I haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness, but I remember the backlash after its release – it mucked about too much with Star Trek mythology, it was too dark and it didn’t feel like a Star Trek film. Fortunately, the same criticisms can’t really be applied to Star Trek Beyond, which is a fun adventure from start to end. Although it fails to properly serve all of its characters, the movie has an emphasis on being enjoyable and it delivers.
Returning from a period in deep space, the USS Enterprise and Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) are dispatched on a rescue mission. This quickly turns into an ambush, with the surprise attack forcing the Enterprise to crash on a mysterious world, and it transpires this assault came from Krall (Idris Elba) – the lizard-like dictator needs an ancient artefact that is aboard the starship. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew must battle a deadly alien race while trying to find their way off the planet, and face a threat to the very existence of the Federation.
In the interests of full disclosure, this is the first Star Trek movie I have ever seen, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I sat down to it. I don’t think I was imagining that it would be quite as fun as it is, and so full of positivity too. From the episodes of Star Trek I’ve watched, it doesn’t seem to be anything particularly original but, when it is as enjoyable as this is, that is no problem at all.
The original series had a certain trio at heart – Kirk, Spock and Bones – and this film puts them to the forefront. This is a good move, as the partnership of Spock and Bones (played here by Karl Urban) is one of the best parts of the movie – they play it as a kind of intergalactic buddy movie, united by their antipathy and getting a bunch of funny lines out of it. You could almost wish that the movie was just them, and you wouldn’t be disappointed.
Kirk is partnered with Chekov (Anton Yelchin), whose appearance is all the more poignant because of his tragic and premature death earlier this year. He is given a bit to do, and this movie showcases his acting talent as he disappears into a role that was, in the original series, nothing more than a man with a funny voice – Beyond is a fitting send-off for him (there is a similar moment in which Spock learns of the death of Ambassador Spock, Leonard Nimoy’s version of the character – both he and Yelchin are honoured in the end credits).
A true highlight of the film is an alien the crew encounters on the planet – Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a welcome addition to the cast, a true action heroine with a take-no-prisoners elegance. She first runs into Scotty (Simon Pegg), and has a bit of shtick with him before we reach more action-orientated moments. Pegg co-wrote the script, giving himself a lot of lines and gags, but it feels more like a vanity move rather than something that is earned.
This is particularly noticeable because half the cast are boring and underwritten. That was a lot of fuss over Sulu (John Cho) being gay in this film, but that is the only real aspect to his presence. Worse still is Uhuru (Zoe Saldana), who spends most of the film trapped by Krall and having his plot explained to her – it seems a waste for an actress of Saldana’s talents. Elba also suffers – he is buried under layers of prosthetic, and his villain is poorly constructed, designed seemingly to be an antithesis to the Federation and its values. It feels like the movie wants to be clever with it, but it never does – fortunately, it focuses on what matters.
Star Trek Beyond is a fun movie that boasts both good action and gags, and it always ploughs forwards at a brisk pace, meaning you’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout. It is accessible to both Star Trek fans and newbies and, although soon may find it a shame that it doesn’t take any risks with the formula, it is a refreshing and enjoyable summer blockbuster.
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Commander Spock), Karl Urban (Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Uhura), Simon Pegg (Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott), John Cho (Sulu)
Running Time: 120 Mins