I loved this movie. Absolutely loved it. I'm still hyped from it. If you've hated the previous two movies I'd recommend giving this one a try because it's just so good. If I rated movies I'd give this one a 9/10.
The crew of the Enterprise is in the third year of their five year mission. After a rather disastrous attempt at a peace mission, the crew is heading to the new starbase named Yorktown for some R&R. Kirk is considering taking a vice admiral position because he's become tired of the missions on the Enterprise. He's also having something of a mid-life crisis because he's about to be older than his father ever was. They don't get to stay at the base long because an alien arrives saying her ship crashed on a planet in an unexplored nebula. The Enterprise heads out to offer aid when they are attacked by Krall and his horde of ships. The Enterprise is destroyed and the crew spread out across they planet. As they try to come together Krall starts to launch his final plan to attack the Federation.
This is definitely the best of the three Kelvin timeline movies and I'd even go so far as to say it stands next to some of the best Star Trek movies, period.
I know people thought this would be all action based on the trailers and while there's a lot of action in the movie, there's also a lot of character work and some good Star Trek themes as well. I'd say this movie does more and better with the characters than the previous two movies. It's still the Kirk/Spock/Bones show, but Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura get a good amount of screen time as well and some nice character moments.
The action is simply stunning. Justin Lin definitely knows how to stage riveting, unique action set-pieces. The initial attack on the Enterprise is amazing. It's thrilling and exciting and sad all at the same time. A firefight featuring Kirk and Chekov in the crashed saucer section of the Enterprise is very cool. The final fight between Kirk and Krall takes place in Yorktown and is very inventive.
All that amazing action wouldn't matter though if we didn't care about the characters and the movie does a good job of making us care. There's great banter and energy between the characters and it feels like they have been together for three years and developed strong bonds. There's great moments of levity (this is a seriously funny movie) and drama between them all. Sulu's husband and daughter are briefly seen at the beginning of the movie at Yorktown, and when Sulu learns that Krall is targeting the station for destruction you can tell he's anxious to get there and stop the attack. It's subtle, but it's there.
The movie does pay tribute to Leonard Nimoy. The movie has Ambassador Spock die, and it affects Spock greatly and has him start to look at making changes in his life, especially in regards to Uhura and staying on the Enterprise. There's a nice scene between Spock and Bones when they're talking about Ambassador Spock and it feels like they're really talking about Leonard Nimoy.
There's a small scene at the end that I won't spoil but it's a nice tribute to not only Leonard Nimoy but the entire TOS cast. It definitely moved me.
The movie was also sad because Anton Yelchin is no longer with us, and he probably has more screen time in this movie than he had in the first two. There's a scene towards the end, and I'm sure this was unintentional, where Kirk gives a toast to absent friends and the camera looks at Chekov. It's a fleeting moment but made all the more poignant because of the real life tragedy. The film is dedicated to him and Nimoy.
The two new characters, Krall and Jaylah, are great additions to the movie universe. Krall is one of the better Trek baddies because he's not just a crazed conqueror. He has very real and understandable reasons for why he's going after the Federation. Not only that, but his reasons strike at the main themes of the Federation and Star Trek in general. ST has always been about humanity overcoming its limitations and bettering itself and achieving peace and finding strength in unity. Krall believes unity and peace are weaknesses that will doom the Federation. Considering the climate of 2016 so far (at least in America) a movie that embraces unity and peace as strengths is one that is desperately needed. Krall can also be a decently terrifying villain as well.
Jaylah is an awesome character. Yes, she's a great fighter but there's more to her character than that. She's also a really good engineer and she and Scotty form a bond. She has a tragic back story that was easy to guess but it works. I really hope she returns in future installments. She's not just here to provide eye candy.
For those that hated the Beastie Boys song in the first trailer I warn you that it's used in the actual movie but it's in probably one of the most awesome scenes in the movie and has a purpose and if I had been alone in that theater I would have been jumping out of my seat and cheering.
Oh, the Yorktown looks amazing. It's gorgeous and the design is crazy and stunning. I wouldn't mind an entire movie set on that starbase.
There's some nods to Star Trek: Enterprise in here with mentions of the Xindi, the Romulan War, the M.A.C.O.s and of course the NX-class. I was rather surprised by that but it was a nice way to tie the new timeline into the broader Star Trek mythology. Plus, as someone who loved Star Trek: Enterprise I appreciated the nods.
I think this was a great movie to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. It felt more like Star Trek than Into Darkness did. It was a fresh, fun, action-packed, engaging movie with great characters and some stunning visuals. IMO, Justin Lin did for Star Trek what he did for the Fast and Furious franchise: he gave it a much needed boost and put it in a great spot to keep the franchise going. I really hope he directs the next movie.