Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba
Running Time: 122 minutes
Release Date: July 22nd
For a franchise that has run for half a century and boasts one of the most rabid fanbases in the world, it’s fair to say that the reaction to most Star Trek ventures is usually a bit mixed. Star Trek Beyond coincides with the fiftieth year since Gene Roddenberry’s original series first began. In ‘The Man Trap’, the official pilot of the show, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, in the middle of their five-year voyage to boldly go where no man has gone before, land on a planet inhabited only by a man and his wife only to find that the woman has been replaced by a shape-shifting creature that feeds off energy.
Though the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al were cut short three years after this first episode, the optimism for humanity and sense of adventure the series had embodied ultimately inspired such a loyal fanbase that it was brought back as a movie, followed by three more, and then as a series with a whole new crew (whose popularity rivals the originals). This went on, with more series being created and further films, up until the J.J. Abrams reboot in 2009. Perhaps the biggest success the franchise had ever seen, Star Trek was acclaimed, but there were those who voiced the complaint that it had done away with much of the philosophical contemplation of its predecessors in favour of swashbuckling action. Some even worried it had become Star Wars.
As Star Trek Into Darkness, its sequel, didn’t do a lot to help these concerns, being little more than a thin remake of the beloved Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, promises were made that the third in this new trilogy would go back to the series’ roots. The fact that it was to be co-written by Simon Pegg was a sign for many that it would be true to the heart of the show. It being directed by the Fast and Furious’ Justin Lin was not. Couple this with dirt bikes and The Beastie Boys in the trailer, and any Simon Pegg relief quickly began to wear off. The final result is good, however, and continues with the excitement and charm that, though present in the older series, may come to define this new trilogy.
His ship downed by a swarm of enemy ships and marooned on an uninhabited planet, Chris Pine’s Kirk feels more like a captain now than ever. In fact, he feels more like Captain Kirk now than ever. The big question for his character is no longer how to play by the rules but what legacy to leave behind him, and this new, more mature attitude suits him well. Zachary Quinto has less to do as Spock this time around, but is no less entertaining, and Karl Urban’s McCoy (one of the highlights of the new trilogy) and he share some excellent scenes together. With so much action it feels like other characters end up a bit useless, which is questionable when a lot of the strength of Star trek is strong characterisation. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is somewhat reduced to being Spock’s girlfriend, and though the sadly late Anton Yelchin is much more present than before as Chekov, and he and John Cho’s Sulu do enjoy some gratifying moments, they spend much of the film on the sides.
What could have been an exciting look at a crew uniting without their ship feels a bit rushed, and takes a lot of weight away from any threat or conflict. It’s Idris Elba’s villain, Krall, in fact, that Star Trek Beyond lets down the most. He is endearing to watch and his story is captivating, but it is given so little time that it feels rushed. Any philosophical questions share this same fate, unfortunately, and it seems a shame to tease fans by offering just a sprinkling of musings on war versus peace when it comes to growing strong as a species, enough that it seems clear that a lot of it has been cut from the original plan.
This film is very tough not to like. Acting more as a straight sequel to the 2009 reboot, it builds on the characters we have met again and leaves us wanting more. Yes there are dirt bikes and The Beastie Boys (and then some) but there is also a lot of heart, and affection for what came before. Star Trek Beyond is a worthy successor to any shape-shifting aliens or giant green hands or musings on the paternalistic governance of the galaxy that came before, and in a world where Star Wars is getting away with remaking itself so long as they build up enough hype, Star Trek may not be boldly going where no one has gone before, but it is easily one of the most exciting and likeable adventure films of the year.