6. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Directed by Justin Lin.
Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, and Idris Elba.
Star Trek Beyond marked something of a creative departure from its two predecessors; J.J. Abrams was replaced by The Fast and the Furious’ Justin Lin, while the script was penned by one of the movie’s own stars – the venerable Simon Pegg.
For fans who complained that Star Trek Into Darkness was a hollow attempt to repackage the success of Wrath, Beyond was an evident attempt by Pegg to more earnestly hearken back to the tone and heart of the Original Series.
As such Beyond may not be the biggest or the most exciting Trek film, but its restrained efficiency is also refreshing, in allowing characters to take precedent in a $185 million sci-fi blockbuster – which may partly explain its disappointing box office performance.
The film literally opens with Kirk monologuing that his adventures have begun to feel rather episodic, and truly, Beyond feels like a traditional Original Series episode extended to feature length – yet, mostly in a good way. Pegg’s script spends large portions focused on little more than characters talking – quite often Kirk caught in the midst of an existential quandary – combined with the expected trips to far-flung planets and, yes, a cartoonish villain played by a name actor.
If Beyond lacks the more heightened technical polish of Abrams’ films, there’s an appealing scrappiness to Lin’s approach, full of dutch angles, 360-degree pans, and snappily edited, close-knit camera coverage. Yet Lin also lets Pegg’s character scenes breathe as they require, and despite fan skepticism of the director’s ability to deliver the trained patience the best Trek movies insist upon, he acquits himself extremely well.
The cast also feels less constrained by the machinery of the tentpole movie than they did in Into Darkness; Pine makes the most of Kirk’s introspective moments, while Karl Urban finally gets to steal the show with his abundance of hysterical dialogue (I suspect Bones might be a fave of Pegg’s), and Pegg’s own Scotty gets a wonderful two-hander with alien newcomer Jaylah, played with comic gusto by Sofia Boutella (and further aided by incredible, Oscar-nominated makeup effects).
Idris Elba was a marvelous choice to play the primary mutant antagonist Krall, so it’s a bit of a shame that he’s a relatively one-note character, and his third-act “regression” back into his primary human form feels like nothing more than a lazy way to get Elba’s actual face in the movie. It’s really at this point that Beyond loses some of its character focus and becomes more of a laboured spectacle, though the sequence in which The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is played to disorientate Krall’s drone swarm skirts on just the right side of inspired nonsense.
Beyond certainly violates several threequel rules, by failing to resolutely up the scale or round off three movies of character work – as a fourth film was initially planned, prior to its box office disappointment – but in hewing back to the Trek of yore, it does feel like a spiritual homecoming of sorts for both its focal heroes and long-time fans of the series. And given that both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin sadly passed away shortly before the film’s release, their small, respective tributes are in both instances extremely heartening.
An admirably modest, more character-driven Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond foregrounds its characters and emotions over grandstanding action sequences – most of the time, anyway.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Click below to continue…