30 July 2016

Review: Star Trek Beyond

(Dir: Justin Lin, 2016)

Now this is the Star Trek sequel we've been waiting for!! J.J. Abrams' 2009 restart of the franchise was far better than anyone ever hoped it might be. Whilst it may have lacked slightly in the villain department it completely made up for it through a joyful sense of discovery as this new crew took to space with a sublime chemistry. That chemistry proved to be the only saving grace of the the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, a film felled by the complete and utter miscalculation that what happened in the original film series must be repeated. Not only was Benedict Cumberbatch so distractingly awful as the chief antagonist, the first ten minutes were resolutely the best part of the film as they almost solely provided the entire film's interactions with otherworldly civilisations - one of the most appealing parts of the Star Trek universe. Alas I wasn't sad to see Abrams move to the Star Wars universe (Trek has always been the more interesting of the two), and considering how Justin Lin reinvigorated the Fast and Furious franchise, the omens were good.

Star Trek Beyond could almost pick-up where the first film left off and offers almost everything you'd want in a sequel. The characters are now all established, and their dynamic and chemistry is left to purr away. Everyone remains so well cast and they give it their all, and we the audience are now fully invested in them. And the humour continues too - in large part due to Karl Urban's Bones, whose dry, deadpanned pessimism wins every time he is on screen, much as it has since he was unwillingly escorted onto that shuttle in the first film. But we also have to thank Simon Pegg and Doug Jung's script which is sharp and creates an exciting story (the only complaint being how many times Pegg makes his Scotty character say "lassie"!).

And this is an exciting story. After a fun little intro and a touch of scene setting, we're off on a mission that quickly gets interesting. The first proper action sequence is jaw droppingly good, setting up for a second half that plays to everyone's strengths with perhaps the exception of Spock who feels just a little sidelined. But importantly we get a proper villain this time in the shape of Krall. Idris Elba carries the character under a ton of prosthetics and make-up with a fiercely imposing determination, almost spitting his words out. Whilst his squalls of deleterious drones offer a superbly rendered threat for the crew to sabotage. The introduction of new character Jaylah works, mostly thanks to the humorous innocence Sofia Boutella brings to the role and her dialogue, plus her make-up is awesome! And so it remains engaging throughout, perhaps only stumbling slightly at the finale as it tries to stretch things a touch too far, but forgivably so.

This is the film we should've had in 2013, meaning this year we'd have (hopefully) been watching another sequel as good as this! Star Trek Beyond makes sure it hits some of the key requirements for the universe - superb chemistry with the core cast, decent villain and threat to the Federation, alien worlds, impressive space scenes. But it's also a hell of a lot fun, frequently funny and visually impressive - including one of the best ever ideas for how to stop your enemy! Although it may lack that wonder of coming together and discovery that the first film had, it hits the ground running heading straight into its own story, clearly having learned from the mistakes of the very flawed and unnecessarily dour Into Darkness. If they can keep making Star Trek films as good and fun as this with this same cast (Anton Yelchin will be missed), I want to see this modern iteration keep running and running.

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