Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba
Have I Seen it Before: Once again. Unless it’s a brand-spanking new release, it’s a safe bet that I’ve seen a Star Trek film before.
Did I Like It: It’s almost like they finally took every complaint I had about the previous two films (more the second than the first) and incorporated them into a new film. This is that film.
Here’s a deep, dark secret about Star Trek, especially anything having to do with any version of Kirk and company, the original crew. Everyone says it is about lofty ideals and political parables. But really, truly, it is an adventure series. It works best when its an adventure story.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) goes back to the purest distillation of the franchise and presents Horatio Hornblower in space. Certainly, you get something like various episodes of the TV series, or both Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) that have deeper ideas, but those ideas are fully developed. This film’s predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), tries to reach for those lofty ideas, but half-bakes some kind of post 9/11 mush.
This film doesn’t have that problem. There’s a hint of a dissertation as to whether the Federation’s ideals of peace and unity, but here are the elements that keep the film together. There’s a bad guy who wants to do bad things. The only people that can stop them are the crew of the USS Enterprise. they will have a hard time repelling this threat.
That’s all you need, really, and this film doesn’t need anything more than the basics. Those lofty ideals should really be reserved for Nicholas Meyer, honestly. This film is far more engagingly Star Trek than any of the previous Abrams-involved ones. It also has the unusual distinction of not having any scenes take place on or in orbit of Earth (Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) is the only other entry in the film series to do this), and that is far more true to the reality of Star Trek than the alternative.
At the time of this writing, it is entirely possible that the “Kelvin” series will stay a trilogy. Time will tell, but as a finale, it works in remarkably subtle ways. The Beastie Boys are back to my undying chagrin, but at least here it has some kind of story-based reason for existing in Roddenberry’s future, and even kind-of-sort-of makes its original existence in Star Trek (2009) as set-up for this eventual payoff. The angry young men that Kirk (Pine) and Spock (Quinto) were when we first met them have settled into the people they are supposed to be, and are no longer bound by the prime universe that preceded them. If they do return, then it would be nice to see them just inhabit the characters, now that the development is complete.