After the uncertainty that followed the very Fast and Furious-esque trailers, there was a lot of fear surrounding Star Trek Beyond – predominantly over whether it would be, well, shit. It looked to hold a lot of the subconsciously smarmy jokes and overly complex action shots akin to Justin Lin’s back catalogue.
We knew J J Abrams was no longer directing, after gaining our trust and confidence with the first two films, and had relinquished his title to Justin Lin (of shitty car film fame) which made us uneasy – and the trailers only stood to worsen this fear. However, many fans kept the faith. With Simon Pegg manning the script and him being a lifelong trekkie himself, fans still had high hopes. There was everything to play for, and nothing was guaranteed.
Well, fear not ensigns. They nailed it.
A few years into their mission aboard the Enterprise, and it seems Kirk is getting tired of the same old ‘go to planet, save planet’ routine (we’ve all been there), when they agree to help a stranded captain reclaim her crew from a distant nebula. But all is, as I’m sure you can guess, not as it seems.
Tragedy strikes several times over, and new comrades are made, in what is an environment we’ve not yet seen in this incarnation.
Keeping true to the traditions of the previous two films, the build-up is snappy and the action is instantaneously forthcoming. The sort of action that gives a physical, visceral reaction – what Lin does best – but without his usual level of nonsensical overkill. Grippingly choreographed fight scenes, and villainous-ly designed enemy ships that one genuinely could not see a way of defeating (no shooting something in an exhaust chute here – sorry, will I be harangued by nerds if I mention both franchises in the same review? I’M ONE OF YOU GUYS, CHILL.) It is very difficult not to be engrossed.
However, it’s not without its flaws. In places there is choreographic convolution, making certain scenes perhaps a little too mind boggling to focus on which, whilst an awesome physical feat, is quite distracting.
Pine and Quinto are flawless as ever as Kirk and Spock, and the theme throughout rings heavily of unity – a refreshing couple of hours away from a world where such sentiment is lacking heavily these days. A threatened crew join together to overcome new unseen threats – with many of the crew playing a larger role than we’ve seen them in before.
The newest character, Jaylah, is witty and independent and utterly bad ass – joyously adding another player to my new collection of female representation in action movies – and an alien that is incredibly easy to warm to, with her staggered English, damaged sentimentality, and obsession with “classical” (metal) music. Speaking of which, there’s a pretty epic (yet subtle) nod to First Contact in the third act, but I’ll leave you to spot that one for yourself.
Without getting too spoilery, of course, the antagonist is the infamous Krall, whom we know from the past (future?) will crop up in our crew’s lives once more, in a parallel timeline at least, but for this film he is stunningly and terrifyingly embodied by the untouchable Idris Elba.
Of course there is heartache, too, as the film pays homage not just to the late Leonard Nimoy (again, no spoilers, but trust me it’s heartbreaking) but also poignantly with the line “to absent friends” – a throwback to The Search for Spock – with its meaning even heavier in our hearts after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin just a few weeks before the film’s release. (For the record, he also received a standing ovation during the credits after the screening I attended. Very emotional.)
The movie does feel episodic, inasmuch as it brings together the themes and companionship of the previous two films, along with the camaraderie and fun. Much like the original series, the relationship between the viewer and the Enterprise crew is already inherently strong.
Star Trek Beyond slaps you in the face with overwhelming action – gripping and a lot of fun, whilst holding true to the atmosphere of the original series.
STAR TREK BEYOND IS OUT 22ND JULY