The build up to the latest installment of the Star Trek movie franchise had a lot of people worried. JJ Abrams had jumped ship to direct the new Star Wars movie and Fast and Furious director Justin Lin was brought in to take the helm. The one glimmer of hope was the fact that Simon Pegg was brought in to write the story and script alongside Doug Jung. Reception from the previous movie outing Into Darkness had left a lot of die-hard fans (myself included) wondering if this rejuvenated version of the original crew of the Enterprise would get a chance to be something other than be bad pastiche of these much beloved characters. The first trailer dropped and so did the expectations, but pleas from Simon Pegg to not put stock in one trailer and wait until fans actually saw the film seamed to settle peoples expectations slightly. Well, I am very happy to say that Star Trek Beyond does not disappoint, and it delivers on nearly every level.
The movie begins with the Enterprise crew two and a half years into their five year mission to explore deep space, and the fatigue of such an arduous undertaking is beginning to show. James T. Kirk is starting to question his place as the Captain of the Federation Flagship, wondering would he be best served being behind a desk rather than out amongst the stars. I was personally relieved to see this growth in the character following on from the previous two movies which had him re-thread similar ground in each, instead of growing the character more and allowing Chris Pine to step out from under the immense shadow cast by William Shatner and claim the role as his own. This is a most mature James T. Kirk we have seen in this version of the Trek universe, and that’s a good thing.
The rest of the cast have also settled into their roles. The overall crew of the Enterprise are now less a rag-tag bunch of misfits and more resemble a solid unit – character growth is portrayed well, with little pieces of dialogue, and quick scene transitions showing how comfortable and close-knit they have become. The ship itself has also aged, with signs of wear and tear being alluded to, as well as Scotty’s engineering prowess at keeping her running at full capacity.
The main trio of Star Trek, Kirk, Spock and McCoy have now gotten to the stag of familiarity that fans of the show and movies will feel happy with, something I felt was lacking in the last two installments. These three characters are the core of this Trek, and this really bolsters the story throughout. Their chemistry is great. As I’ve mentioned Pine actually gets to stretch out his Kirk more in this movie, and he really does shine, being a strong, charasmatic captain from the opening sequence right to the very end of the film. Zachary Quinto is the weak link for me in this cast, but this is not entirely his fault. Spock’s role in the movie is less pivotal as it was in the previous two outings, and in this movie he spends most of his time being supported by Karl Urban’s McCoy in both plot and acting. There are some moments of hilarity between Spock and McCoy in this movie, and I reveled in their relationship being given as much screen time as it is. Karl Urban comes out on top for me as the better of the three actors, he is Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy, portraying the character brilliantly. He steals every scene he is in.
The rest of the crew line up each get their allotted screen time, Simon Pegg’s Scotty again being the fourth man of the tale, both John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin get their moments as well. With Cho showing more and more that his eventual version of Captain Sulu is going to be one hell of a badass. The only cast member I felt was hard done by was Zoe Saldana. Uhura is regulated to being the person who questions the main villain Krall, (who is played to scenery chewing perfection by Idris Elba) so he can explain his diabolical plan to the audience, that’s pretty much all she does, which was kind of let down. There is a great female character in the movie though, in the form of Jaylah, who is played by Sofia Boutella. Jaylah is an unwilling inhabitant of a planet the crew find themselves stranded on, she helps Kirk and Co. take on the Vile Krall and is forces. Jaylah proves to be a layered alien character, and even with the already large cast in this movie. Sofia Boutella gives us a character we can’t help but care about and admire. Oh, and she kicks all kinds of ass.
The best thing about Star Trek Beyond is that it is a self-contained film, it doesn’t rely on previous versions of the Trek universe, classic characters outside of the main cast or plots from previous movies or episodes. This is its own story, helping to build its own version of a much loved science fiction world. The story pushes the characters forward, giving them a depth the previous two films seemed unable to do. The film has three main settings, The Enterprise, the Federation Starbase Yorktown and the alien planet that the crew must battle to escape from and save the day. There are no over reaching conspiracies, no convoluted character arcs involving alternate realities, this is bare bones Star Trek where the crew and their struggle are the core of the story and its a joy to finally see its return to the big screen.
The movie itself looks gorgeous, there are some shots that just took my breath away. For example, when the Enterprise is pulling into the dock at the Yorktown Starbase, there were audible gasps from the audience with just how amazing the special effects were. Krall’s swarm of ships are also brilliantly rendered on screen, with one shot in particular towards the end of the movie demonstrating how terrifying an enemy they are. This is a movie you need to see on the biggest screen you can find. Another brilliant part of the special effects are the physical makeup effects. The alien members of the Enterprise crew, as well as the Krall’s army are top notch. There is a mix of cgi and makeup, but its done so well you would have a hard time seeing the joins. The action set pieces in the film come thick and fast, and with a runtime of just over two hours it zips by. There are a countless edge of your seat moments that are put together brilliantly.
This is very much a modern day Star Trek, but this time around it is done with love of what has come before as well as where they team involved want to take it. The previous two Trek films were too bogged down in paying homage to the original crew and storylines, instead of trying to build their own world around well known characters. There is a beautiful nod to the original crew in Star Trek Beyond, and it is done in such a way that it actually had me welling up slightly, it takes up less than two minutes of screen time, and that’s all that was needed, the small little scene felt like this crew were saying thank you to the original crew, while moving on to their own adventures, its crazy that a scene like that has taken three movies to actually happen. Both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin are remembered in the film’s credits which received a warm round of applause from the audience.
Justin Lin brought the action for this outing in a big way.I actually hope he returns for future installments because himself and his team have done an outstanding job with this movie. It isn’t without its flaws though, Zoe Saldana‘s reduced role as Uhura was a disappointment, as well as some of Spock’s characterisations that bugged me a little. All of that aside, this is a huge improvement over the misstep that was Into Darkness. Star Trek Beyond boldly goes and then some. A fun thrill ride that allows most of its cast to stretch there legs in characters that no longer resemble borrowed suits.