In just a week, many parts of the world will finally have a chance to see “Star Trek: Beyond” for the first time.
But as what’s typically done, those who review movies get to see it first. And so far, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes, critics are pretty happy with what Justin Lin, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have put together.
“The young crew of the Starship Enterprise enters uncharted space to rescue a missing ship,” writes Rafer Guzman of Newsday. “What they find is something unexpected — an ancient and powerful force. It’s called fun.”
While there are only a handful of reviews available as of Friday night, with likely 10 times that still out there, the early returns are positive for “Beyond.” As of 9:30 p.m. ET, the movie has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 87 percent approval from critics. That would put it slightly ahead of 2013’s “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and just a little behind 2009’s “Star Trek,” both of which were ultimately certified “fresh” by the review aggregator. That designation is given to films that are generally well-received by critics.
If “Beyond” continues on this pace, it also will receive that positive designation. And it’s getting help from people like Jen Yamato of The Daily Beast, who said “Beyond” features “dazzling set pieces” and a “charismatic villain in Idris Elba.”
“‘Star Trek: Beyond’ does some much-needed course correcting after the heaviness and heavy self-involvement of ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness,'” Yamato said. “Its zippy self-contained story strikes a rollicking pace, doesn’t tip its hand, and sees the bigger picture: If franchise moviemaking is a marathon, Pegg, Jung and Lin understand that you have to create a runway for future films to explore.”
The movie is an adventure from the original “Star Trek” television series “in the skin of a 21st century blockbuster,” Yamato said. It strikes “a throwback feel while allowing the new timeline’s cast to make these iconic characters more their own, an enjoyably watchable installment that opens up the rebooted Trekverse.”
Of course, not everyone is going to be happy with what they see. Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave “Beyond” a C-plus, questioning whether this film is what Star Trek fans look for when they go to the theater looking to watch a Star Trek film.
“‘Beyond’ is more fun than deep,” Nashawaty said. “It’s lightweight, zero-gravity Trek that is, for the most part, devoid of the sort of ‘big ideas’ and knotty existential questions that creator Gene Roddenberry specialized in. You could argue that the philosophical, political and sociological subtext is what always set his universe apart from other tech-heavy space adventures.
“Maybe that’s why ‘Beyond’ feels slightly insubstantial.”
Scott Mendelson of Forbes feels there’s a tug-of-war going on between two different ideas in “Beyond,” something that “Into Darkness” suffered from three years ago.
“I found ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ quite engaging because it was specifically about this conflict, a parable for the desire for ‘old-school Star Trek’ and action-centric, somewhat militarized ‘blockbuster Star Trek,'” Mendelson said. “But even while that sequel firmly ended out in favor of ‘peaceful exploration’ over ‘violence and war,’ it bogged itself down in climactic homages and generic blockbuster tropes. Justin Line’s ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ shows the franchise once again is pulled in two directions, wanting to be both a glorified television episode and a muscular action movie.”
Good news is, however, that Hollywood’s two biggest trade publications are pretty gung-ho about the movie. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter said “Beyond” was a “welcome relief from a summer of stale popcorn.”
“With Fast & Furious veteran Justin Lin stepping in as director, the third reboot installment, ‘Star Trek: Beyond,’ regains momentum, and not just in the obvious area of its muscular action set pieces,” Rooney said. “The script injects a welcome strain of humor that’s true to the original Gene Roddenberry creation, delivering nostalgia without stiff veneration.”
Owen Gleiberman of Variety shared similar sentiments.
“It’s a sturdily built movie that gets the job done, and it’s got a likable retro vibe,” he said. “The fact that Kirk and his crew spend a good part of the film stranded, without recourse, gives ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ a wide-eyed, slightly clunky analog stasis that takes us right back to the spirit of the TV series. Like the show, it lets us share quality time with cast members who now seem like old friends.”
However, the film does lack that major “Oh, wow” moment, Gleiberman said. Yet, that’s OK, because after more than a dozen films, no one can really expect each film in a franchise to have that.
“It’s got a very familiar, old-fangled, no-mystery structure, and that’s because it’s basically the Star Trek version of an interplanetary action film, with a plot that doesn’t take you to many new frontiers,” he said. “But there’s plenty of chance to hang out with a cast that audiences have, rightly, come to love.”
Even Forbes‘s Mendelson, who wasn’t impressed with the movie, still feels it should have a strong box office outing.
“The good news for ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ is that it’s an installment in a franchise that audiences actually like, with characters/actors that audiences enjoy,” Mendelson said. “While this third one may not be the pop culture event that the first two are, it has the advantage of being a follow-up to a film that audiences mostly enjoyed. The fact that that’s considered an advantage — as opposed to a sequel to a disliked film — shows you where we are in franchise-building.”
“Star Trek: Beyond” opens July 22.