Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Sofia Bouteilla, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba
Plot: The Enterprise is three years into a five year deep space mission, when they are ambushed answering up a distress signal.
Star Trek Beyond, in its own way, is the most episodic of the rebooted Star Trek movies. While the original outing with Chris Pine’s swaggering James T. Kirk was an explosive excuse to get the old gang back together and Into Darkness was everything a Hollywood blockbuster demanded a Star Trek movie to be, Beyond feels more settled into formula. For example, other than Kirk, the recurring cast have no big reveal, merely walking or drifting into their first shot with the casual air of being a series regular for fifteen previous episodes. This is by no means a complaint however. In fact, there is a certain sense of comfort to be found in this more laid-back approach to making a Star Trek movie. In the same way, we might pick a middling 007 movie or a mid-season Trek episode when deciding to watch something at random, Beyond boasts its own array of impressive highlights, perhaps missing from the last two movies. Also, with a movie this confident, it makes the chance of a fourth outing very possible indeed.
The plot, even, could be found bang-splat in the middle of an average season of the original Star Trek. Kirk, a little worn out by being in the middle of an extensive five year deep space mission, fuels up for supplies in a Federation space complex. While there, questioning his future with Starfleet, a distress call is sent to them. The Enterprise heads through a mysterious, communications-crippling Nebula to get to the planet where the supposed vessel has crash-landed, only to be attacked by a powerful fleet of hostile star-ships. Led by the terrifying Krall, a muscle-bound alien of unknown origin, the enemy fleet cripple the Enterprise, take the crew hostage and leave the survivors marooned on the planet. Suddenly, we are in Star Trek 101, with Kirk, alone and without his gadgetry, thinking on his feet to save his crew. And this gives Beyond the kick it needs to stop it from feeling as stale as second sequels often are. The set-up also means that one of the bigger problems with the series has been corrected: with the crew separated, everyone feels more crucial to the plot. Kirk has Chekhov by his side, giving Anton Yelchin the screen-time he has always missed out on. It would have felt very criminal to under-use him after his untimely death that same year. Uhura and Sulu lead the captive crew, while the most side-lined of the crew, still have moments that proudly show off the characters in a way that the fans will love. Scotty even has his own arc, where he ends up meeting up with another stranded alien, Jaylah. And best of all, Spock and McCoy, end up trapped together, always one of the more interesting pairings to ever come out of the show. Spock is turning into a tricky one to get right, seeing as he is clearly the most intriguing of the characters we have at hand here, but it is always too easy to use him as your main event, which has caused the biggest problems with an unbalanced ensemble with the past two sequels. Here, Spock is more under-used than he has been before, which might frustrate some. His arc is more emotional and character-based than action-packed, but this does give the film ample space to breathe. He still steals some of the better gags, including a priceless swearword aimed at Bones. And Bones is at his best here. These movies always saw Kirk and Spock as the dual leads, while the series had a three-way team throughout its entire running time. Poor Karl Urban has never really had the screen-time he deserves. Beyond fixes that with ease, putting Bones at the head of most of the bigger action sequences and making sure there is always time for his scowling manner. It is another of Beyond’s big plus points.
And the rest of the movie is designed for big, explosive entertainment. As the story unfolds, a devastating super-weapon is introduced, again Star Trek 101, and a race against time breaks out. Simon Pegg, who always pens the script, throws everything into the set-pieces to deliver the best thrills and Justin Lin, director of the more furious of the Fast and Furious franchise, brings these moments to the big screen with pinpoint quality. We get a terrifyingly destructive assault on the Enterprise in the first half of the movie and when the action switches to the ground, it rarely lets up. Jaylah acts as a wonderful foil for the punch-up moments and Chris Pine is more than equipped in the action department. There is much more of a William Shatner based fun at play here, especially two moments that involve taking on the almighty alien threat with a motorbike and a sound system. Pine masters the raising of the eyebrow, which simply adds to each of the quirky, fun moments, doubling on a gag with a simple expression. Yes, in directing the focus on fun rather than threat, there isn’t quite the same amount of nail-biting urgency or emotional gut-punches as we got with Into Darkness. For one, the villain, Krall, is so hidden behind prosthetics that Idris Elba doesn’t get much to do, other than grand posturing. But while the Star Wars franchise is designed to be preoccupied with delivering the best movie possible each time, Star Trek becomes hard to hate out of its simple desire to please. No, this isn’t the best Star Trek movie out there, but perhaps, illogically, for that reason it is.
Final Verdict: More focused on good old-fashioned fun than anything else, but that earns no complaints from me.