Star Trek: Beyond

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After J.J. Abrams ditched the world of Vulcans and Klingons for a galaxy far, far away, he arguably left the Star Trek in a worse place than he found it. While his reboot was legitimately spectacular and sits comfortably in the upper echelons of Trek movies, his sequel, the leaden Into Darkness, mixed obvious politics with a decidedly un-Trek-like sense of nastiness and gloom which veered too much into George Lucas territory for fans.
However, the movies had way too good a cast to waste and so thankfully Paramount managed to wring one more outing for the crew of the Kelvin Timeline to try and reclaim some of the glory that J.J. first restored and then lost.
With Fast & Furious director Justin Lin leaping into the director chair (possibly while leaping out of an exploding muscle car) while working from a script co-written by Scotty himself Simon Pegg, would this attempt to return to Star Trek’s roots put them back at the front of the final frontier where they belong?

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Amost three years into their five year mission to fly wildly around uncharted space and try to make friends with any new species they manage to stumble across and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are starting to feel the strain. Homesickness, isolation and general melancholy has touched almost every member aboard but possibly none more than Captain James T. Kirk himself who seriously weighing up quitting the Federation for good; but a visit to remote starbase, Yorktown (Dr. McCoy’s typically acidic description? “Looks like a damn snow globe in space, just waiting to break!”) gives him a reason to hang on just a little longer.
A rescue mission results in the crew saving the pink, coral-headed Kalara from a dangerous looking nebula who tells them that her entire crew is lost on a planet right slap bang in the middle of that swirling mass of anomaly and Kirk and co. head off to do the descent thing.
Bad move, because the whole thing is a big-ass trap sprung by hulking space despot Krall, who has an endless swarm of razor sharp spaceships at his command that proceed to rip the Enterprise a new asshole and spreads the crew all over the planet in random groups. Kirk and Chekov search the wreckage of the destroyed Enterprise for a clue to what Krall actually wants, notorious frenemies Spock and McCoy fight to survive against evil drones, Uhura and Sulu are imprisoned with the majority of the crew and Scotty runs into alien scavenger Jaylah who’s parents where killed in Krall’s camps when she was a child.
As the crew try to work out what exactly what Krall’s deal is from multiple angles, they finally start to get an idea of the terrible scale of the maniac’s planed endgame.

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Taking the criticisms of Into Darkness as seriously as a Vulcan watching an Adam Sandler marathon, Star Trek: Beyond makes a concerted effort to try and bring back the elements that was lost in the previous effort (lest we forget, the characters are primarily explorers and envoys) while walking that fine line between keeping things cinematic and not just seeming like a feature length episode. While the franchise has attempted this before with noticably mixed results – Insurrection in particular literally feels like an overlong episode – Lin absolutely nails it by making sure Beyond sticks tightly to the series’ roots while still delivering the slickly shot, vast scale Abrams bestowed upon us (but with 65% less lens flare).
The cast still have their insane chemistry intact and the pairing off of the gang mostly pays off with a highlight being the back and forth of legendary verbal sparring partners, Doctors Spock and McCoy, who desperately try to save each other’s lives while weighing up the pros and cons of the use of the term “bullshit” and there’s a nice synergy between Kirk and the younger Chekov (played by the late Anton Yelchin) with latter sweetly picking up some of his Captain’s more overconfident traits. While Uhura and Sulu’s thread is basically just to give Idris Elba’s scaly, life force draining villain someone to rant at, the best pairing in the movie turns out to be Scotty (Giving yourself the best scenes Pegg? Nice.) and a brand new character, the spunky, high-kicking Jaylah, who is played by ex-dancer Sofia Boutella whose character is the latest in a line of noticably flexible characters she’s portrayed in such movies as Kingsman, Atomic Blonde and The Mummy. Not only is her character design incredibly striking, but her brazen attitude fits in with the existing cast extremely well and one of the genuinely sad results of the Kelvin Timeline not getting a fourth installment is that a progression of her character would have been highly promising.

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Elsewhere, the film tackles other aspects of the reboot’s continuity well by folding it into character arcs – Spock’s demeanor is more stoic than usual due to the news of the death of older the version of himself from another timeline (Multiverses, am I right?) which tied in with the actual passing of Leonard Nimoy and Kirk doesn’t celebrate his birthday as it’s the day that his father was killed in a bitching/tragic space battle and Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung prove that they know their stuff by lacing the film with Easter eggs, references and some audacious action sequences such as yet another spectacular destruction of the Enterprise (it gets fucked up more times than the Batmobile, I swear to god). The most ballsy of them sees the crew counteracting Krall’s endless swarm of ships with a sonic wave created by blasting out a recording of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage at full volume (Jaylah’s a fan of classical music – “I like the beats and shouting!”) which is a fun callback to the use of the song in the 2009 movie.

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That fact we haven’t had a Star Trek movie since, thanks to numerous attempts falling though, is something I believe is a genuine shame despite the TV arm of the franchise currently being in great shape. But if this does prove to be the last mission for the Kelvin Timeline (and it does feel oddly final with everyone’s space faring misgivings firmly behind them by the film’s end), then it’s a fitting farewell thanks to an impressive course correction and a filmmaking team who made the forward thinking decision to boldly go backward and go full Trek.

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