Opening weekend review–Star Trek Beyond soars into the series’ 50th year

Star Trek Beyond Fly spot USS Enterprise inside Starbase Yorktown

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the fiftieth year of Star Trek, fanboy Simon Pegg proved that the franchise has never been stronger.  Probably more so than any prior entry in the now 13-movie catalog, Star Trek Beyond found a way to be the most loyal to the original series, with the writers weaving a story you could also find comfortably set within Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager.  And director Justin Lin showed that an action heavy film can also tell a good story.

Get ready.  Star Trek Beyond, opening this weekend in theaters everywhere, is also the most fun of the Star Trek movies since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, thanks to clever and witty dialogue and circumstances that put the Bones and Spock relationship at center stage.  By movie’s end, diehard Star Trek fans will find themselves trying to categorize the latest big budget blockbuster against the past even-numbered films, generally regarded as the cream of the crop.  That consideration alone elevates the movie into the top echelon of all Trekdom, a welcome jolt for the franchise.

Better than the admittedly good Abrams contributions Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond taps more subtlely into throwbacks we love, like a look at the Enterprise itself and spacedock in a way we haven’t seen since Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock.  And speaking of the original Star Trek III, this third reboot mirrors many key moments from that film, despite having an entirely different plot.


What does it mean to serve on a ship on a long voyage?  What toll does it take on the captain and his or her crew?  Beginning with a humanitarian mission that we think Jean-Luc Picard would have appreciated, including an in-world guest actress (Sofia Boutella) like none other we’ve seen in Star Trek, featuring a strong actor–Idris Elba–as a brilliantly conceived unique–yet also familiar–villain, and dividing up the crew in twos to highlight the strengths of the characters–Star Trek Beyond is practically flawless.  Star Trek Beyond is not just good Star Trek, it’s great Star Trek.

Oddly enough, one scene even explains the first trailer for the film released last year during the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a trailer universally panned.  Now we understand!

Keep an eye out for some great elements in Star Trek Beyond.  Greg Grunberg, probably the most fun and surprising element of the latest Star Wars, is now running a space station in the other big franchise, becoming probably the first actor without a perfect physique to don a Starfleet uniform since movie era William Shatner and James Doohan.  For all those actors turned away from past Star Trek casting calls, it’s about time.

plotting Star Trek Beyond

Look for a Starfleet crew sporting original NX-01 era Enterprise jumpsuits, smartly realized contrasting differences in the main characters’ actions compared to the original timeline crew, and a new ship that rivals Deep Space Nine fans’ favorite ship, the Defiant.  Fans of Star Trek’s props and costumes will appreciate nifty new alien and Vulcan props, and Star Trek Insurrection’s Sanja Milkovic Hays delivers excellent updates to the Starfleet uniforms and a great new casual Vulcan outfit for Zachary Quinto.  And we meet aliens with speaking roles with great make-ups, finally demonstrating Star Trek can deliver make-ups on par with Doctor Who’s brilliant alien creations.

And back to Simon Pegg, who serves as a writer and returns as everyone’s favorite engineer Scotty.  As much as Paramount in the Trek movie and CBS on TV distances itself from Trek fans in the creative driver’s seat, Pegg proves what we learned when Leonard Nimoy co-wrote the script for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: The Next Generation actor and episode director Jonathan Frakes directed the big screen Star Trek: First Contact: Fans and insiders really can deliver exactly what the fanbase wants to see.

You’ll want to see it again and again.  Star Trek Beyond is in theaters now.


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