Honestly, I loved the set up of this movie, in films past I feel like there was not enough introspection, not enough soul-searching. Spock and Kirk in particular are pretty interesting case studies as is. But they and their motivations remained completely unexplored in the first two movies. This film, however, has both Kirk, Spock and even the main villain, struggling with the idea of the ‘self’ and what their ultimate purpose is in life. Is it to lead a species, command a ship, stay alive, or is there more to it than that? And does the simple act of choosing a path ultimately cut off all the other paths that you could have picked from? And while the movie does attempt to explore this ideas and ideals to some extent in the film, it feels like these themes often get lost amidst the standard, and often jarring, fight scenes, explosions and action sequences. I appreciate the effort, but dammit, you were dangling the carrot while always intending to lead with the stick and I was a bit disappointed by this.
Long-time Fast and Furious director, Justin Lin, manned the helm for this project and, for the most part, I think he did a marvelous job. With one or two notable exceptions, that is. He seemed to very much enjoy the close up shots in this film, which are fine, but it felt like every scene had some extreme close-ups. Some of them were even used during action or fight sequences which made the film often hard to follow. This isn’t a big deal, when compared to the likes of a director like Michael Bay, but this film could have definitely benefited for some wider angles at times.
This film was just over two hours and I felt like it flew by. Say what you want about the lack of consistent themes or the choice to go more action-heavy rather than emotional, but this film was paced really well. It balanced multiple perspectives well to provide an overarching story and at no time did I feel bored or annoyed. And while there were a lot of close-ups, the visuals especially when in space we top notch and pleasing to see. Also, side note, the costume design in this film was pretty great. Everyone in the cast seemed to have some sort of awesome jacket on– I want one of those damn jackets! But compared to the first film, where it seemed like everyone was wearing some generic/classic uniform, this film seemed to give a bit more flare to the outfits and I appreciate that greatly.
My one really BIG complaint with the film is, quite honestly, the villain. I think that the acting chops of Edris Elba were completely and utterly wasted in this film. Make-up wise, you cannot even tell that it was him for most of the film, which is actually really impressive– but the villain has a sort of ‘anti-hero’ arc that you don’t see coming. Not because of any sort of dynamic and interesting writing or misdirection, but because they do little to no set up for it. And then they reveal his back story and, man let me tell ya’, I wanted more of it. I would literally PAY to see a prequel with his story arc this second if I had the chance. So its not that the villain was bad, but wasted and written rather lazily.
But if you liked the previous films, I think you will like this one. If you hated the previous films, you will also probably like this film a lot more. It fixes a lot of flaws from the originals in my opinion when it comes to main character depth, and in terms of over all storytelling but manages to keep all of the action and intense drama of the first two. Granted, I would have liked MORE depth and MORE character exploration but, hey, baby steps am I right?