Star Trek Beyond
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung
Released: 22nd July 2016
Wow. In a summer seemingly defined by a series of disappointing blockbusters, Star Trek Beyond was an unqualified success. A film that is so good without really having any right to be so.
It’s fair to say Star Trek Beyond didn’t have the easiest transition to the screen.
After losing JJ Abrams, (on producer duties here) the director of the first two films in the rebooted series and parting ways with his original replacement Roberto Orci due to creative differences, the task was handed to series star Simon Pegg (also on acting duties as Scotty) and his writing partner Doug Jung, who were given six weeks to complete a total reworking of the script.
Fans were also concerned that direction would be handled by Justin Lin, a stalwart of the Fast & Furious franchise. Would he be able to deliver a ‘Star Trek’ film or would Beyond just be another generic action film set in space? There were also doubts about the fact that with four months before release, the production commenced a series of re-shoots, to inject some new scenes into the film.
All of these worries were completely unwarranted, with Star Trek Beyond delivering intense action interspersed with deep and meaningful character moments.
The film starts nine hundred and sixty six days (a nice tip of the hat to the year Star Trek: The Original Series was first broadcast) into their five year mission and sees Enterprise Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) contemplating life in deep space and whether it’s what he really wants any more. After reaching a birthday that makes him one year older than the age his father reached, he is re-evaluating his life and what he wants from it.
Soon events are set in motion that see the Enterprise attacked and destroyed by a previously unknown assailant with the surviving crew abandoning ship to the class M planet below.
This sequence is truly stunning and blows the previous attempt to destroy the Enterprise (Star Trek: Generations) in film out of the water. I was really affected by seeing this ship that means so much to me crashing down in pieces on an unknown planet.
By destroying the ship and separating the crew, writers Pegg & Jung get good mileage from the different combos of characters that are stranded. With my favourite combinations being the comedic pairing of Spock (Zachary Quinto) & McCoy (an on form Karl Urban, in his biggest role in the series to date) and Scotty’s encounter with the mysterious alien Jaylah (a scene stealing Sofia Boutella).
The emphasis here is on good, old-fashioned fun, and that feels, in the best way, almost like an extended episode of the television show
The direction by series newcomer (and self-confessed ‘Star Trek kid’ Justin Lin, was brilliant. With the action as you’d expect, expertly handled (THAT motorbike sequence being the highlight) and long and sprawling shots of the space station Yorktown (itself stunningly designed) giving fans a truly unique visual experience.
The score by series veteran Michael Giacchino was again fantastic, with several versions of his Star Trek theme ‘Enterprising Young Men’ used to excellent effect. Of the new themes, I like the one played over the Yorktown best, with its melodies truly showcasing the stations peaceful and idealist qualities.
All of the cast have grown into their roles since the rebooted series opener (2009’s Star Trek) and give the crews interactions in Star Trek Beyond a truly familial tone. Karl Urban’s role as Doctor McCoy has thankfully been expanded and he has some of the films best lines and bounces off brilliantly with Zachary Quinto’s Spock, who himself is asking some serious questions about his status in Starfleet but also to his relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).
The standout performances for me were Chis Pine & Sofia Boutella. Pine has grown so much into the role of Kirk who at the start of Star Trek Beyond is shown to be down, having started life in Starfleet on a dare and in the hope of living up to the memory of his father and now has to find a new reasons to give his life purpose. This is a stark contrast to the young, brash recruit from the first instalment. That’s character progression!
Sofia Boutella brought so much heart to the role of Jaylah. She took what could have been a small ‘token female alien’ role and filled it with intense loneliness and heart. Jaylah mixed perfectly with the other characters and I would actually be disappointed if she wasn’t included in future films in some capacity.
A minor quibble for me was the villain Krall. Not that he wasn’t intimidating, not that he wasn’t portrayed well by the insanely talented Idris Elba, it’s just that it was just too long (the films climax, in fact) for his motivations to be made clear. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the revelation when it finally happened and it’s far reaching origins in Star Trek’s past but it was just too long coming for me. Like I said, a minor quibble.
Not only were these nods to Star Trek’s past coming fast and furious (pun, logically intended) and far reaching into the various incarnations of the franchise, there were also a couple of tributes that shouldn’t go unmentioned. The scenes in which serve tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy were handled with so much grace and perfectly acted by Quinto, himself Nimoy’s successor to his iconic role. There was also a dedication at the end of the film for another loss we all had recently; Anton Yelchin. Although his role is small in Star Trek Beyond its still arguably the biggest role Chekov had in the series to date (we finally see him off the Enterprise!) and Yelchin delivers his lines with all the youthful gusto that he always did. Both actors will be missed and never forgotten by Star Trek fans, and there tributes touchingly reflected this.
The impossible was accomplished, Star Trek Beyond not only caters for the general cinema going public looking for a fast paced action flick, but also to Star Trek fans, with fifty years of memories and knowledge. It really is the Star Trek film from fans for the fans delivering spectacle the likes the series hasn’t seen before.
Everybody needn’t have been worried, Pegg, Jung & Lin have provided fans with a fun filled, stunning looking film worthy of the franchise in its 50th anniversary.