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Star Trek Beyond (2016) Movie Review: “Pine-ing for Purpose”

Beyond is totally engrossing. Travelling along at warp speed, and thanks to writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, Beyond is the funniest, and most poignant entry into the rebooted timeline. New director Justin Lin (Fast Five) brings his “larger than physics” approach to action, and the crew of performers look their most confident and complete yet. Sadly, in the trend of most modern blockbusters, the villain is toothless. Casting Idris Elba was a great decision; strapping a spikey faced rubber mask to the man that restricts his expression and movement was a poor one.

The USS Enterprise is three years in to a five year mission when they arrive in Yorktown (a space station that’s the love child of Inception, Elysium and a snow globe) for some ‘R&R’.  When an escape pod shoots out of a nearby Nebula the lone passenger claims her ship and crew are stranded on a nearby planet Altamid. Kirk (Chris Pine) volunteers to go on the rescue mission and leads the Enterprise into an ambush.

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Star Trek like Bond or Star Wars, has the best possible introductory device to stitch together the different films in the franchise. Using the Captain’s log to establish the film brings you into the mindset of the Captain and his observations of the crew and the mission. Pegg and Jung are unburdened by constant fan service (ahem Into Darkness) and instead poke some fun at the fact that this is a projection of a (mostly) utopian future for humanity. The best example are some references to the Beastie Boys as  “classical” music.

Lin is an action director first and he relishes the opportunity to trade cars for space ships; particularly the bad guy’s swarm.  He can’t resist using a pretty old-timey motorcycle that plays as a call back to Captain Kirk’s father; but gives Lin a chance to shoot some intergalactic ‘Moto GP.’

Although Lin’s bread and butter as a filmmaker is fast-paced, acrobatic action Star Trek Beyond shines in the philosophical moments. Since J.J Abrams’ franchise reboot, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is a man that defines himself by adventure. He’s the “live fast, die young” Captain whose idolatry of his father extends to putting himself into life threatening  situations (in the two previous films) to fulfil his assumed destiny. During their mission, he morosely celebrates living longer than his father George (played by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth).  He has to grapple with creating his own legend. Pine plays Kirk with his natural charm and spark muted; he’s maturing into a contemplative Captain, responsible for his crew. Zachary Quinto’s Spock similarly has to wrestle with his position as one of the remaining Vulcan’s in the universe. Karl Urban’s “bones” Mcoy plays the confidant and voice of reason to both Kirk and Spock. Urban’s forthright manner is the necessary bucket of water these guys need.

The team dynamic is really what makes Star Trek shine. Lin jives so much with the ‘family’ element of the story that you’re half expecting the gravelly voice of Vin Diesel to pop in. John Cho ‘s Sulu has been in the spotlight after the filmmakers revealed that he was gay. Lin, Pegg and Chung drop it on the audience so casually that you can’t imagine anything else for the character. That shouldn’t be the only thing they’re talking about for Cho, because he delivers a fearless performance as Sulu once again. Pegg’s got the laughs (as usual) as Scotty,  Zoe Saldana’s the wisdom, and watching Anton Yelchin’s bubbly and brave Chekov is just so damned tragic.

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Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is able to overcome her make-up to provide a performance. She’s got Scotty’s mechanical savvy and the fighting prowess that eclipses really anyone on board the Enterprise. Elba is essentially wasted as  Krall; the expressiveness of his face and his imposing physique are plastered over with a rough mask and a digitised garb.

Beyond doesn’t quite have the magic of Abrams’ Trek; but it shouldn’t. If Trek is about dreams, Beyond solidifies the reality. Lin is a franchise mould setter, and now, future Trek’s look promising.

Score: 3.5/5

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman 

Director: Justin Lin

Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung

Starring:

Chris Pine – Capt. James T. Kirk

Zachary Quinto – Commander Spock

Karl Urban – Doctor “Bones’ Mcoy

Zoe Saldana – Lieutenant Uhura

Simon Pegg – Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott

John Cho – Sulu

Anton Yelchin – Chekov

Idris Elba – Krall

Sofia Boutella – Jaylah

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