I must admit, I didn’t have high hopes for Star Trek Beyond. Taking everything into consideration – the first J.J. Abrams reboot and Into Darkness being turd, and this one being directed by the man responsible for Fast and Laborious – I was expecting another cosmic shit storm, which, coincidentally, is what this film’s poster looks like. And then there was that trailer, the one using Sabotage by the fucking Beastie Boys. That decision would prompt Trekkies to rip off their Klingon forehead ridges in disgust and yell: “Web ja’DI ghotvam’e’!” But, in an occurrence that seemed as unlikely as a microscopic asteroid plummeting down to Earth, soaring through your open bathroom window, bouncing off the porcelain and shooting straight up your urethra, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this major Sci-Fi blockbuster.
I put it down to Beyond having a blank canvas. After getting the first one and a remake of the Wrath of Khan out of the way, they were able to boldly go where… no one… has… Ah, you can see why they’ve stuck with that phrase. But it’s true. There are new planets, aliens and technologies, some of which are established in an awe-inspiring shot that swoops through futuristic buildings, bridges and other hovering nonsense. It encapsulates the wonder and escapism of proper science fiction, the sort you’d expect from a film where they can sodding warp space.
But the best thing about director Justin Lin having the freedom to tell a completely new story is that it makes it feel like an episode of the original TV series. Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk even remarks that things are starting to feel a little episodic, a fairly cheesy nod for my taste, especially on the back of a comedic scene in which he wrestles hundreds of tiny alien gremlins, but it’s an effective way of expressing the monotony of deep space. Who’d have thought interstellar travel and discovering species with vaginas for ears could get so tedious? Anyway, Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are both thinking about taking their careers in different directions, but the scriptwriters decided it would be more interesting if they fought Idris Elba instead.
Elba plays Krall, a Tipp-Ex-covered alien with a vendetta against the Federation. He uses a distress call to beckon Kirk and his crew so he can wreak havoc on them. That’s pretty much all there is to the plot, but its simplicity allows Lin to focus on each character. They’re all given a healthy amount of screen time, and not just in the background pressing buttons on a control panel, but actually punching stuff and jumping dramatically. There’s a clear emphasis on the strength of unity, doing its bit for diversity by bringing together different races, genders, sexualities and crab head people.
But let’s not get carried away. This is still a pop culture-riddled property, with its theme song being supplied by Rihanna and that Beastie Boys track blaring out in a key scene. It’s like they were trying to do something similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, but hearing 1980s rap rock in a major franchise film like this just doesn’t seem right. You wouldn’t hear any Duran Duran in Star Wars.
As for the plot itself, I was unconvinced by some of the coincidences that push the story along. For example, a seemingly trivial artefact used in the opening scene ends up being the main subject of the film. It’s a bit like having a character sit in a chair, and then that chair turns out to be a deadly weapon or the protagonist’s dad. Aside from that, there’s very little to complain about here (much to my frustration). Star Trek Beyond is thoroughly entertaining, funny (thanks to Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script) and action-packed, with Lin syphoning adrenaline from Fast and Furious without creating something hideous. There’s plenty of fan service, while new ideas come in abundance – a strong female character in Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) being a particular highlight. So Trekkies can lower their phasers and loosen their Vulcan grips, because the latest addition to their beloved franchise is probably the best one so far.