22nd Dec2016

‘Star Trek Beyond’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba | Written by Simon Pegg, Doug Jung | Directed by Justin Lin

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The latest film in the J.J. Abrams produced Trek universe, Star Trek Beyond sees USS Enterprise crew sent to Starbase Yorktown, an outpost on the edge of Federation eplored space. Their misson this time? To explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space – however uncharted space means uncharted aliens and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise encounter a mysterious new enemy, Krall, who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

The third film in the rebooted cinematic franchise, Star Trek Beyond has been said to be the first in the series to stand on its own merits: it certainly relies less on what has come before than either of the two previous films. There’s no Ambassador Spock, no rehashing of of old movie plots (a la Into Darkness) and – for once – the film introduces totally brand new alien races into its universe. Yet for all this new-ness, Star Trek Beyond still feels very much like old Trek. Maybe it’s because, thematically, it does feel like scriptwriters Pegg and Jung have taken the best parts from the TV shows of the past to craft this new tale…

The films villain, Krall, feels very much like a villain that could have been seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show that featured characters with a similar distrust of the Federation. The edifying nature of Yorktown – an outpost in space where everyone lives in harmony, be they human or alien – is straight out of The Next Generation. And the idea of unknown aliens in an uncharted part of space is most-definitely a riff on Star Trek: Voyager – even some of the aliens in Beyond look like they could’ve stepped straight out of that series!

What actually makes this iteration of Star Trek work is director Justin Lin. Much like he did with the Fast & Furious franchise, Lin breathes new life into Star Trek – maybe because, whilst he has stated he’s a fan of the show, he doesn’t put it on the same pedestal as other filmmakers might. Lin wants to tell a rip-roaring story in the Star Trek universe, not be beholden to the Star Trek universe. Which is why we get scenes of Kirk riding a motorcycle and music by the Beastie Boys… OK, so the latter is a nod back to the opening of J.J. Abrams first Trek film, but I doubt that Sabotage would have fit anywhere better in new Trek than it does here.

Whilst Lin does play fast and lose with Trek lore to create his action-packed film, what he does not skimp on is the characters. By now the crew of the Enterprise have been in space 3 years: Kirk is getting tired of the monotony; Spock is wrestling with the responsibility of rebuilding New Vulcan – these are characters that have reached their personal plateau’s within Starfleet. We see that early on in the film, it gives us great insight into the toll being the leading ship in the fleet has taken on everyone. It’s also a great set-up for what is to come, giving depth to how and why Krall is so damned angry at the Federation.

Then there’s the scenes set on Krall’s planet. By dividing the crew into smaller units, Pegg and Jung’s script allows the characters to shine. Yes, Pegg may have given his version of Scotty a lot more screen time (and lines) than previously but his teaming with Jaylah is inspired. It helps that Jaylah, played fantastically by Sofia Boutella, is straight out of the gate a well-rounded character – without too much exposition we know everything we need to about her: the scrappy survivor who has used her wits to stay alive in the face of Krall’s forces who – come the films conclusion – is set to be the PERFECT addition to Starfleet.

Besides Jaylah the real standouts are, once again, Spock and McCoy. The interplay between the two is like that of a long-married couple: they know that there’s a solid base to their friendship, solid enough that they can rib each other without ever feeling like they’ll hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s the banter betwen the duo that makes their scenes so memorable – plus Karl Urban is easily the most sarcastic, most facetious, (and best) McCoy in ANY Trek universe! If there’s any downside to this new stories characters it’s the films villain. Krall and his cronies on Altamid are much more two-dimensional that the Trek crew – fair enough we’ve had three films to get used to this version of Kirk and co., but Krall, despite a fab “evil villain” performance from Idris Elba, feels about as well-rounded as Nero did in the first new-Trek movie.

However that’s a small minus in a film full of pluses… With Star Trek Beyond Lin has rejuvenated the series a mere 3 films in; crafting a fast-paced, fun and exciting film that works for both long time Trek fans and casual viewers too. Maing this easily the best the Abrams-era franchise has to offer.

Star Trek Beyond is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

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