By Jordan Jaisingh (Enfield, London, UK)
Following the incredible Star Trek (2009) and the Trekkie alienating sophomore effort of Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), many were apprehensive regarding the third installment in the ‘Kelvin Timeline.’ The man who had brought Star Trek to modern day cinema; JJ Abrams, had swiftly abandoned ship when offered to direct the money machine that is Star Wars. The news that Justin Lin had been brought on as director certainly didn’t reduce anxieties, not to mention the initial trailer’s Guardians of the Galaxy tone. Things looked dark for Star Trek indeed, and even worse for Trekkie’s who had already deemed its predecessor to have veered off course when it came to the fundamentals that make Star Trek, well, Star Trek.
To my surprise, what I can say is that Star Trek Beyond is a delight in a continuously disappointing summer movie season. This is not, a Star Wars-esque film being moulded onto the enterprise crew, as the entertaining yet underwhelming predecessor indeed was. This is true Trek for modern audiences, very fitting for its 50th anniversary. A return to the grand philosophical questions of what it is to be human. A focus on the inter-relationships of the crew that made the original series so endearing. Whilst not without a dose of operatic sci-fi spectacle, to keep those who can’t distinguish between a Phaser’s stun and kill setting, undoubtedly entertained.
The film opens with Gene Roddenbery’s beloved characters facing their own personal dilemmas. Chris Pine’s Kirk is questioning his place within Star Fleet and whether he is in pursuit of any tangible goal, or indeed just an endless exploration of an ever expanding cosmos. The Kirk we find this time around, is one who has finally settled into the Captain’s chair. He is more measured and calculated. No longer the reckless teen who picks fights in bars that he cannot win. Pine still manages to capture the charisma of his previous performances, whilst infusing an element of Shatner’s original incarnation of the Captain. Zachary Quinto, again delivers a Spock whom is battling his conflicting human and Vulcan parts. However, it is his pairing with Karl Urban’s, ‘Bones’ which allows him to deliver some expertly timed comic relief. The pairing of the two is one of the unexpected delights of the film. Only Spock can pull off a joke regarding excrement, and not have proceedings feel like an Inbetweeners film.
The villain of the piece has a mountain to climb. Whilst Trekkie’s had issues with how the character was handled in the narrative, few would deny that Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as a villain was masterful . What Idris Elba delivers as Krall, is a very good performance, yet nothing noteworthy. He is not the focal point of the film as Cumberbatch was. The villain has fairly logical motivations and there is enough mystery surrounding his actions to keep him interesting, yet not necessarily compelling throughout.
Other notable inclusions consist of new character Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella whom has amusing interactions with Simon Pegg’s Scotty. Sulu, Uhura and Chekov all return too. Their roles are certainly more minimal compared to the rest of the cast, however that is understandable in a film with a 118 minute running time and an already perhaps too big ensemble of characters to juggle.
What Justin Lin brings as director, is not just his eye for spectacular, over the top action sequences. The Fast and Furious director is renowned for this. Such sequences are present, most notably the early set piece where the enterprise is ravaged by an unstoppable swarm of Krall’s bee ships. Here, he delivers stunning, visceral shots of the enterprise being torn to shreds while also paying close attention to the more claustrophobic, interior chaos that the crew experience as the mayhem ensues. There is also an outrageous rescue mission in the third act which evokes memories of how Lin handled the frenetic final heist of Fast Five. Thankfully however, this isn’t Fast and Furious wrapped in Star Trek cloth as some feared. His handling of a script co-written by Simon Pegg gives the film room to breathe. The film has a plethora of smaller character moments with the crew which show that the team behind this film not only greatly respect, but understand these characters. One in the third act is almost certain to cause some Trekkies to shed a nostalgic tear. This is what was lacking from Into Darkness which at times felt like an extended action set piece. Beyond is at its best when Spock struggles to understand nuanced and non-literal human expression, when Kirk discovers a motorcycle reminiscent of his childhood exploits and when the action isn’t allowed to overshadow the drama.
What holds the film back from competing with classics such as The Wrath of Kahn is its formulaic nature. Concerning the plot, there are no elaborate twists, too difficult to predict. There are certain plot contrivances, which are derivative of this type of film and perhaps moments in the third act concerning how the enemy is overcome, that will make purists cringe. This essentially is another crisis that the Enterprise crew has to deal with, the likes of which have been dealt with in several previous entries. It is an exquisitely crafted blockbuster; production value, excellent writing and stellar performances are all present in spades. However the film doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table and leaves the franchise very open, perhaps even aimless concerning its next voyage. Is that a problem? In a world over saturated with franchises desperate to build interconnected worlds, and laying plot seeds for films ten years down the line, this is the most refreshing entry that I have seen in a major series in a while.
Bottom Line: Trekkie or not a Trekkie, this film can be enjoyed by all. There are subtle sentimental moments in the third act where it is mesmerising to behold that Gene Roddenbery’s characters are still thriving on screen. This, in many ways, is a return to form for the franchise. Fifty years into Roddenbery’s world, this franchise has indeed lived, and with more entries of this caliber, deserves to continue and prosper.
Rating: 4/5BEST QUOTES