Star Trek Beyond (2016) – Boldly Goes Where TOS Has Gone Before

Director Justin Lin’s Star Trek: Beyond (2016) is a triumphant addition to the already blockbuster franchise, which should make both fans and non-fans hopeful for what is to come. There is not much going on, in terms of world-changing ideas, or philosophical ramblings that will leave a profound influence on your life, but it does bring back all the fun and excitement of the original 60s series.

The film is essentially an extra-long episode of The Original Series (TOS), with large action set-pieces and nuanced violence and a lot of warp-speeding. The result is a thrilling and mostly-satisfying romp that opens the door to further exploration of a universe worth voyaging.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is getting bored with the familiarity of space travel, and the Federation’s institutional rules and protocols. He puts himself forward for a Vice Admiral position which would essentially ground him. But, before it can be finalised, he is asked to answer a distress call from a faraway planet. The Enterprise and its crew set out on a rescue mission to said planet, but are ambushed by the film’s principal antagonist Krall (Idris Elba) and his fleet of mechanical drones. Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship, and thus begins the cat-and-mouse game between the Enterprise captain and the sinister villain.

The original cast members from the trilogy all return, but with Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov) passing away, there would be changes in future instalments. A moving tribute to Leonard Nimoy was also a showcase of the movie. Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s screenplay provides just the right amount of homage, with some great Spock (Zachary Quinto) /McCoy (Karl Urban) odd-couple banter. There can really be no complaints as far as nods to the original series or its characters, but there are deeper issues that need addressing.

Most of Star Trek Beyond is set on the blue planet Altamid, where Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are hostages, with the latter kept away from the screen for large parts of the film. This was reminiscent of the olden days of Star Trek where raging camera hog William Shatner made certain that those characters, along with Scotty and Chekov never had anything but the most rudimentary dialogue, and the least amount of screentime. This nostalgia trip should have corrected this flawed aspect of TOS, but failed.

Arguably, the best moments of the film involved Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and white-skinned alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) aboard an abandoned starship. But, these instances were few and far. Lin pulls out all the stops for the action sequences though, and finally, gives audiences a film about space exploration, something that is central to Star Trek. The scenes suffer from choppy editing, and awkward camera angles, but that’s just how Lin rolls. The plot is as intelligent as a Fast and the Furious movie, but then again, this is not an Interstellar or The Martian. If you check your expectation at the door, you’ll have a right good time. It’s a decent action movie, with a great cast, and an adventurous director; what more could you ask of a summer popcorn flick?

Rating: 3.5/5


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