As the thirteenth release of big-screened Star Trek franchise, disguising as third film of J.J. Abrams’ alternate timeline, Star Trek Beyond feels utterly special since it also celebrates the franchise’s 50th anniversary. It’s Abrams-less; but it has all the reasons to deserve more attentions.
Abrams’ absence from the directorial cockpit to helm another Star franchise indeed caused rifts and doubts. Moreover, the caretaker, Justin Lin – whose recent portfolio is three of the last 4 Fast & Furious films – has a penchant of brainless, explosion-laden action and over-the-top car-nage. Pre-released verdict all clinches to blame those ‘empty’ action-heads would wipe off Star Trek’s traditional philosophy and formality, which Abrams has brought back.
However, majority of those presumptuous verdict fall shorts when Justin Lin finally proves that he’s the fittest caretaker for Star Trek Beyond. His expertise in crafting summer blockbuster vibes with lots of ‘team as a family’ boast has been an F&F regular basis. His tenure with large ensemble of casts has also proven to be helpful. After all, isn’t Star Trek always about that similar thing, too?
Result displays a lighter and a more down-to-earth Star Trek compared to Abrams-directed predecessors, in fact, it feels more humane than ever. At the same time, Beyond plays entertaining and effective (compared to a more perplexed Into Darkness), while it’s keeping track with Abrams’ constructed universe.
Thorough characterization, a legacy from Abrams’ regime, plays an important part to kick-start Beyond. Without further intro, we’re fast-forwarded into the third year of USS Enterprise’s 5-year mission when Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and colleagues transit at a complex, Federation satellite, Yorktown. A distress call comes in from a distant nebula along with a troubled space-shuttle. While Kirk’s volunteering to investigate and assist, a flock of alien drones led by Krall (Idris Elba) thrust the Enterprise, disarm and wreck the ship; kidnap some crews and leave the others high and dry.
A real fun script penned by Simon Pegg (also co-starring) and Doug Jung distributes focal points to separate Enterprise original crew almost evenly. The duo’s idea to pair up some characters with surprising combination could give more profound insight to that bunch of Kirk-helmed personnel.
The captain pairs up with Chekov (amazing posthumous nod to Anton Yelchin) – scrapping Kirk’s all-about-me tendency while gives some extra loves to Chekov (that makes us regrets Yelchin’s passing even more). Spock (Zachary Quinto) awkwardly pairs up with Bones (Karl Urban) making the funniest moments with their unmatched connection. Meanwhile, Scotty (Pegg) gets paired up with Jaylah (Sofia Boutella from Kingsman) who steals lots of attention with her monochrome looks. Less observed pair is Uhuran (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) – although they both get important roles in the captivation arc.
This unique pairing settles the cancerous issue of the predecessors, which focused exclusively to Kirk-Spock-Uhura triangle and virtually plotted the others as mere cameos. While giving more spotlight to the supporting characters, Beyond also slowly brings back the classic focal relationship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones, which becomes the original series’ backbone.
Beyond surprisingly present more intrigues which resembles those from the original series; in fact, this whole film feels like an extended episode of that TV series, frankly saying. Several homages were addressed solely to that pop culture icon, including the gimmicky nostalgic squad picture. Yet, the most interesting homages are addressed to the late Leonard Nimoy (as Spock in the original series), who passed away in 2015; as well as to George Takei (original Sulu), a prominent supporter of LGBT right movements.
Fresh, lite script digs the Enterprise more than ever, bringing out the human character out for more, even it bridges Abrams’ vision of Star Trek with the original. However, the same thing fails to dig up the villain, Krall. After manifesting a classic archenemy codenamed John Harrison in Benedict Cumberbatch which leads Into Darkness to be a dark, multi-layered geekfest; the following-up Krall comes flabby. Roaring hard in the beginning, he slowly fades into a forgettable menace. Same thing happens to his sidekick, Manas (Joe Taslim from The Raid), which ends his screen time in an anticlimax.
Rubber-faced Idris Elba might seem menace-less, but fortunately, Justin Lin still knows how to have fun with rumbling visual spectacles that craft the action sequences. Centrifugal interface of Yorktown reflects how groovy is the visuals; in addition, Krall’s bees attack looks terrifyingly massive and destructive. That visual grandeur gets sustained by Michael Giacchink’s grand scoring has made Beyond a summer blockbuster entertainment at max as it riffs heavy, as heavy as Beastie Boys’ climactic soundtrack.
In the end, put an amen to Abrams’ reimagining Star Trek as a new independent, non-delirious franchise; at the same time, put a great amen to Justin Lin, who successfully bridges Abrams’ version with the original smoothly although his mostly appear lighter and more down-to-earth.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Directed by: Justin Lin Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung Starred by: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Joe Taslim, Sofia Boutella Runtime: 120 mins Rated PG-13