Review: Star Trek – Beyond (2016)

Star Trek: Beyond (dir. Justin Lin, 2016) – A ruthless enemy attack strands Starfleet on a remote planet and leaves Starbase Yorktown in fatal danger.

Verdict

This one’s to the Enterprise, and to absent friends. Star Trek: Beyond finds the heart of the show in its crew, though let down by yet another poor excuse for world domination.

4/5

Review

It is Day 966 in Starfleet’s mission to boldly sail into uncharted deep space. Star Trek: Beyond takes the USS Enterprise to neoteric space station Starbase Yorktown, where the crew reunites with family and reflects on absent friends.

The threequel sees Justin Lin seat in the director’s chair, taking over Jar Jar Abrams (who has since revealed his true allegiance to Star Wars, pfft). While the man behind The Fast and the Furious may not be an obvious choice, there is a certain logic to it. Having brought a family together on the race tracks once, he brings that same delicate balance between characterisation and energetic action to the welcoming realms of deep space.

Star Trek Beyond
Kirk finds his lack of chair disturbing.

Sans lens flares, his vision comes as a surprising success despite initial doubt. After all, he plays to the movie’s strength – an ensemble cast that has long settled comfortably into their striking personalities. As envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, diversity is embraced as the crew unites with more intimacy than before.

For the first time, nu-Trek has figured out what to do with every one. Sulu, Scotty, McCoy and Chekov get to shine in individual missions, as they hardly did in the first two movies. (We will miss Anton Yelchin very much.) A painlessly quick recalibration also sees Uhura escape the clutches of contrived romance to display wit on her own.

Star Trek Beyond
#StarringJohnCho

They come together, facing personal demons alongside a snarly villain up for plain old revenge. Their retaliation to save Yorktown results in plenty of spectacular set pieces. But a broken blockbuster model shows its symptom of decay in dull villainous motives, as an underused Idris Elba murmurs familiarly expository lines on world destruction.

Even so, the weak conflict is a good excuse to split the crew up into manageable small teams. It works. In pairs, they get to interact with each other beyond technical commands. When the doors open to welcome a spirited new heroine Jayla, she fits right in into what could have been a potentially overcrowded ship.

Amid the entertaining chaos of the adventure, late legend Leonard Nimoy is not forgotten, either. Ambassador Spock receives a wordless and moving tribute from his successor, as does the rest of the ex-crew in a brief salute. Full of such emotive moments, the script owes much to long-time Trek fans Doug Jung and Simon Pegg.

Star Trek Beyond
“Montgomery Scotty, I present to you my Beastie Boys collection.”

Their passion for the show shows, accompanied by an energetic burst of apt humour that lends Sabotage a bigger role than before. Cranking up the volume on the ‘oldie’, it is clear that everyone involved is having fun with this one. (More fun than they are already having on Dubsmash, that is.)

In the hands of these talented Trekkies, Star Trek: Beyond allows us to look past its villain issues for the most part. A perfect capture of the core ensemble’s dynamics makes for a fun adventure. The charm of it comes as a welcome present for Starfleet’s 50th anniversary. Future quests may hope to do better, with the franchise now steered right back on, well, trek… I will show myself out.

While the next sequel is years away (and I am still playing catch-up with the original series on Netflix), Trek geek Bryan Fuller has us patiently waiting for Star Trek: Discovery to debut in January 2017. What would you like to see in the new series?

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