Star Trek was a brilliant reboot. Star Trek Into Darkness was a very successful sequel that had a few issues. Star Trek Beyond… is the new one. But is it any good? Read on to find out.
For all the faults of the films, if you think JJ Abrams hasn’t been a huge success as a director of Star Trek films, you are wrong. It is two and done for him though, and Justin Lin has taken over the director’s chair. Abrams is still involved as a producer, and the constant high standards the Mission Impossible have shown he can still have a positive influence even if he isn’t in total control. I also have high hopes for Justin Lin, who has been lambasted as “just” a director of the Fast and Furious films. He doesn’t need me to defend him, but first of all, the fourth and fifth installments that he directed are actually really good. Secondly, he also directed some of the very best episodes of Community, as well as the two best episodes of season 2 of True Detective. He isn’t a generic action movie, hack director.
Star Trek Beyond is also written by the one and only Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. While Jung also wrote the slightly underwhelming Confidence, Pegg is of course a genius who can do no wrong and is always funny 100% of the time. Ok, maybe I’m slightly biased, but he is responsible for Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, World’s End, and Paul. Pegg has got some chops when it comes to action films (all three of the Cornetto trilogy could work as straight action films), so I went into Star Trek Beyond with some pretty high expectations.
Star Trek Beyond begins with Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) offering an ancient weapon as a gift to bring a new planet in the Federation. The planet’s council aren’t too happy with the implication of a “stolen weapon” being given to them, and attack Kirk, who quickly gets back to the Enterprise, beamed aboard by Scotty (Simon Pegg). He is checked over by Dr McCoy (Karl Urban), and discusses his lack of success on the mission with Science Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto).
Now, you are probably thinking I’ve just written that paragraph as a way to drop in all the names of the main character. Well, you are right, but also, that is how the film starts: this is just a routine mission. The crew of the Enterprise are all just doing their jobs. This is just another day at the office for them, and a certain ennui is starting to set in. The dashing Captain Kirk that we expect is feeling stifled. His journey into the infinite reaches of space have made his life feel “episodic” – a nice little joke, but also showing he is lacking a grander purpose. His upcoming birthday will make him older than his father was, and as Bones mentions, he spent so long trying to live up to his fathers legacy, he is struggling to create his own. So much so, that when the Enterprise docks at Spacebase (although it is more like a huge floating city in space) Yorktown for supplies, we discover he has actually applied to be Vice-Admiral of that settlement, despite only being 3 years into his 5 year mission.
Spock is also feeling the strain. The destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek, and his role in its rebuilding, has caused him to re-evaluate his relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). He also receives news of the death of Ambassador Spock (in a touching scene, the film takes a moment to remember the late Leonard Nimoy), and wants to continue his work, for which he will need to leave the Starfleet, the Enterprise, and Jim.
While on Yorktown, an escape pod lands, causing the Enterprise crew to quickly reassemble and try to rescue the marooned ship from which it came. The escape pod had Kalara on board, the captain of the ship, who claims her crew can be rescued from the other side of a huge nebula. While crossing the nebula however, the Enterprise is attacked by a huge swarm of ships and systematically destroyed, with the crew escaping in pods, only for those escape pods themselves to be taken. The saucer section of the Enterprise is separated and crashes into the nearest planet, where the attack had been launched from. Kirk is the last to leave the ship, having discovered the leader of the attack, Krall (Idris Elba, unrecognisable unless you have seen the ridiculously spoileriffic trailers) is after the ancient weapon he had attempted to use as a peace offering earlier.
The crew are split apart – Bones and an injured Spock need to get medical attention, Kirk, Chekov, and Kalara return to the remains of the Enterprise to retrieve the weapon before Krall, and the rest of the crew have been captured and are being tortured for information. All apart from Scotty that is, who is rescued from bandits (including Community’s Danny Pudi, at least I think that’s him under the prosthetic!), by the kick ass Jaylah. She is played by Sofia Boutella (the blade footed killer from Kingsmen) and is probably the highlight of the entire film. Scott and Jaylah start locating the team and try to bring them back together and rescue the crew. But will they be able to stop Krall from getting the weapon?
Star Trek Beyond feels like an episode from The Original Series, and I mean that in a good way. The listlessness of the main characters is played with well, and there doesn’t seem to be the feeling of “we have to have this character and this actor on screen more” that effects certain films (X-Men: Apocalypse I’m looking at you). The crew are paired off interestingly (we finally get some elongated McCoy-Spock interaction!) and this isn’t just the Kirk and Spock show. Each member of the Enterprise crew gets their moment to shine, and as I mentioned, Jaylah is great. Anton Yelchin does well as Chekov, although it is obviously bitter sweet watching him. And the Enterprise feels a bit less shiny and brand new, which suits the films very well.
There are a few issues. There are few Action Film lines (“he’s been watching us the whole time!”) that slipped into the script and ring slightly hollow. With the whole crew getting plenty of screen time, Uhura gets slightly sidelined, and I feel like that also took away time from developing the Krall character. His motivations are not explained until very late on, and even then it’s all a bit vague. Nero in Star Trek, “John Harrison” (although that was a bit of a cheat!) in Star Trek Into Darkness – we knew what they wanted. Krall, not so much. He also has literally millions of ships, his need for an extra weapon seems a bit too over cautious! I also wanted at least a mention of the end of Into Darkness, even an off-hand explanation to clarify just how Kirk survived. We’ve all got theories, but a quick aside (“I’m not immortal, I just got lucky with a blood transfusion”) would have been fine! But I will quickly say, the Sulu “reveal” is such a non-issue. This is 2016 guys, come on.
I had high expectations, and while they weren’t all met, I still had a great time. Overall, Star Trek Beyond will be enjoyable to fans and newcomers alike. If you compare it to Independence Day Resurgence or The Legend Of Tarzan (two films with bigger budgets than Star Trek Beyond), this shows you how to do an action film based on an existing idea properly, referencing the original material but not totally relying on it. It’s not as refreshingly original as Star Trek was, but where X-Men Apocalypse showed the difficulties of keeping the energy of a reboot, this uses that familiarity and makes it a feature of the plot. This is just good episodic film making, and I hope that there is more to come from the crew of the Enterprise.
Star Trek Beyond is out in cinemas now!
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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