Space, the final frontier, and the voyages of the Starship Enterprise continue with Kirk and his crew, now three years into their famous five-year mission into deep space. When a rescue mission turns into a fight for survival on an alien planet and with the Enterprise destroyed, Kirk and his small band of senior officers must work to save the future of the entire Federation.
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Idris Elba
Run Time: 122 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
As a life-long fan of Star Trek I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive about the future of my beloved franchise in the hands of a Fast and Furious director. Nothing against the Furious movies, but they’re much more action over substance and while the rebooted franchise has certainly brought more action to the final frontier, the complex nature of the Trek universe remains. How much influence would Lin’s previous work have on Kirk and co’s latest adventure?
The good news, Trek fans, is that while Justin Lin’s influence is evident in every action scene, they don’t overwhelm the movie’s run-time and we still get an interesting story centred around what it means to be human (or Vulcan) in the vastness of space.
It’s taken three movies but we’re finally at the point in Trek history where Kirk and his crew are on their five-year mission, the same mission that started the franchise half a century ago, it’s a significant step forward in the rebooted franchise. The story itself plays out very much like a 21st century re-telling of one of those classic episodes from the original series, beefed up considerably but all the hallmarks of the classic show are there, including a desolate rocky alien world not entirely dissimilar from some of Kirk’s most famous early adventures.
Following a pit-stop at the Federation’s newest and most advanced space station, Yorktown (the name is actually a huge nod to what Gene Roddenberry originally wanted to call the Enterprise), Kirk and his intrepid crew are sent on what would seem like a straightforward rescue mission. Heading into uncharted space, the ship is ambushed by a swarm of alien ships who ultimately rip the ship apart, literally, sending the saucer section in to the best Star Trek crash scene since Generations took out the Enterprise-D.
Who is responsible for this terrible act against the Federation’s best and brightest? Trek newcomer, Idris Elba under three inches of prosthetics as main antagonist Krall. An intimidating-looking alien in search of an ancient artefact which the Enterprise just happens to have in their possession (a little bit convenient).
Though his full motives don’t become apparent until much later in the movie, it is clear that Krall has no love for the Federation and Elba is at his best throughout. While watching the movie I couldn’t help thinking about last year’s debate on the actor becoming the next Bond and how one critic said he was “far too street” for the role. If his previous work wasn’t enough to convince you of his talent range then Star Trek Beyond certainly will. It’s just a shame that Krall doesn’t get the screen time Elba deserves in the movie; with a lot of character development focused on the Enterprise crew there just isn’t enough time to fully develop this otherwise great villain.
Moving on to the Enterprise crew, it is clear from the beginning that this Kirk is very different from his TV show counterpart. The brashness of Shatner has been replaced by a man struggling with the loneliness of space and trying to find his true place in the universe with his father’s demise still looming over him. His Captain’s log, while full of positives, has a certain bitterness to it, and we quickly learn that he’s already on the verge of giving up the Captain’s chair.
Spock isn’t having the greatest time either. Still reeling from the destruction of his home planet (well let’s face it, nobody was happy with the destruction of Vulcan), he’s called it quits with Uhura with the intention of returning to his people to “make little vulcans”, to quote Doctor McCoy. With the news that his older self has sadly passed away, Spock is left contemplating his own mortality and destiny.
It may seem like it is all very doom and gloom for the crew of the Enterprise, but what makes Star Trek Beyond such an interesting watch is seeing these two characters evolve further down the path to becoming the Kirk and Spock of old. In a way, this is more their origin story than the previous two movies because it finally sees the two realise just how close they’ve become and how important they will be to one another moving forward.
With both Pine and Quinto now more than comfortable in their respective roles after seven years, the connection which Shatner and Nimoy once shared is finally starting to show through in this new generation of Trekkers. Despite sharing very little screen time this time around the evolution of this relationship is superbly portrayed in how they interact with the other members of the crew. This is most evident during the many heart-to-hearts shared between the vulcan and McCoy.
I’ve always been a fan of Karl Urban’s take on Doctor McCoy, it’s a fantastic tribute to DeForest Kelley while still bringing his own charm to the role. Much like his predecessor, Urban continues to bring a comedic element with some of the best one-liners in the script delivered with perfect timing, many directed firmly at the green blooded vulcan he both hates and admires in equal measure.
It’s this much needed lighter tone which thankfully ensures that Beyond takes a step back from the far too serious Into Darkness. Star Trek has always had a funny bone hidden amongst the space battles, whether it’s the android who doesn’t quite understand humanity or the vulcan talking to whales and so it’s great to see that element thrown back in, Simon Pegg’s influence on the writing no doubt.
Speaking of Scotty, he’s on true form in Star Trek Beyond. Separated from his crew on the hostile planet, he’s the first to meet female alien bad-ass Jaylah who helps him track down his friends in exchange for a little engineering work. With a little of the famous Scotch wizardry the team are reunited and with a new ally in tow. While it is difficult to find criticism with Pegg’s performance in Beyond, the relationship he shares on-screen with Pine’s Kirk still comes across as slightly forced, there isn’t that natural fit we see from Quinto and Urban. It doesn’t hinder the overall viewing experience but the scenes they share just seem off in some unidentifiable way.
In contrast, Scotty’s screen time with newcomer Jaylah works brilliantly, it’s one of the hidden highlights of the movie and gives Pegg the chance to stretch his acting beyond the engineering decks. Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a fantastic addition to the cast, bringing combat skills to the screen that would make any Klingon proud. Yet, for all her strength she is far from a one-dimensional character. Not only does she have excellent taste in music, but there is a awe of innocence about the character which we learn more about as her relationships with the Enterprise crew develop.
The biggest disappointment with Star Trek Beyond is the lack of involvement from the two cast members who made the news leading up to the release of the movie, Sulu and Chekov. The media storm surrounding Sulu’s sexuality turned out to be the biggest overreaction known to man. We see Sulu meeting up with his husband and daughter on Yorktown and stroll off like any other family, it wasn’t a big deal – kind of the point.
Chekov’s appearance will be remembered for a very different reason, as the last piece of work by Anton Yelchin, the young actor who has portrayed the character in all three movies. A freak accident barely a month before the movie’s release sadly resulted in his death and in all honesty it was a little emotional seeing the character on screen at first.
Along with Uhura, the helmsman and everyone’s favourite Russian take a backseat in this Star Trek adventure. It doesn’t hinder the movie in any way and what screen time the trio do have is used perfectly to progress the story or just add that extra comic punch.
I’ve already mentioned a few, but this movie is littered with nods to the TV series’, with subtle alien species mentioned from Enterprise to name drops from Voyager, there’s a lot for the life-long fan to pick up on here. In fact, the biggest compliment I could give this movie is that it is a film for everyone. Hardcore Trek fans will love the throwbacks and salutes to the canon while new Trek fans will love the explosive action, all of this tied around a superb cast with an interesting and in depth story to tell.
However, Star Trek Beyond is a bittersweet triumph. While the movie is an experience that the large majority will thoroughly enjoy, it’s sadly tainted by the reminder that two of Trek’s most loved actors, one a legend and the other a legend in the making, passed away during the production and while Nimoy’s passing is passionately played out in the movie, Yelchin’s performance is a sad reminder of what the world has lost.