Space, the final frontier. An infinite continuum capable of sapping morale and robbing voyaging crews of both purpose and progress since, by its very definition, there can never be an end in sight. Such is the existential crisis facing Captain James T. Kirk at the beginning of this third instalment in the revised Star Trek franchise, and it’s a notably low-key opening compared to its predecessors.
Three years into their five-year deep space mission, Kirk and his crew are homesick, questioning their commitment to the cause and bored of their ‘episodic’ existence. An urgent rescue mission changes all of that, however, and when that rescue goes awry, Kirk and the team from the Enterprise find themselves stranded on a forbidding planet, unable to contact Star Fleet and being hunted down by a villainous character named ‘Krall’. As it happens, the story scarcely stretches beyond that point, resting instead in the comfortable zone of ‘crew in peril requiring brazen rescue attempt’, which is not to say that it’s a bad film because of it.
Written by Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) and directed by Justin Lin of the Fast & Furious franchise, Star Trek Beyond feels much more like an episode from the original TV series, where each member of the ensemble is afforded considerable and equal screen time. Spock, Bones, Uhura, Chekov and Sulu all feature prominently in Beyond, along with newcomer Sofia Boutella as ‘Jaylah’ - the fearsome warrior castaway from another, earlier shipwreck. While the laughs are fewer than might be expected for a script penned by Pegg, the action absolutely delivers, most notably in the film’s dazzling climax and its fist-pumpingly-spectacular callback to the Beastie Boys moment of the original.
Star Trek Beyond has featured prominently in the news ahead of its release, both on account of the sudden accidental death of one of its stars (Anton Yelchin as Chekov), and its decision to reveal long-time character and fan-favourite Sulu as gay. The latter issue is handled perfectly by Lin and actor John Cho, in that it attracts neither fanfare or spotlight since, at least in the world of the movie, nobody cares either way. As for Yelchin, it’s another fine performance from the talented actor whose abilities far outweighed the requirements of his character. The dual dedications at the end of the film - ‘In loving memory of Leonard Nimoy’, and, then ‘...For Anton’ - feel particularly tender and respectful, capping off a movie in which the subtle nods to both the movies and television series of the past are everywhere.
This is, as they say, ‘one for the fans’, but newcomers will find more than enough to enjoy about Star Trek Beyond in their own right, too.