Star Trek Beyond, for better or worse, takes Trek’s new action orientation and gives it a more traditional feel.
We reunite with the crew halfway through their five year mission into deep space, but while their captain and crew are reluctant and tired from the experience they find themselves in the middle of a war with a genocidal tyrant. Can Captain Kirk save his ship and more importantly, his crew?
Star Trek Beyond has a steep task ahead of it. J.J. Abrams, the director who resurrected the franchise from death with a new, mass-appeal formula, had left the series to work on a little known film called Star Wars, and Fast & Furious director Justin Lin took over. While J.J.’s style had irked some, there was palpable dread when Lin took over; and a trailer touting Beasty Boys’ Sabotage front and centre, as well as motorcross bike stunts… didn’t help. How far was Trek going to slip from its original roots?
Surprisingly, Beyond is a lot of fun. As a fan of the franchise, having grown up with The Next Generation avidly, I was pleasantly surprised this film honours most of its grass-roots while keeping the heavy action aesthetic.
While I would have liked this film tonally different; I would have preferred more of the exploration that the Enterprise was designed to do (and that the show was principally about) it did have a little bit of the day-to-day life on the ship to open the film. But the characters are all respected and they get decent screentime and things to do. Chris Pine’s Kirk’s character especially is given a good sense of development, as well as Spock (Zachary Quinto).
But when the action starts, and the Enterprise is assaulted by a cloud of thousands of ships that literally shred the poor luckless Federation vessel to pieces, the film never really slows down! It is the fastest two hours I’ve experienced in some time (which, from the director of Fast & Furious films, makes sense). I like my Trek films set in space (Wrath of Khan, First Contact) and while most of Beyond is set on a distant planet, they do well with the set design; it feels like a world with different biomes and settings, and not a polystyrene set (I’m looking at you, Insurrection). Plus we get introduced not only to Idris Elba’s villainous Krall but also Sofia Boutella’s alien Jaylah (who I’d happily see returning to the franchise!)
There’s a lot of nice design work going on in this film; the aforementioned Jaylah has a sleek, eyecatching design, the sets and ship designs (after all, much of a Trek’s villain’s status is gauged by how cool his ship(s) look!) were all fantastic, as well as a heady space port that is like a living Escher painting!
But Justin Lin’s hand at direction didn’t feel firm enough. The cinematography was choppy or almost too clever for its own good at times; I felt disorientated and unsure what exactly was happening during intense action sequences. I would find myself just assuming our heroes were going to survive some sequences.
And why when Star Trek ever makes new aliens these days are they vampire/life-prolonging creatures? (I’m looking at you, Nemesis, Insurrection and now Beyond!) But for the most part Simon Pegg’s turn as writer appears to have paid off, I found the dialogue very enjoyable and fitting with the characters. I wasn’t even sure about the whole “prequel has an alien race we’ve never met before” aspect, but the film does it perfectly. It does feel like a Star Trek for the fans though, ever so slightly; dialogue and jargon can move very fast and might not be as consumable as the previous two films.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the film. While we have finally broken the deadlock of remakes, but it perhaps goes a little too action heavy in its pacing.
Additional Marshmallows: This film also does a great job at respecting the passing of Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock in the original series and in the newest movies. Since he appeared in this continuity, it had to be addressed, and it was well done.
Also during the end credits they make the film in memory not just for Nimoy, but also Anton Yelchin, who was sadly taken from us less than a month ago at the age of 27…