There’s one question we all asked ourselves as we went into the cinema to see this film: With J.J. Abrams gone as director, is the new Star Trek sequel any good? Well, while Star Trek Beyond may not be a great film it is a solid sequel in a very strong franchise and manages to maintain the spirit and action of the previous two movies.
Captain James T. Kirk: My dad joined Starfleet because he believed in it. I joined on a dare.
Franchises for the most part all follow the same patter which is this: they go down hill after the first one. Usually by the time we get the third film the audience is bored of the lack of originality that the films offer and lose interest. This is not helped at all by the fact there have been many franchises with truly awful third movies E.G. Jurassic Park, Jaws, X-Men, Alien and so on. So when you get a third film in a franchise that’s actually good it feels quite remarkable and luckily for us this is a good sequel.
This film does what all good sequels do: build on the basis of the previous films (with character relationships and plot points) and put the characters in a situation that feels new, fresh and different. In this case, the crew of the Starship Enterprise are really put to the test when their ship is severely damaged and leaves the crew stranded on a hostile alien planet. Split up, under equipped and seemingly without hope, the crew try to work out a way to make it off the planet alive, as well as stopping an apocalyptic threat.
The idea to split the crew up is a brilliant idea on behalf of the writers as this means we get to see different characters interact with each other and develop relationships in ways we haven’t seen before. Instead of the focus being virtually solely on Captain Kirk and Spock, the focus shifts between Chekhov and Kirk who are working to find the rest of the crew, Scotty and new character Jaylah and the most genius pairing, begrudging allies Doc Bones McCoy and Spock. These two make for viewing that’s both entertaining and furthers these two characters relationship, transforming them from barely tolerating each other to trusting friends, which again is exactly what sequels are about: exploring and developing existing character relationships
Despite Abrams absence, Fast and Furious director Justin Lin handles the direction (particularly of action) competently if not unimaginatively. And there are some great moments of action in this film. Early on when the Enterprise is attacked the suspense and atmosphere is held effectively making the deaths of any crew members (even red shirts) impactful and dramatic transforming what could well have felt like arbitrary moments of action into hard hitting and exhilarating cinema. The special effects are of course great as well, as to be expected in a 2016 blockbuster which adds some more spectacle to the more active scenes. The cinematography also manages to be adequate which is always nice.
The main part where this film falls down meaning it doesn’t earn a higher score come from later on in the film. The Star Trek franchise, while fun and often lighthearted, has always tried to maintain a serious and dramatic tone since the 2007 reboot. However, there are times when this film fails to maintain that tone. Mainly, this occurs with how the main characters deal with the threat opposing them. I won’t say what they do in order to prevent spoilers. However, their method of defeating their nemesis can only be describes as ridiculous. It feels so out of place compared to the rest of the movie and devalues the whole impact of the last 20 minutes of the film lowering its well sustained suspenseful tone up until that point. It by no means ruins the movie but it does hold it back from receiving higher praise.
The only other element that limits the film is the pacing which isn’t really bad but there are definite moments of drag. The first thirty minutes of the film are very exciting, with a great comedic yet somehow still stimulating opening scene and then of course the action highlight of the film where the Enterprise is attacked and severely damaged. The problem is too much happens too quickly. After this scene there is little to no action until near the end of the movie but that’s not to say ts boring! the film instead focuses on the aftermath of the action and the effects on the characters which adds a level of emotion to the film. However, it holds this just a bit too long for a summer blockbuster which does create a little bit of drag about halfway through. In a way it makes a nice change form the usual summer films which are so focused on action they forget about character development, but the balance in this film is still a little off for those seeing what is essentially an action adventure movie.
Few franchises manage to do it but Star Trek Beyond proves that even at the third movie of the franchise, the Star Trek series still has a lot of steam. Great character development, intense scenes of action and for the most part good writing outweigh the films ridiculous ending. Overall, a solid sequel for the Star Trek franchise that keeps hopes for the series high.