Star Trek Beyond/4 Palm Trees
by Eduardo Victoria/[email protected]
After reinvigorating Trek with his rebooted timeline, J.J. Abrams crashed and burned with Star Trek Into Darkness, a muddled, misguided film that chose to reuse one of the franchise’s biggest villains, in the process, coming up as a pale imitation. Beyond, now directed by Justin Lin and written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, breaks free from this blot, going back to the original series’ roots for a reverent, but modern spin that’s confident and fresh.
Deep into their five year mission, the Enterprise’s crew has become tightly knit and is firing on all cylinders. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), however, is figuratively lost in space. It’s his birthday, which also means it’s the anniversary of his father’s death, and Kirk is struggling in his shadow. After stopping over at a nearby space station, the Enterprise responds to a distress signal and are quickly overcome by a malevolent alien force. After a valiant fight, the hostile force completely destroys the Enterprise, leaving the crew scattered and marooned on an undiscovered planet. With no ship and barely any resources, the crew races to find each other and uncover the motive of their tormentor, a creature named Krall (Idris Elba), who has a vendetta against the Federation and its founding ideals.
The beauty of the film comes from the simplicity of its plot, the way it expertly distills the franchise down to its core values and beliefs. Using the episodic nature of the original series, Lin delivers a story free to stand on its own, separating the team on an undiscovered planet and challenging their very being. By contrasting an alien setting (again, resembling the colorful landscapes of the original series) with a propulsive story, the film has no problem evoking the series’ timeless sense of awe, danger and discovery. Initially taking a more patient approach, the film doesn’t skip on the action in the end.
The amount of imagination on display trickles down from the beautiful costume and creature designs, to the ingenuity of each action scene, which pulls out and punctuates different dynamics from the fractured crew. Above all, it’s fun to see the amount of diversity that Lin gets from just a handful of bare elements and locales, throwing in motorcycle stunts with teleportation, some really smart use of the Enterprise’s dead carcass, another sequence that uses music in a really fun way, and finally, a climactic showdown in which the laws of gravity have gone haywire.
Mostly working off each other, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s Bones are a blast together. Taking the series’ classic love hate relationship, the two are funny whenever they’re on screen, evoking a truly loving friendship that relishes the sharp contrast of their characters, each who each struggle from a differing lack of control. As the villainous Krall, Idris Elba is definitely relishing the role, buried under makeup, but still able to emote and paint a tragic story. His villain has a simple motivation, but is complex in different ways, and Elba does a great job of giving us a dark character who is still sympathetic. Possibly stealing the film is Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. Boutella, besides bringing a fierce physicality to the role, evokes an innocence that hides under a guarded persona.
If Star Trek Beyond has proven anything, it’s that the franchise has still got a lot left to explore. Justin Lin proves himself a worth steward of the beloved crew and its spirit, injecting both imagination and heart while still working to give keep Trek relevant. Perfectly timed to Trek’s 50th Anniversary, Lin’s film looks back lovingly while knowing the importance of building for the future, throwing in a touching tribute to the original cast (and Leonard Nimoy), while planting seeds of inspiration that we can hope to reap for years to come.
Now playing at Cinemark Downtown 10. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes.