By Lorna Baker
Today’s review is from another huge franchise set in outer space. No, it’s not Star Wars’ turn just yet but instead its rival Star Trek. This is the third instalment from the rebooted saga.
Star Trek Beyond takes us two years into the Enterprise’s voyage of discovery. After receiving a distress call, the Enterprise heads off; only to be faced with a strange new enemy with devastating consequences. Abandoned and alone on an unknown planet, the crew must work together to find each other and find a way off the world and save the Federation.
Admittedly, going into this film I was nervous. After a disappointing second outing with Star Trek Into Darkness, the pressure was on for this film to revitalise this franchise, but this time without its leader J.J Abrams (who went from one franchise to another with Star Wars). Things were not looking good when writer/director Roberto Orci walked away from the helm, with his script in hand; so it seemed as if the Enterprise wouldn’t launch its third mission. But then, a hero in a red shirt appeared, in the form of head of engineering: Scotty, a.k.a Simon Pegg. A trekkie himself, it seemed an inspired choice to appoint someone with the passion and knowledge to take this series in a new direction. So along with Doug Jung, he began the task of making a screenplay that would be cherished by the fans. Justin Lin was appointed as director, which caused some raised eyebrows as he’s best known for the Fast and the Furious series. However, if he could turn his flair for stellar action sequences to this, he could make an inspired choice for Star Trek.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. Leaving the cinema I felt a huge wave of relief. It’s good, really good. It finally feels like the series is heading in the right direction, as the characters are given more exposition and are given their chance to shine. All that was needed to reinvigorate the film it seems; was to get rid of the iconic Enterprise ship itself!
In a way, the narrative of this film echoes the problems the franchise is facing. An opening Captain’s Log from Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk talks about the need for change and new challenges. Two years into his mission, the Captain is feeling disillusioned and bored, considering a move away from the stars. In a blistering first act, the ship is destroyed, leaving our heroes abandoned and separated on a strange planet. These scenes really got the pulses racing, thanks in large part to Justin Lin’s great direction. The cleverness of this script is where the crew are split into smaller, far more manageable groups. In Star Trek Into Darkness, it felt much more like the Kirk and Spock show, but now the rest of the crew are given their moment. Kirk is paired with Chekov (played by the late Anton Yelchin – a deeply saddening loss), Bones (Karl Urban) with Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Sulu (John Cho) with Uhura (Zoe Saldana). These unusual pairings are a genius move, as the actors get the chance to explore their character’s motivations and backstories and all pull off some great character moments. Newcomer Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah, and is a breath of fresh air with her strong, powerful character. Her camaraderie with Scotty is some of the funniest and sweetest moments in the film. The door is left open for her to return for the next film, so I hope we see more of her in film number four.
Idris Elba plays Krall, whose prosthetics are so effective that he is almost unrecognisable. If it wasn’t for those dulcet tones, I wouldn’t have known it was him. At first Krall seems to be quite one-dimensional, however, as the film develops, his real motives are revealed and they are even understandable. As a soldier sent to fight alien species, he’s made a Captain when Starfleet is created, which entails befriending the very people he fought against. Peace is not black and white for him. Idris puts in a good performance, showing a more layered bad guy, but you never truly fear that he will achieve his aims. His stark transformation is also never really explored, leaving you with unanswered yet intriguing questions.
Many fans will be delighted with throwbacks to the original series, and the impact of Commander Spock’s (the late great, Leonard Nimoy) death on Zachary Quinto’s Spock is explored well. This film very much feels like a reboot of a reboot. It’s given a fresh shot of life and shows a promising horizon with film number four already green lit. The writing is witty and clever, the performances are strong, and a really confident handling of another huge franchise by Justin Lin. Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek! Live Long and Prosper!
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Star Trek Beyond is out now in selected cinemas worldwide – Certificate 12A