After losing its figurehead director to another successful sci-fi franchise, has the introduction of Justin Lin maintained the trekkiness, or has it morphed into Fast and Furious in space?
Stark Trek Beyond (2016) is the sci-fi threequel of the Abrams Trek reboot directed by Justin Lin and written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. It once again stars Chris Pine as Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the Star Trek Enterprise, this time two years into the ship’s deep space mission. After a routine search and rescue goes awry and the Enterprise is destroyed, Kirk and his crew must survive on an alien planet while being hunted by the mysterious Krall (Idris Elba).
All trepidation created by the director and the first trailer is wiped away in the first moments of Beyond – Lin is a solid replacement for Abrams, providing the beloved tone of the first film while removing all those pesky lens flares. Dare I say he does an even better job than Abrams ever did. None of the intelligent sci-fi and charming adventurous atmosphere has been lost in the transition and while Lin’s hand may not be quite as steady (literally) as Abrams when it comes to action, this is not the F&F in space fans were dreading. Rest easy Trekkies.
Another creative element that has received an upgrade is the writing department. Pegg, who wasn’t involved in the writing process of any other installments, fits into the writer’s room of Beyond like Kirk into his captain’s chair. Its clear Pegg understands whats so appealing about these characters and this world, and hence has managed to concoct a rip-roaring romp through the cosmos with all the flair and thrills necessary to make a smart blockbuster in 2016. While it takes time to power up the pace, once the Enterprise is in its death throes the film settles into a comfortable groove of action, character and comedy. One scene in particular (while destined to be controversial considering how ridiculous it is) had me grinning so hard my face hurt. And after that, Beyond couldn’t put a step wrong.
Chris Pine’s steady development of the Kirk character should be commended. He’s come a long way, both in how he handles the role next to William Shatner and in how the character itself has grown from a smarmy jerk to a calm and thoughtful captain naturally over time. His progression is so subtle that I was two-thirds of the way through the film before I noticed, and while he still maintains his roguish charm he’s far more endearing and developed than when he appeared on screen 7 years ago in Star Trek. Most of the supporting cast are all well handled by Pegg’s script too. Karl Urban’s Bones, who was disappointingly shortchanged in Into Darkness now has a beefed up role, and this time is stuck with Jachary Quinto’s Spock in a disarming buddy-comedy manoeuvre. This pairing is equal parts fresh and amusing, with the two talented actors selling newly discovered chemistry that creates by far the funniest elements in the film. Considering Pegg wrote the script, his character Scotty is luckily not overused, and is paired up with newcomer Sofia Boutella (who kicks all kinds of ass as Jaylah) to create another amusing pairing in the same vein as Spock and Bones. The other new character, the villainous Krall is also handled mostly well by Pegg’s writing. For much of the film he suffers from being little more than menacing, but by the third act the character gains some much needed dimensions to stop him being completely forgettable. Even so, Idris acting under a tonne of make-up isn’t quite as compelling as Cumberbatch at full Cumberbatchiness in Into Darkness. And sadly with so many new characters and dynamics someone has to get Hawkeyed by this script, and in this case its Zoe Saldana’s Lieutenant Uhuru who was in it so minimally that I kept getting surprised every time appeared on screen. But out of such a large an impressive cast, the fact that Pegg only dropped one ball is still commendable.
To say Star Trek Beyond isn’t the horrible disaster fans were expecting is a planet-sized understatement. The creative newcomers of Lin and Pegg have created arguably the best movie in the trilogy, a rollicking blockbuster supported by an excellent script, entertaining performances, and just enough Trek to keep long-time fans entertained during the show’s 50th anniversary. And what better way to spend that anniversary than enjoying one of the best blockbusters so far this year.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Trekkies): Must-see