Star Trek Beyond (2016), Dir. Justin Lin

Star Trek Beyond (2016), Dir. Justin Lin
It isn’t uncommon you’s easy to get lost in the vastness of space. There’s only yourself, your ship, your crew.
— Commodore Paris, Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella.
Director: Justin Lin
Screenplay: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung.

With a heavy heart we must say goodbye to the charming Anton Zelchin who brought to life the fresh-faced Pavel Chekov. I was a bit scared that this filmic venture would be a disappointing send-off to this young man but thankfully Star Trek Beyond has stood up to the task.

It feels as though after the last two films the franchise has taken a step back and asked what they wanted these new films to say. The last two have been flashy, adventurous, cinematic, and beautiful. This one however has taken the more quieter route, they have gone for a more traditional take on what Star Trek can look like on the big screen. Instead of using the classic reference trope, they have taken a more honourable nod to the original franchise. Beyond really feels like a television plot on the cinematic screen and for this reason alone I adore this movie.

With the loss of J.J. Abrams in the directors chair it was obvious that these films will take the franchise in a slightly new direction. Justin Lin has steered away from the brightness—lens flares and all—and taken the clean aesthetic to a darker hue, though sometimes so dark it makes scenes bit hard to see. It is definitely a shift but a shift that worked for the smaller story that is being told.

Do not get me wrong, there is a lot of plot to this film and the characters seem to be in even more danger than ever before. But this film has allowed the big plot to be told in a smaller fashion. So small that in many points of the film our heroes have been split into pairs; Kirk (Chris Pine) and Chekov, Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) and non-team-member Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). Because of these pairings we finally get to see interactions with crew members that we haven't seen yet in this new universe. Bones and Spock being trapped together creates an amusing dynamic between Bones' constant state of statistical fear alongside Spock irrefutable logic. Scotty gets to show off his engineering skills while having great chemistry with Jaylah, and the other four get to really sink their teeth into the action of the story.

Beyond gets many points in inclusiveness that has been marginally missing in the previous two. Sulu has a daughter with his Husband—though you never even hear a single line between the two of them—and women Jaylah and Uhura are unapologetically in the middle of the action. They get to show off their own individual skill sets and are actively in the thick of it to solve many of the film's problems. However in saying that, there are a few too many lines from the men that reduce these women into gendered roles, Uhura regularly being referred to her relationship to Spock and Scotty constantly calling Jaylah "lassie". 

Chris Pine has really come into his own with the character of Kirk, and as he ages the more he really is starting to look like Shatner. He comfortably takes the role of leading this slightly convoluted plot from beginning to end as a true Starfleet captain. For once Kirk seems like the natural leader he has meant to be. His interactions with Yelchin, Pegg, and Boutella are refreshing to watch as Kirk is seen to lead while also listening and respecting his crew. 

This film is not perfect, sometimes the plot is a bit lost in sound balance and lack of explanation unless you are paying a great amount of attention even from the first scene. But that kind of works in its favour as it makes it feel like a tv show where exposition needs to be quick in order to fit the whole story into the timeslot. The feeling of it being a long episode is so comforting to see, not because I love the original show—I have only seen a handful of episodes—but because it takes science fiction back to a simpler time where big stories can be told in a small, quiet way. The character dynamics and actions are what drive the plot forward rather than a big space battle, and the antagonist, Krall (Idris Elba) can be more of a realistic villain than cinema usually allows.

This is a great film and Star Trek has added a new jewel to its crown that they can be proud of.