Star Trek Beyond review: Justin Lin takes the reigns for the latest instalment in the Star Trek series. Does it boldly go or crash land?
Star Trek Beyond review by Paul Heath, July 2016.
Star Trek Beyond. J.J. Abrams has jumped ship to navigate another space opera, though still stays on as producer, and the directing reigns have been passed to Fast and Furious 3, 4 and 5 helmer Justin Lin, a filmmaker who was actually born four years after the original TV series ended. There’s also a new writing team on board in Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, so, with a new creative team, does this second sequel in the Kelvin series deliver the goods? Well, it’s very different in terms of look and feel, which I suppose you’d expect but all in a positive way (less flare is actually a good thing here) – the film a worthy sequel in a pretty solid series.
So let’s kick our Star Trek Beyond review off by taking a look at the story – and we’ll try to be as non-specific as possible as the film is best going into absolutely cold. We pick up the crew of the Starship Enterprise two and a half years into their five-year voyage of discovering strange new worlds, uncharted civilisations, boldly going etc. and Chris Pine‘s Captain Kirk is firmly secured in the navigation seat aboard the Enterprise, his loyal crew surrounding him, including Spok (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Chu), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) et al – though there are some big doubts with some members who might just be thinking of moving on to pastures new when the ship finally docks. A sudden threat rears its ugly head (quite literally) and Kirk, Spock and co. find themselves up against a new villain in the form of Idris Elba‘s brand new series character, the menacing Krall, a fierce individual intent on getting hold of a device which will wipe entire civilisations. With the crew marooned on a hostile planet they must pull together to stop this new threat who is intent on ending hundreds of thousands of lives.
I’ve caught up with all three of the recent Star Trek movies over the last few days in prep for this review and also for our interviews with the key cast (look out for those on the site next week). While Star Trek Into Darkness had some great moments, and a really strong performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, it didn’t really live up to Abrams’ first foray into the universe. While ‘Beyond’ suffers from similar problems, with my initial reaction feeling that this was an inferior movie to the second one – it absolutely isn’t. There’s a lot going on here – lots and lots of stuff that really takes a little while to sink in, Jung and Pegg’s script skillfully providing tons of back story to supporting characters, as well as introducing new ones, as well as developing the overall story progression. A lot is thrown or way over the film’s pretty tight two hour running time, and you need to give everything time to absorb.
In a summer burdened with big budget, very serious, dark blockbusters (we’re looking at you once again Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice), this film was a welcomed lighter affair – perhaps more so than its two predecessors – something possibly owing to Pegg’s installation as co-writer – after all, his entire resume as screenwriter is pretty much made up of comedies. Here, Pegg shows maturity as a screenwriter, his subtle beats evident in the package, but not too prominent to stick-out like a sore thumb in a very established franchise. The film is funny, most of the laughs coming from Karl Urban’s long-suffering Bones, while Kirk and even Spock also chime in with worthy wisecracks. There is the inclusion of some nicely placed ’20th century’ music tracks, and spoiler alert, yes, the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage is as present here as it was in the first trailer for the film – something tat was met with great controversy. The great news is that it is a very relevant part of the story, and used quite well in my opinion.
Idris Elba is perhaps the best villain of the franchise, certainly in this current run as the menacing Krall, and Sofia Boutella‘s new character Jaylah is also a stand-out and has some of the best lines – adorable referring to Pegg’s character as Montgomery Scotty and to Kirk as Captain James T. The most wonderful thing about the film however, is that it is entirely self-contained, and although one would certainly benefit from knowing the history, newcomers can use Star Trek Beyond as an entry point and enjoy it on its own. There are many nods to the Star Trek franchise of course, some more obvious thank others, and there is a wonderful, though touching nod to the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy.
There are some problems, however. My initial reactions aside, there are some scenes where the CGI isn’t up to the standard that we may expect from a film of this size and stature. There’s a certain scene involving a bike which really didn’t look good at times, certainly in our particular screening, and it did detract from the action in one of the film’s key scenes. The ending also creeps up on you quite quickly, something which the last one suffered from as well, and once all story is all said and done, you feel a little unfulfilled and screaming at the screen for more – well, I certainly did anyway (though is this a bad thing)?
I have read initial reactions saying that the film plays as just an extended version of one of the original series’ episodes, which is baffling. I didn’t think this at all. In a summer stunted by lacklustre blockbusters, Star Trek Beyond is actually one of the best, despite my previous comments, and director Justin Lin more than proves his worth and brings his own unique style to the table.
This film also ends perfectly with a very distinct nod to the entire franchise, a nice touch in its 50th year, followed by a final, touching moment for its two fallen stars, Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
“In Loving Memory of Leonard Nimoy” and “For Anton”.
By no means perfect, but definitely a quality summer blockbuster that demands, commands and deserves your attention.
Star Trek Beyond review by Paul Heath, July 2016.
Star Trek Beyond is released in UK and US cinemas on July 22nd, 2016.