Star Trek Beyond

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Film reviews, Star Trek
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Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Idris Elba.

 

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To not watch this film would be illogical

 

The USS Enterprise is three years into its five year mission under the command of Captain Kirk (Pine) and several members of the crew are on the verge of making big decisions about their futures. Kirk is struggling to find meaning in their continuing voyages, and has applied for a Vice Admiral position at the huge Yorktown star base, suggesting Spock be given command of the Enterprise. Meanwhile Spock (Quinto) is considering leaving Starfleet to re-join the remains of his race on New Vulcan, a decision given added impetus by the news that his older self from the other timeline (i.e. original Spock as played by the late Leonard Nimoy) has died.

Before either man can quit the Enterprise, a badly damaged spaceship exits a nearby nebula and makes it to Yorktown. The sole occupant is an alien woman who advises that her crew is stranded on a desolate planet inside the nebula. The nebula is largely unexplored and long range communications won’t work, but Kirk readily agrees to take the Enterprise in on a rescue mission.

When they arrive at the planet however they find it’s a trap and the ship is attacked by a swarm of attack ships led by an alien named Krall (Elba). As the Enterprise is torn apart Krall and his soldiers board it looking for an ancient artefact that Kirk acquired on a recent mission. Kirk ensures Krall doesn’t get it, but by this point the Enterprise is in pieces, and Kirk orders an evacuation.

Kirk and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) escape in a life pod, whist other members of the crew escape in a variety of novel ways. Once down on the planet Kirk and Chekov head for the remains of Enterprise’s saucer section. Meanwhile Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) have been taken captive by Krall. Spock meanwhile is teamed up with Dr McCoy (Urban) and bickering ensures. Scotty (Simon Pegg) has run into an alien scavenger named Jaylah (Kingsman’s Sofia Boutella) who may be able to help.

With no ship, and with Krall in possession of a deadly alien weapon, can Kirk and his crew stop him before he enacts a terrible revenge on the Federation?

 

For a while it looked like 2016, Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, might pass without any new Trek, and whilst Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek: Discovery won’t air until the New Year between it and Star Trek Beyond it’s good to know that Trek’s far from dead.

As with many creators and franchises out there I’ve had a somewhat fractious relationship with JJ Abrams’ take on Trek. When the reboot was originally announced I was horrified, but then I saw Star Trek in 2009 and loved it. And having re-watched it just last week I can confirm that I still love it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still clunky in places, still annoys me at times, but when it hits the mark (as it so often does) its magnificent and is one of the best Trek films. Sadly the same can’t be said of its follow-up Into Darkness which not only shamelessly miscast Cumberbatch as Khan, but then went on to hide the fact he was Khan, resulting in a dramatic reveal midway through the film which meant nothing to Kirk and co and was only there for the fans (see also Blofeld in Spectre). Suffice to say that trying to remake The Wrath of Khan is never a good idea (See Star Trek Nemesis for further details).

When the first trailer for Beyond came out I was underwhelmed. Lots of explosions and not much else. The snippet of hope was a scene between Spock and McCoy that I hoped better represented the film as a whole, and thank goodness it did!

Because I liked this, I liked it a lot. In fact I loved it and I sat there grinning most of the way through in a way I haven’t done since maybe Deadpool and definitely The Force Awakens.

It would be wrong to suggest the plot isn’t flawed. It steers a little close to Star Trek Insurrection at times, there are a lot of similarities, though to be fair it tells a similar(ish) story better than Insurrection.

As with even Into Darkness the cast help make it a great film. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than these three playing the lead three roles (well aside from William Shatner, Leonard   Nimoy and DeForest Kelly obviously!) It was obvious long before Star Trek that Quinto was a shoe in to make a good Spock, but having never seen Pine before in anything he was very much an unknown quantity. Thankfully he has been great from the start, successfully marrying the better aspects of Shatner’s performance to create a Kirk who is at once something of a maverick, yet also the kind of commander people would walk into hell for. However great these two are it’s Urban, yet again, who steals the show, as a friend said to me, of the three you can tell he has really studied DeForest Kelly to given a nuanced performance that stays just the right side of parody.

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Damn it I’m a doctor not an action hero!

 

McCoy gets most of the best lines, and most of them are at Spock’s expense. The decision to split the group into different groups is, on the whole, a good one. Whilst we get less of the Kirk/Spock friendship it’s good to see the classic Spock/McCoy banter and bickering, and Urban and Quinto play it to perfection.

The loss of Yelchin is all the more tragic given his young age, but having been somewhat overlooked in the previous two films there’s some minor comfort in Chekov getting a lot more to do here, and he makes a good foil for Kirk.  

Pegg has often felt like the odd man out for me, at times his Scotty doesn’t convince, but credit where credit’s due he throws himself into the role with a brio that covers a multitude of sins (plus he gets bonus points for having helped write the film.) he also has a nice interplay with Boutella who, in a fairly short time, ingratiates herself with the crew—whether she will return is anyone’s guess but I’d be happy to see her return.

Saldana and Cho probably get the short end of the stick and the least to do, although even they get their moments, no mean feat with an ensemble like this.

That leaves Elba as Krall and to be honest much as I love Idris Elba, initially I thought he was a weak antagonist, a powerful actor submerged under too much latex, but as the film went on he got better (there is a reason for this but I won’t say any more) He’s not the best Trek villain ever, but he’s far from the worst.

Fast and Furious director Lin injects a lot of energy into the film. It careens along at pace, yet he isn’t afraid to slow things down to inject some humour or emotion. This isn’t just some mindless action film, it has the Original Series deeply ingrained in its DNA and probably feels more like a Star Trek film then the previous two films. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s better than Star Trek 09, but it is more consistent. This is a crew comfortable in their roles in a story where the day is not saved by phasers but by different people from different cultures working together, showing humanity at its best, and its worst.

Also a word for composer Michael Giacchino who yet again does a great job, and the reboot Trek theme is still really cool

It’s funny, it’s exciting, it looks gorgeous and, best of all, it feels like Star Trek, and as I’ve heard said elsewhere, the real shame is that I’d kind of love to see this group in another story next week, sadly we’ll have to wait a few years.

I may be biased by virtue of being a huge Trekkie, but I loved this, so ignore the Spaced quote Pegg slipped into the script, don’t skip to the end, sit back and enjoy the ride!

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In your face Shatner, you never got a funky command jacket!

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