“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise, its 5 year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations and to boldly go where no man has gone before”. This opening monologue has echoed through the living rooms of multiple generations of Sci-Fi fans, as Gene Roddenberry’s staple in not only the genre but in popular culture has gone from entertainment to a way of life for many. Star Trek has dissected many pioneering ideas across its 50 years of existence and with this new film, in the ever changing, rebooting and alternating cinematic series of features, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin aims to celebrate the series, while also continuing its traditions.
At a time where nostalgia and going back to the past seems to be all the rage (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Ghostbusters (2016), perhaps as a way of escaping the turbulent hateful times in which we now live, this latest entry in the Trek cinematic cannon likewise follows (space) suit. Beyond sees the crew three years into their five-year voyage, making a brief return to the starbase called Yorktown. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) each privately are contemplating leaving Starfleet but when a distressed alien pilot speaks of her crew being stranded on a planet, the Enterprise is encouraged to go on a rescue mission. However they are ambushed and decimated by the forces of Krall (Idris Elba), in an attempt to get an artifact from the Enterprise’s storage. This attack leaves the crew separated in the ship’s wreckage on the planet’s surface and desperate to reunite and uncover why Krall wants this artifact and what he can do with it?
Taking heavy influence from The Original Series, this new film in the rebooted era of Star Trek is the ideal way to celebrate the 50th year of this franchise. Stripping things back to a very simplistic approach, Lin’s film feels like a multi-stranded story of the series, with updated visuals. True it offers nothing new in a narrative sense but Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s screenplay offers many moments of hilarity, as well as a brilliant development of the characters as we have come to know them and thus some of their classic interplay begins to grow. Beyond in many ways feels like throwback Trek, drawing some influences from the recent pop culture vibes of Guardians of the Galaxy, complete with a climatic sequence that makes use of a recognizable song in a scene that’s Guardians by way of Mars Attacks.
For those looking for brave new direction though, this entry is really more at ease with going back and just having fun with what has made the franchise work, as opposed to advancing anything massively and in turn is a film by and for longtime fans. This may mean that the appeal of Beyond is dependent on what you consider your Star Trek but this is an enjoyable, well-paced adventure that is constantly entertaining. The plot boldly goes where the series has before – albeit very well – but there are progressive elements in the film’s construction. Supporting characters are allowed to take more screen time, especially Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin- respectfully paid tribute to at the end of the film, alongside the legendary Leonard Nimoy) and Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Pegg) take much bigger roles this time. While Saldana’s Ulhura is allowed to kick ass as a strong female character (one of a few in the film) and John Cho’s Sulu is revealed as gay (as a way of respecting franchise star George Takei - who has actually disapproved of the move), in a completely unshowily accepted way, just as it should be. These very developments are leaps and bounds ahead of other, more major, plot developments in the film.
Quinto and Pine’s chemistry as Spock and Kirk is also maturing, while Urban finally gets more time to steal scenes as Leonard McCoy, who's run-ins with Spock come into play a lot here! Also great is the addition of Sofia Boutella’s fantastic alien character Jaylah, who is a fantastic creation and a really exciting addition to the leading cast of characters. Really, the film’s major misstep is with villain Krall, who’s vengeful backstory feels a bit like a reahash of Eric Bana’s Captain Nero in the 2009 film and while Elba spouts menace, his villain – much like Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse in this year’s X-Men: Apocalypse– feels a bit uninteresting.
Still this is not severe enough to derail the film’s chirpy momentum and despite some really dodgily edited moments of action, where you sometimes lose track of who is hitting/attacking who, this is a consistently busy and engaging slice of sci-fi action. Overall Beyond is a lot of fun and ought to (we repeat, "ought to", as there are some very particular tastes when it comes to a franchise as popular and long lasting as this) please many old school Trek fans with its nostalgic narrative and colourful characters and performances. After 50 years, Star Trek continues to live long and prosper.
STAR TREK BEYOND / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: JUSTIN LIN / SCREENPLAY: SIMON PEGG, DOUG JUNG / STARRING: CHRIS PINE, ZACHARY QUINTO, JOHN CHO, SIMON PEGG, ZOE SALDANA, IDRIS ELBA, SOFIA BOUTELLA, KARL URBAN, ANTON YELCHIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 7/10