Directed by Justin Lin
The crew of the Enterprise test their unity…
Thirty-four years ago (!) the end credits rolled for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and I recall thinking that that was how to do a Star Trek movie – keep the core principles that guide the series, build the characterisation beyond what we’ve seen already, but ramp it up for a cinematic experience. Many Trek films have tried to achieve that since, duplicating specific elements of Wrath of Khan, but have failed to reach those heights. Last night at the end of Star Trek Beyond, I felt the same way again. And from the reaction of most of those round me (which from conversations before the movie included total Star Trek novices), that was a common opinion.
Sure you can nitpick at this, and Trek fans being Trek fans, they will. But overall, this is a highly entertaining two hours that also talks about the strength of numbers (the stick in a bundle), the power of loyalty, and the bonds of friendship. There is plenty of action – as the trailers indicated – which Justin Lin handles better than anyone else so far in the cinematic side of the franchise; there are also plenty of quieter moments, that cowriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung build out of the characters – and if you’re a Trek fan, you will pick up on the countless shout-outs, both direct and indirect, to the franchise over the past 50 years. Some of the least well-remembered parts are critical to the plot, and the new additions will provide ample fodder for those writing books in the 22nd and 23rd centuries to reference. The Spock/McCoy relationship is simply right: this could be Nimoy and Kelley, not Quinto and Urban. Pegg does give himself some of the best lines as Montgomery Scotty (what was that about why they’re called starships?), and there’s a great double act with Sofia Boutella as Jaylah (whose name’s derivation you’ll understand once you’ve seen the film).
And finally, we have a James T. Kirk who feels like the captain of a Starship out in the great beyond. He’s teamed up with Chekov for a good part of the second act, and you can easily see a credible writing out of Anton Yelchin’s character as having learned from the best and going on to be an (unseen) member of Starfleet’s officer corps after everything here. Pine has put himself down in interviews about this: his performance is much richer than he’s made it out to be, and while the scenes with the Yorktown top brass do feel shoehorned in, they make sure the points are clear. Yes, Jim Kirk will still indulge in some lunatic heroics – but he does so with total faith in his crew, which is amply justified.
Idris Elba’s Krall is a great villain in the lines of The Original Series – maybe not the greatest, or most developed, adversary the Enterprise crews have ever faced, but one whose menace and palpable loathing of Kirk and co. comes across beneath the heavy make up. He’s exactly the sort of villain I can imagine Gene Roddenberry coming up with in these circumstances: someone who, for all sorts of reasons, challenges Jim Kirk on many levels. As with so many aspects of the film, I could see him fitting right in a movie with the original actors – and with only very minor tweaks (the well-done tribute to Leonard Nimoy for obvious reasons, although even that could easily be reworked), you can see the prime universe crew doing pretty much exactly the same things (although maybe a little bit slower!).
The cinematography and effects blend well together, (the screening was 2D so at present I can’t speak to the quality of the 3D effects) and Michael Giacchino’s score is my favourite of the three to date. The only thing that’s missing is a novelisation – and I’d dearly love to know why!
Verdict: The best Star Trek film in decades – a highly entertaining two hours that never loses sight of what makes the series tick. 9/10