<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim
Running Time: 2 hours
Star Trek: Beyond is the third instalment of the rebooted franchise – that has spanned half a century – and is, without a doubt, a much better film than the latest Star Wars movie.
What JJ Abrams and his team accomplished with the Star Trek reboot (2009) was phenomenal. They managed to breathe new life into a franchise that hadn’t seen a TV show or movie in years. It got a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and did extremely well at the box office. It was a film that both fans and people who didn’t know anything about Star Trek loved. The second film in 2013, Star Trek: Into Darkness, may not have been as good but it got great reviews as well. What these new films created was a whole new look and feel that was slick, futuristic, and fantastic. The camera angles, the crystal clarity of the beauty of space and the Starship Enterprise mesmerised audiences as did the super cool chemistry between the great cast and what was some of the best dialogue to come out of a Sci-Fi movie since the 80s.
Star Trek is now a viable force that can easily compete with the new Star Wars films. When JJ Abrams went off to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek fans were horrified that their beloved new reboot would be dead before achieving warp 9. What would the director of some of the hugely popular but not always great Fast & Furious films (Justin Lin) do to the Enterprise. Well, destroy it of course! And he does just that with such magnificence that you have to shield your eyes in horror at points and then look again at the majesty with which such epic destruction is brought about.
‘These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It’s 5-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.’ In Star Trek: Beyond, the Enterprise is already three years into that mission and things look a bit monotonous on board the good ship. Her captain, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) makes his log entries eloquently, but you can hear the weariness in his heart. It’s been an uneventful time and space can be a lonely, unending labyrinth. Just as motivations waiver and doubts creep in, the crew are caught up in a situation to save a lost ship, stranded on a planet deep in an asteroid nebula. But they get caught up in something far more dangerous and sinister.
Krall (Idris Elba) and his minions are plotting something against the Federation. But what? This is what makes Star Trek: Beyond far more than just an action film. It’s a mystery story as well. As the drama unfolds at rapid pace to the soul stirring soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, we are drawn further into this world where Enterprise crew members are captive with only some left banding together to save the day. Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) get to reprise their banter with a much keener focus on their relationship just like we got to see with the original Star Trek cast. It’s a treat that brings a smile and a tear to your face, but very quickly your heart will be pumping with adrenalin as director Justin Lin astounds you with virtuoso scenes filled with dexterous camera movements, sharp CGI, perfect sound editing and larger-than-life set pieces. All brought together by Imax 3D that does full justice to the action that unfolds on screen.
Actor Simon Pegg (who plays Engineer Montgomery Scott) has also written the script with Doug Jung – who also plays Sulu’s (John Cho) husband in the film – and has managed to keep it tight and fun. Trekkies themselves, they have incorporated several nods to the original series that fans are sure to get with lines from the troubled ‘Enterprise’ TV show as well as references to characters from other Trek shows (Voyager) like the name ‘Paris’ for one of the senior Fleet commanders. Pegg has also created a nice little parallel story for him and the film’s newest interesting character: Jayla (Sofia Boutella). She adds a saucy and kick-ass spirit to the plot and I do hope she’ll get to be on the bridge in the next film.
Let’s remember that 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin who plays Ensign Pavel Chekov in the films recently died in a freak accident involving his parked car running over him (still don’t buy that though!). And JJ Abrams has said that they won’t recast his character (Read that article: JJ Abrams: ‘There’s No Re-Casting’ Anton Yelchin Role in ‘Star Trek’ Series here) for the next film. What this means is that they’ll probably either say he was killed on some away mission or that he went off to pursue some other passion. And there will be no more Chekov on the Enterprise. Which is a bloody shame and perhaps not the right thing to do.
Speaking of absent friends, legendary actor Leonard Nimoy – who played the original Spock and was the biggest proponent and really the face of all things Star Trek – passed away last year. The biggest loss for the Trek family and in Star Trek: Beyond they pay fitting homage to Ambassador Spock. Heck, the new Spock played by Zachary Quinto probably really was crying when he acts upset on hearing the news in the film. And we can feel it.
For those of you who mourn the loss of the Enterprise in this film, remember that in two films from the original series, there was no ship and that didn’t matter. Because as much as the grandeur of the Enterprise is depicted beautifully even in the new movies to goose-bump effect, it was always the crew and the characters that made the show what it was. And that couldn’t be truer for this film. There will always be an Enterprise: “there are plenty of letters in the alphabet,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) had once said to his first officer Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) in Star Trek: Generations. Sure enough…
As you can see, I’m a Trekkie and I’d be the first to bemoan a lousy Star Trek film. This one is mind blowing on any level and I plan to watch it again, and again. I couldn’t fault it for anything. If you want action, mystery, adventure, drama, emotion, a visual delight and great chemistry, Star Trek: Beyond will not let you down.