Star Trek Beyond (2016)
I am not a dogmatic fan. In fact as I get older, I become far more flexible and forgiving in my outlook. I certainly don’t buy into the concept that your “childhood can be ruined”. The only way something new can spoil the memories of something old that you hold dear, is if you allow it to. If you wish to explore this concept further, I’d suggest reading Marcus Aurelius. Back to the matter in hand. When I found out that Star Trek was to be rebooted via an alternative timeline plot device, I was content with this. I decided to ditch my personal baggage and try and be objective about the now named “Kelvin Timeline”. I make no bones about the fact I have liked the previous two Star Trek movies. Are they masterpieces? No. Are they entertaining? Yes. That is far more than some reboots have achieved.
Since J.J. Abrams move from director to executive producer on the new movie franchise, I’ve been a little sceptical regarding the third instalment. Justin Lin is not a film maker I would have immediately thought of with regard to Star Trek. Thankfully, I am happy to say my personal misgivings have been proven wrong. The director’s frenetic signature set pieces are certainly present in Star Trek Beyond. But so is an obvious understanding of the source material. In many respects the film plays out like a big budget, extended episode of the original series. However far from being a criticism, this is a major compliment, showing that the entire production team fundamentally understands what makes the franchise great and what fans like the best.
The plot is relatively straightforward, involving the Enterprise being lured into an ambush within the confines of an uncharted nebula. Marooned on a nearby planet, most of the crew find themselves prisoner of Krall, an alleged alien warlord. However, Kirk, Chekov, Spock, McCoy and Scotty evade capture and plan to rescue their colleagues. It is here that the film comes into its own, with the focus on the crew interaction. The pairing of McCoy and Spock is very reminiscent of scenes from the original series and includes some classic banter between the two. I was very pleased to see Karl Urban given more onscreen time, as his portrayal of Doctor McCoy is spot on. Although at times reminiscent of DeForest Kelly, Urban manages to provide a contemporary spin on the character and make the role his own. The movie also comes to life when the classic trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy come together. It would also be remiss of me to not mention Simon Pegg who has an expanded role this time round. His pairing with another alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who has also been marooned, provides a greater insight into the character. There is humour and pathos in his performance.
Star Trek Beyond also takes the time to ponder some wider issues pertaining to the franchise. I like the concept of a captain questioning the validity of the five year mission faced with the infinite nature of the universe. The screenplay written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg also sensitively deals with death of Leonard Nimoy. The passing of Spock Prime causes his younger self to reflect of his various choices, such as joining Starfleet and his relationship with Uhura. It is a credible dilemma that could beset those who find themselves part of a diaspora. The movie’s only narrative weakness it with its villain Krall, played by Idris Elba. He lacks sufficient development and although we understand his motives, they are somewhat arbitrary. Perhaps some additional screen time could have remedied this minor deficiency.
It was announced last week by producer J.J. Abrams that the role of Chekov will not be recast after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin. However the franchise will see a further instalment with a plot featuring Kirk meeting his dead father, George. Despite some rather vocal naysayers, it would appear that these new movie set in the “Kelvin Timeline” are finding an audience and proving commercially viable. With Bryan Fuller recently revealing that his new TV shows will be called Star Trek Discovery, it looks like the entire Star Trek franchise is in good shape after fifty years. Star Trek Beyond certainly contributes to this current good standing and manages remain true to the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, despite an unlikely director.