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Review: Star Trek Beyond – “Does what the best Trek always did”

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The third in the rebooted Star Trek film franchise – following the excellent “Star Trek” and awful “Star Trek Into Darkness” – Star Trek Beyond is written by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), and directed by Justin Lin (Fast and Furiouses 3-6).

All of the crew from the previous two films return: Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock, Karl Urban’s “Bones”, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, Simon Pegg’s “Scotty”, John Cho’s Sulu, and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov; and they are bolstered by new additions in the form of Idris Elba’s Krall, and Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah.

Three years into their five year mission to explore strange new worlds, the crew of the starship Enterprise enter a mysterious nebula on a rescue mission to save a pink wrinkly lady alien’s friends. Unfortunately, to paraphrase a Buffy line, they do not read the rest of the note – the part that says: P.S. “This is a trap”.

The Enterprise is destroyed. Again. This time by a swarm of nanite ships, and an alien big bad played by Idris Elba – recognisable purely by his voice that is not so much “gravelly”, as “rubble-y”. Krall abducts, imprisons and enslaves the Enterprise’s crew… well, the crew we don’t know by name… and Uhura and Sulu. The rest escape pod it down to an alien world that luckily has breathable air.

Split into pairs, Kirk and Chekov, McCoy and Spock, and Scotty and Jayla (an alien warrior who likes Run DMC) explore the planet, encountering mystery and adventure at every turn, before reuniting to put it all together and plot and stage a daring and thrilling prison break.

“Beyond” lacks the prestige feel of a classic Trek movie, and the over the top bombast of the last two new ones, but it also feels smaller, sharper and sweeter, and more in-keeping with the original series. Kirk is suffering the beginnings of an existential breakdown that is a combination of the loneliness of space, a mid-life crisis, and that he has now outlived his father – but still does not know what he wants to do with his life. Yet: the film is also extremely funny at times.

The balance, tone, humour and pace is all due to Pegg’s skilful writing – honed with Edgar Wright on The Cornetto Trilogy – and everything being in it’s place, and every, even tiny, detail paying off is an absolute joy and satisfaction throughout. Unfortunately, it is Pegg’s onscreen role that is the film’s achilles heel.

The rest of the core cast have now completely inhabited and body-snatched their classic characters. Karl Urban is a PERFECT McCoy, Quinto’s Spock is still great – but keeping his head down a bit after the last film, and Pine has grown into a top notch Kirk. Yet Pegg’s Scotty is an annoying character, clearly having far more screen time than advisable due to having written it in, spouting a “Scottish” accent that makes you want to drown things, with literally every other word being “lassie”, bonnie” or “wee”.

Seeing the wonderful Anton Yelchin again in a would-have-been mainstream breakout role as an everyman, ladies man Chekov, who gets to spend the majority of his scenes bouncing off and matching Pine’s Kirk, is supremely bittersweet, and a sob inducing dedication to him and Leonard Nimoy is a total heartbreaker.

The film’s lovely message of friendship, hope and love always beating hate – no matter how hopeless things seem – is beautiful, and sorely needed in our currently rather scary world, and Star Trek Beyond does what the best Trek always did: it comments on our present, and shows us a better future to aim for.

4-out-of-5

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One Comment

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