Star Trek Beyond: Film Review
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella
Director: Justin Lin
So it appears the answer to the question how do you keep the Star Trek franchise fresh and exciting as it enters its 50th year is to throw in a motorbike sequence that has shades of Evel Knievel within.
Perhaps that's no surprise given the helmer of this piece is Fast and Furious' Justin Lin and at times, the action is very much a case of spectacle over sense in Star Trek: Beyond.
In this latest, Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise are three years into their five year mission to explore new worlds (the first of Simon Pegg's script references to the original). But Kirk's nagged by a sense of tedium and monotony.
However, just as his apathy is about to see him accept a vice-admiralty, the crew of the Enterprise are lured into a trap by an evil villain named Krall (Idris Elba)....
Star Trek: Beyond certainly has the reverence for the franchise, and the script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung is clearly steeped in affection, as well as an execution that's energetic.
Some of the greater moments of the series are embraced for this outing too; from the pairing and squabblingly affectionate duo of Karl Urban's Bones with Zachary Quinto's Spock to a lovely visual at the end, this is a film that knows what made the series so beloved by fans. But it also knows that character is what made the Trek universe so vital and why it stands a testament of time. The Enterprise ensemble is a little crowded by Pegg and Jung's script smartly splits them all up when the ship goes down (one of the film's best sequences, both taut, tight and thrilling); and it's here that the character driven moments tend to take over and remind you why it works.
But then it's also a film that bows to fun too, with the aforementioned motorbike sequence likely to polarise and the use of a Beastie Boys track simply confounding any kind of seriousness, opting for silly instead. Perhaps, that's bravura - time will tell, but certainly with some of the FX ships in Krall's swarm flying around looking like iron filings trapped in a blender that's on double time, that debate could be a heated one. Certainly the fun and pace of Justin Lin's Star Trek film allows the spectacle to head over any kind of common sense.
And then there's the bad guy - Idris Elba as Krall, who seems to suffer from Villain Writing 101, where the baddie comes skulking out of the shadows, delivers his disgruntled reason for taking down everyone and retreats off again ready to beaten. Krall is not a memorable villain at all, and it's a shame given the stature of the actor within that he's reduced to a prosthetics once over.
Above it all though, and as Trek so often has, it all comes back to Captain Kirk.
Chris Pine's wearied initial and melancholic approach is a nice touch, and the script's chutzpah to drop them 3 years into the 5 year mission gives the whole thing both a nostalgic gloss and a nod that even the future is space is as dull as the monotony of a 9 to 5 on Earth. But it's never anything less than Pine's film and he delivers it with grace, action hero swagger and a vocal nod to where it all started.
Star Trek Beyond may not be perfect, but it's fun blockbuster fodder that offers up action over smarts. While its franchise's future is never anything less than assured, it's great to see the reverence it treats its own past with - without alienating those who simply want a rip-roaring night out (as long as you beam your brain up).