**The following is an in-depth review of “Star Trek Beyond” and does contain spoilers.**
In 1966 the world was given one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time when Gene Roddenberry and NBC brought "Star Trek" to television screens all across America. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of that franchise with a brand new feature film.
"Star Trek Beyond" finds the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise three years into their five-year mission. While on a routine patrol, they are attacked by a swarm of alien spaceships that rip the Enterprise apart panel by panel. The crew soon find themselves stranded on an alien planet and at the mercy of Kraal - an alien pirate played by Idris Elba - who is seeking revenge on the Federation.
Admittedly, the plot is rather thin.
As with some of the best "Star Trek" in the past, "Star Trek Beyond" is a story about characters and how they interact with each other.
Karl Urban's Dr. McCoy is spot on and his interactions with Zachary Quinto's Mr. Spock are especially memorable. The new cast has grown to be every bit a part of the characters as their original counterparts were. In many cases, the cast has gone from just embodying or channeling the characters to actually becoming them. The audience isn't just given new actors pretending to be these beloved characters, they are given the characters themselves.
While Kraal - a completely new and original character - isn't the most complicated or developed, Idris Elba's performance is wonderful. He brings the right amount of sinisterness to the film that you don't spend a lot of time wondering who this guy is, you just kind of go with it happily.
The film's real strengths don't lie in the film's story, but in how the movie handles the franchise's 50th anniversary, as well as the real life death of original series star Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy's Spock was something of a catalyst to the first film's in-continuity reboot and he was brought back for a small but important cameo in "Star Trek Into Darkness." Near the beginning of the film, young Spock is informed by two unnamed Vulcans of Ambassador Spock's passing. This information weighs heavily on the younger Spock throughout the course of the film, culminating in the entire original cast being given a "cameo" in the form of a photo in Ambassador Spock's personal effects.
The film also pays respects to the franchise's long television history by including the U.S.S. Franklin, a ship remarkably similar to the NX-01 from the series "Star Trek: Enterprise." "Enterprise" was the franchise's prequel series and as such is still canon to the new timeline. The acknowledgement of "Enterprise" should be a welcome nod to longtime fans of the franchise.
Unfortunately, "Beyond" isn't without its faults. While it tries to be more cerebral than the last two installments - something fans have long been complaining about - it really doesn't succeed at being much more than a mindless action flick. The main characters seem to have done most of their growing between movies. They're definitely more seasoned than the last go around, but fans never got to see this maturity happen. Likewise, the new characters are bland and one-dimensional, something most "Star Trek" movies tend to be guilty of.
On the issue of recent controversy surrounding the sexuality of the Sulu character - something the character's originator George Takei was reportedly disappointed with - it's handled in a way where if you blink you'll miss it. This isn't a compliment. It makes the decision to actively show Sulu as gay all the more puzzling. It isn't necessary and it does nothing to advance the plot. It serves no purpose other than to alienate sections of its fan base for no reason at all.
In the end, "Star Trek Beyond" is a movie worth watching, and worth watching in the theater. It shows much love and devotion to what came before, while still trying to be fresh and unique. It's enjoyable, but doesn't run too deep or philosophical. It does manage to be a good popcorn movie, something Star Trek has traditionally been unable to be before J.J. Abrams brought new life into the franchise.
"Star Trek Beyond" currently holds an 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images
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