Star Trek: Beyond, directed by Justin Lin (Fast Five), is the third movie in the rebooted Star Trek movie series. In it, the crew of the Enterprise (with Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Simon Pegg as Scottie, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov (R.I.P)) is shot down on a remote planet and must survive together in order to combat a new alien threat.
Surprisingly, that’s not all the movie’s about. Kirk has become disillusioned after three years in deep space and wonders if he should continue being the captain of the Enterprise. Spock has received news that Ambassador Spock as died (R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy) and wonders at his own future at Star Fleet. The common theme is that the crew is beginning to wonder about their own future. Not only does this help round out the characters (by actually letting them be characters with their own wants and dreams), but I couldn’t help but feel that this feeling might be directed at the franchise as a whole.
I’ve always felt the Star Trek Reboot series (or maybe its the Alternate Star Trek series?) has always suffered from identity issues. Star Trek Into Darkness has always felt like a Star Wars movie and not a Star Trek movie. I can understand that when adapting a long-running TV show to a movie, things can get lost in the process. Star Trek is definitely more cerebral, with a more moralizing approach to the story and characters. This works fine for a TV show when you have the time to do that, but for a movie, time is limited. That said, I feel like Star Trek: Beyond is the first movie in the franchise that actually feels like a Star Trek movie.
The focus is entirely on the crew of the enterprise, making this the first movie in the series that features an ensemble cast. Whereas in previous movies where the main focus has been on Kirk and Spock, this time every character has a chance to shine and is integral to the story. You get to see how different members of the crew interact with each other when in previous iterations, they’ve never really shared much screen time. It’s a refreshing take and one that works for the best.
All of this wouldn’t even be possible without the direction of Justin Lin, who I had originally had doubts about. With a track record that mainly seemed to comprise mainly of the Fast and the Furious franchise (I’ve only seen the first one so I’m not going to make any comment on if they’re any good or not), it didn’t seem like he would be able to tackle franchise that is more…subtle than a movie about cars. Fortunately, I was wrong and was pleased to see that Justin Lin didn’t just copy J.J. Abrams. The imagery is simply astounding and definitely one of highlights of the movie.
All of this leads back to what I said before about questioning the future. It always seemed to me that Star Trek has had an identity crisis. Star Trek Into Darkness was basically just a rehash of Wrath of Kahn with 9/11 undertones. And now, Star Trek: Beyond asks where do we go from here? What else is there? Showing that they have fully stepped away from the previous generations of films and created a story that can stand on its own as one of the best basically says, we are now moving forward and leaving the past behind them. This is the main reason why I feel like this film is the first one that feels like how a Star Trek movie should be. Maybe I was looking too deeply into it but I can’t deny what I saw and felt while watching it. And what I saw was a great ride from start to finish.