Blu-ray Review: Star Trek Beyond

To boldly go where no man has gone before can be a lonely task, or at least a draining one. Star Trek Beyond picks up three years into a five-year exploration mission for the crew of the Enterprise, and while some are taking the trip in stride, our main heroes, Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) are hitting forks in the road when it comes to their current paths in life.

Kirk is feeling lost as a Captain, just a few days away from his birthday which will officially make him a year older than his father ever was. Spock, on the other hand, learns of Ambassador Spock’s death upon the Enterprise’s arrival to the space station Yorktown (a massive star base used as a sort of shore leave destination for ships in deep space) and takes the loss quite hard. The pair contemplate taking new positions in hopes to find their true place in life, but before they can bring it up with one another, an escape pod jettisons out of an uncharted nearby nebula sending out a distress signal.

Inside the pod is Kalara (Lydia Wilson), who explains that her ship and crew are stranded on a planet inside the nebula and is in need of help. Being the only ship on Yorktown that can handle itself in the nebula, Kirk agrees go rescue her crew without hesitation. This is where Star Trek Beyond turns phasers to fun and never lets up.

Yes, the introduction above continues to delve into the characters we’ve grown to know over the past two films, but when the action hits almost out of the blue, it just doesn’t stop until the credits are rolling. Upon entering the nebula, the Enterprise comes up against an enemy with a hive-like mentality that they’ve never seen before. Before they can truly react, the Enterprise is overwhelmed, and the crew – separated into unique groups – find themselves stranded on the planet Kalara said her ship crashed down upon.

Now I’m a huge fan of movies and TV shows that takes their heroes and breaks them off into groups that may be somewhat unorthodox. It adds to the fun, and it gives the characters something fresh to work off of. Here we have Kirk, Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) and Kalara together, the loveable duo of Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban) getting a nice chunk of screen time on their own, and Scotty finding himself alone, until he meets up with Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a stranded alien scavenger who vows to help him find his crew if he’ll help her fix her ship.

The rest of the crew are together in a prison camp being held captive by the film’s big bad, Krall (Idris Elba.) Krall is an unforgiving warrior who has no love for the federation or the peace that it stands for. He’s searching for an artifact that will create a bio-weapon of sorts that he plans to use to destroy all that the federation has built.

Now these unique groups give members of the crew chances to grow in ways that having them all about the Enterprise doing their same old jobs just wouldn’t allow for. The highlight being Spock and McCoy, who have no love loss for one another, but have some nice moments together, mixed with plenty of funny ones. Urban and Quinto play off one another well, and it’s nice to see these two characters together for more than just a few back and forth banter moments.

While there are plenty of funny and nice moments, there’s not much that’s incredibly deep this time around. Star Trek Into Darkness was darker in its tone, and a much more emotional ride for audience members. This time out, expect a summer blockbuster without a lot of the heavier moments. I wouldn’t call this mindless fluff at all, but it’s more of a random adventure for the crew to embark on and for audiences to simply enjoy over a major, game changer of a mission that will leave them forever altered. Sometimes it’s good just to have some fun – especially after all that was the much weightier Khan the last time out. Beyond is kind of like a popcorn pallet cleanser before the next main course.

It’s easy to see that the cast has now found a rhythm in their roles, and are making these iconic characters their own in this alternate Trek universe. Pine continues to be a strong leader as Kirk, and while it’s arguable that his is the hardest shadow to step out of, he’s done a solid job of making this Kirk one that audiences will want to see succeed. Pine feels like a leader and a captain now more than ever, and it’s clear that he’s someone who will do whatever it takes to save his crew.

It’s sad to see Yelchin’s Chekov’s role grow this time out, only to know that Yelchin is no longer with us after the freak, tragic car accident that took his life earlier this year. He brought an innocence to the role that worked well, especially when you constantly see Chekov wooing various alien females at any chance he gets. J.J. Abrams, who went on to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but remained on Beyond as producer, has stated that Chekov won’t be recast, though he’s unsure as of yet as to how they’ll explain the Russian’s absence in the fourth film.

On the newcomer front, Wilson, Boutella and Elba are all welcome additions to the cast. I mean, really, when would you ever say, “It’s unfortunate they added Idris Elba, as his presence only hurt the project.” Exactly, you wouldn’t. It’s not easy to follow Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal as the iconic Khan, but Elba does some solid work here, and plays a nefarious and worthy foe for Kirk and company this time out.

Boutella is someone I hope we see return in the future, as she and Pegg have some great chemistry during their time together on the planet, and she’s really just a badass female character that the Enterprise could use more of. Aside from Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, the Enterprise is lacking in that department, and could use an ass-kicking warrior in its ranks. Granted, Carol Marcus (played by Alice Eve in Into Darkness) is a part of the crew, but she didn’t make it out for this mission, and again, Jaylah is a unique character even alongside both Marcus and Uhura, so hopefully we see all three on a future mission.

Star Trek Beyond is a lot of fun. The story supplies just the sort of meaningful, yet not overly emotionally taxing mission the crew needed after Into Darkness, there are plenty of jokes mixed and witty dialogue mixed into the script (which isn’t a surprise, seeing as Simon Pegg co-wrote the film) and we really feel here that the new Star Trek cast is truly coming into its own.

It’s unclear what lies ahead for the crew of the Enterprise. Not much is known of their fourth mission, other than the fact that it’s been given the green light and will be happening. Will it continue to go the route of Beyond, embracing the popcorn blockbuster side of cinema, or will it go the more emotional, story-driven action route of Into Darkness. Whatever course they choose, with a track record of three for three, audiences will no doubt boldly follow them where no man has gone before.

This movie is stunning, both visually and on the audio front. Paramount really knocked it out of the park with this one, and kudos should be given on all fronts. It’s just a gorgeous looking film, with bright, beautiful colours, and everything just pops. On the audio side of things, the score is bold, as is the soundtrack, and the dialogue is clear amongst all of it. Just top notch production value here from Paramount once again.

Special Features:

Deleted Scenes – There are two deleted scenes to be found here, which does make you wonder if they just slapped it on here to make the special features look beefier.

Beyond the Darkness – This is a 10-minute feature that looks at Director Justin Lin’s affinity for the Star Trek universe, and loads of other behind-the-scenes/making of tidbits. If you enjoy the film, this is definitely a feature you’re going to want to check out to get a bit more of an in-depth look on the thematic elements of the film, and the likes.

Enterprise Takedown: Destroying an Icon – This is a four and a half minute featurette that looks at the Kalara and their annihilation of the iconic USS Enterprise.

Divided and Conquered – This is an eight-minute piece that talks about the separation of characters into their smaller groups, how it changes them and helps bring them forward as well.

A Warped Sense of Revenge – Here’s five minutes that delves more into Krall as a character.

Trekking in the Desert – A short, three-minute piece about shooting the Yorktown scenes in Dubai.

Exploring Strange New Worlds – This six-minute featurette focuses on the works of production designer Tom Sanders.

New Life, New Civilizations – This eight-minute featurette covers the creation of new alien races for the film.

To Live Long and Prosper – At just under eight minutes long, this piece shows a montage of Star Trek movie scenes, talking about what Star Trek is, what it symbolizes, and what it means moving forward.

For Leonard and Anton – This five minute piece remembers the Star Trek actors that were recently lost.

Gag Reel – And to follow up that, we’ve got a five-minute gag reel to lighten the mood back up.

Paramount Pictures Presents Star Trek Beyond. Directed by: Justin Lin. Written by: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung. Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella. Running time: 122 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Nov. 1, 2016.

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