It hasn’t been the best of times for Star Trek fans with the passing of the legendary Leonard Nimoy, and more recently Anton Yelchin who plays Checkov in the re-booted universe. However, fans can take solace in the fact that Star Trek: Beyond is an adventure that carries the franchise forward.
Star Trek: Beyond begins with Kirk (Chris Pine) still pining over his father and the legacy that he needs to live up to while Spock (Zachary Quinto) is burdened by the responsibility to carry on the work of another who’s himself but not really him. However, it doesn’t take long for the crew of the USS Enterprise to hurtle forward into another adventure on an uncharted planet.
It also doesn’t take you very long to realise that Beyond has close to nothing to do with Into Darkness which seems to have gone the way of J.J Abrams – to a galaxy far, far, away. Alice Eve’s Carol Marcus and the Klingons are nowhere to be seen as the movie picks up two and a half years after the events of Into Darkness… so things change.
I’ve never quite taken to Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Shatner’s still Captain in my book, but he does well enough to keep things going, which is helped by the fact that he’s no longer the focus in Beyond, instead it’s the crew as a collective that commands the stage and not simply Captain Kirk doing whatsoever he pleases.
Star Trek: Beyond does a good job at giving screen time to different members of the crew and puts their respective talents on showcase. Kirk spends a good amount of time with Checkov (the late Anton Yelchin) who’s instrumental in locating the crew on the said uncharted planet, Spock and Bones (Karl Urban) reverse-bromance allow the two characters to rekindle their unique relationship, while Uhura (Zoe Saldana) stands her ground against Krall and Sulu (John Cho) earns his chops as the crew’s ace pilot.
Scotty (Simon Pegg) and new addition Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) – a refugee on Krall’s planet, whose character design and make-up wouldn’t be out of place in the other space adventure franchise – are able to command the screen and work out a very stable chemistry between that of a engineer and a “junkyard mechanic” that works really well.
Where Star Trek: Beyond does stumble, is with developing a villain with some… gravitas. Idris Elba’s talents are sorely underused as Krall, who comes across as a character whose only layers are a very thin personality under a thick coating of make-up and CGI. Where Khan was a character with deep characterisation and motive, Krall comes across as a petty boy who’s favourite toy (war) has been taken away.
Beyond, keeps up the action but also manages to inject in a few moments of humour and fan service, thanks to writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, with Kirk commenting each day on the Enterprise is “episodic” and how he’s torn his yellow shirt is torn again… which happens as much as a red shirt dies.
And yes, they do reveal that Sulu is gay and has an (I assume) adopted daughter with his husband. But thankfully, it’s not overplayed and comes across naturally. It’s also especially pleasing that Kirk isn’t off chasing after some skirt again and the focus really is on the crew as a whole making this a proper ensemble rather than Captain Kirk and the Other Guys.
Star Trek: Beyond is an entertaining jaunt that navigates the re-booted franchise in the right direction, but will really need a better villain to play off the crew that make up the heart and soul of the USS Enterprise.