‘Star Trek Beyond’ Review
From contributing film critic Andrew Gaudion
The rebooted series of Star Trek, which has now come to be known as ‘the Kelvin timeline’ (named after the ship destroyed at the start of 2009’s time-warping kick-start, and J.J. Abrams’ grandfather) has had an interesting relationship with Trekkies. The first of Abrams’ instalments was met with a warm reception by fans and critics, as well as audience members previously disinterested by Trek. While there were grumblings of the film being far too much of an action picture to be considered all that faithful to Trek, there was no denying that the franchise needed such an injection of energy for the franchise to maintain its relevance to a modern audience.
The sequel, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, while critically well received was rejected by fans, due to the whitewashing of a fan favourite character, and the general attempts to make an imitation of Wrath of Khan. A lot was riding on Star Trek Beyond, as it not only had to win back the faithful, it had to do so in what is the 50th year since Star Trek’s creation. It is with great joy then that one can proclaim Beyond to be not only the strongest of the reboot series, but also one of the best Trek movies period.
The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is three years into its five-year mission in deep space. For Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) the routine of such a mission is starting to wear thin, and the once hot-headed Captain is starting to consider a change of pace, and also position, in Starfleet. Those plans are soon put on hold however, when Kirk and his crew are tasked with rescuing a stranded crew on an unchartered planet in the heart of a nebula. That rescue is soon revealed to be an ambush, leaving Kirk and his crew scattered on the surface of this strange new planet, home to the fearful Krall (Idris Elba) who has something of a beef with the Federation.
The script, courtesy of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott himself (aka Simon Pegg) and Doug Jung, deftly addresses concerns voiced over Into Darkness by being reverential to the past of the franchise without ever being too preoccupied with constant winking to classic elements of the series. They aim to honour the Gene Roddenberry franchise by evoking its spirit; a spirit of optimism, a world that portrays a utopia that we should hold as something to aspire to. It may not hold as many philosophical question as Trek instalments of the past have, but it is undoubtedly more familiar as a piece of Trek canon than the first two instalments of the Kelvin timeline.
Pegg’s and Jung’s script is also a much more character-driven affair than the previous two Abrams efforts. Where those films were very Kirk/Spock-centric, here we spend a lot more time with the various members of the Enterprise crew, paired up and lost without the Enterprise. It allows for an adventure that, while not as bombastic as its predecessors, is much more in key with the Trek of yesteryear.
Justin Lin, rather surprisingly considering his four-wheeled franchise fame, reveals himself to be a more patient filmmaker than Abrams, allowing for moments of character to have time to resonate in amongst the blockbuster action in a way that Abrams never quite attained, although the opening of Stark Trek ’09 remains outstanding. It also helps that Lin can stage exciting and surprising (if occasionally a little murky) action sequences throughout.
The confidence of Lin’s direction and the nature of the script seem to have also heightened the energy of the cast, as nearly everyone seems much more assured in their roles than they have in the past. It could be down to the fact that this is the third time that these actors are visiting these characters, but it is hard to overlook the fact that the script simply seems to care more about every main player on the bridge. Pine is the best he’s ever been as Kirk, much more quietly commanding than he has been before, while Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto enjoy a great deal of time sparring off of each other, again something much more in key with the Nimoy/DeForest Kelley dynamic of Trek of the past. Nearly every character has their moment, with touching moments and subtle attention to character added to make this crew feel like a family, whose company you enjoy immensely.
The villain stakes are well held by Idris Elba, under a great deal of prosthetics, but his character of Krall does come to represent the more generic elements of this instalment, what with the plot playing to the age old device of a deadly ‘McGuffin’. Yet, as this year’s The Jungle Book also demonstrated, he is an actor capable of menace, and his character is responsible for a couple of intriguing and satisfying surprises.
Star Trek Beyond may not have rung the box-office bell quite as loudly as its predecessors, but it is arguably the best of the reboot three, and for one reason in particular: it’s hopeful. This is not a film that is afraid of simply providing some joy for cinema-goers in an age where so many blockbusters aim for grit and angst. Here is a film capable of pleasing fans, entertaining more casual filmgoers, and still resonating emotionally. It is a balance that many Star Trek films have struggled to attain in the past; Beyond does it with ease.(4.5 / 5)
(Photos copyright: Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot, Perfect Storm Entertainment, Skydance Productions, Sneaky Shark )