DIR: Justin Lin • WRI: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci • DOP: Stephen F. Windon • ED: Greg D’Auria, Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto, Steven Sprung • MUS: Michael Giacchino • DES: Thomas E. Sanders • CAST: Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto
Star Trek is practically begging for new movies with each generation, and has enough internal strength as a concept to survive new casts, new stories and new universes. This instalment, despite some reservations about Into Darkness from the fanbase, is landing onscreen with appropriate excitement. The alternate timeline has allowed for huge leaps in possible stories – no longer tied, as it would have been, to reflecting the canonical origin stories of Kirk, Spock, et al. Having dipped into the darkness, quite literally, in the last movie, Beyond is instead returning to the kinetic energy and unabashed glee of the first – a reaction to the strong love/hate split fans had with the second, and a clear message that the filmmakers are listening.
We last saw the crew as they set off on a five-year mission into deep space, fulfilling their diplomatic duties for the Federation – to explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and civilisations. For the most part, the crew of the Starship Enterprise are doing so. However, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is finding the vast emptiness of space, and the pleasant work of the Enterprise, has brought on an existential crisis – he wonders who he really is, as the monotony begins to wear on him. Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) fights a similar internal battle on the death of Ambassador Spock (a touching tribute to Nimoy) – with the Vulcan race almost wiped from the universe he considers what he might mean to his people. For Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), this means that their relationship has become untenable – not exactly ideal in the close-quarters of space travel. Karl Urban reprises his character of Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy, thankfully with a much bigger role than the last film, which barely used him, and joins Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott (Simon Pegg at his least annoying), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho) to fill out the crew of the Enterprise. Into this slightly discordant group, with their own Captain directionless, a challenge is presented – to enter an uncharted nebula and rescue a downed Federation crew. When the mission goes spectacularly wrong, the crew are divided on a strange planet and face the eerily familiar wrath of Krall (Idris Elba) – a being who is collecting parts of an ancient bomb with one goal in mind: destroy the Federation.
The split in the crew works brilliantly, with the new partnership dynamics adding extra layers to the movie. Spock and Doc provide the best pairing, and the back-and-forth between sardonic Bones and his Vulcan crewmate humanises Spock beautifully, as well as providing the film’s funniest moments. Meanwhile Kirk is paired with Chekov – their excellent interplay a sad memoriam to the fact that the brilliant actor, Anton Yelchin, is no longer with us – and Uhuru and Sulu find themselves prisoners together in the enemy enclave. Scotty escapes alone, and meets the enigmatic Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), another stranded being who has come up against Krall in the past – and might just be their best hope at defeating his madness before he destroys millions of lives.
So far, so standard! Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have taken writing duties, faithfully listening to the fandom when it came to constructing this instalment…and loathe as I am to admit it, pandering has worked in this case. It had a real echo of Douglas Adams – perhaps thanks to Pegg’s English sci-fi sensibilities – in the overarching story of a sad megalomaniac collecting bits and pieces from all over the galaxy to construct a bomb. ‘A very, very small bomb’, you could almost hear Hactar mumbling from the dust-cloud… Pegg can’t resist the Spaced-style banter, but it works pretty well in this context – particularly on the Spock and Doc show – I would watch a whole other movie of those two bouncing off each other. Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin takes the helm from JJ Abrams – which means less lens flare, for sure, but a massive increase in high-speed space donuts. Not that I’m complaining, because the pace of this movie meant I didn’t draw breath until the two hours were up – and would have easily watched another hour.
Yes it’s formulaic, and follows a standard blue-print of space odysseys both in general and in a way particular to Star Trek – but if there’s anything Trek fans love (and I count myself in that group), it’s a little repetition. I’d quite happily watch this crew of the Enterprise travel through space for the next ten years, growing into their roles and making them their own. Star Trek Beyond is a fast-moving sci-fi adventure with the gentle comedy ribbing we’ve come to expect from this new generation…and odd-numbered or not, it’s a really, really fun movie.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Star Trek Beyond is released 22nd July 2016