Strange as it may seem that in a summer blockbuster season where many a film has gone big and failed (Batman V Superman, X-Men Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence) that Star Trek Beyond is the best of the bunch as it succeeds by going small, or at least more intimate. You could say it’s…illogical.
But we won’t.
The Enterprise and her crew are three years into their five year mission and Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling the rigours of life in deep space, questioning his place in the larger universe. Spock (Zachary Quinto) too is caught in a tangle over whether to stay on the Enterprise or not which raises some issues in his relationship with Uhuru (Zoe Saldana). And Bones (Karl Urban)…well, Bones is just Bones. When the chance to help a stranded ship in uncharted space appears, Kirk jumps at the chance. Unfortunately it’s all a ruse and before long the crew of the Enterprise find themselves without a ship, marooned on a strange new world, seeking out new life and new civilisa…no wait, trying to stay alive on a planet ruled by the Federation hating Krall (Idris Elba; underwritten).
With the triumphant return of that other franchise with ‘Star’ in the title Beyond has a bit of an uphill battle coming off the back of the mostly unloved (though enjoyable enough) Star Trek Into Darkness, which was accused of being overly reverent. To remedy this, the script – penned by Doug Jung and, Scotty himself, Simon Pegg – largely jettisons any previous connection to Trek lore with new alien races, new planets, and a completely new story. Well, newish.
It treads familiar sci-fi ground but satisfyingly so. Each of the main cast are split up into unusual pairings: Sulu (John Cho) and Uhuru, Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and, most entertainingly, Bones and Spock, allowing them ample room to break out of their usual roles, although as ever only Kirk and Spock are the only crew members afforded any sort of growth. Quinto *was* Spock from the second he came on screen in the reboot, but Pine has really grown into the role imbuing Kirk with Shatnerian swagger while still making the character his own and not just a facsimile. The only new addition to the cast is Jaylah (Sofia Boutela), an incredibly resourceful alien with an agenda of her own against Krall, and one who will hopefully stick around should there be future adventures.
The philosophical nature of a lot of original Star Trek series however remains elusive in among all the pyrotechnics and quipping, however in contrast to the more overblown epics we’ve had thus far this summer a simple tale told well, and with a sense of fun, is a refreshing tonic. Directed efficiently by Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame, the space scenes are chock full of beautiful destruction (and untethered to those pesky laws of physics in a way even the F&F films aren’t), though one wonders how much – if any – of it you could see in 3D. However the close quarters combat scenes are rapidly edited in such a way that you only really figure out what’s happened once it’s over. Major kudos though for a fight in Yorktown, a city/spaceport inside a snowglobe, that has a lot of fun with gravity that’s gone a bit screwy.
All in all, it’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t have any big ideas and Important Things To Say but it’s a good night out at the movies. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Fun and functional in equal measure. Like a really good episode of a show in it’s fourth season.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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