Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg
Directors: Justin Lin
Rating: Two-and-a-half stars
STUMBLING AT THE FINAL FRONTIER
Unlike most science fiction narratives, Star Trek has always been relatable. First conceived for television in the 1960s, a time when the Americans desperately tried to put a man on the moon, the show and its Starship Enterprise boldly went “where no man had gone before”. For geeks, space has always been seductive, and for governments, it still remains that “final frontier”. Set deep in the future, the 2260s, the show then responded to unknown planets and alien life with a wonder that was strangely nonchalant. Star Trek Beyond is the thirteenth film of a franchise that could well last for decades more and it is third instalment of a reboot series which kicked off in 2009. So, it isn’t surprising that when we again meet the crew of the Enterprise, they are homesick, tired and weary.
Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is thinking of abandoning his ship for a job more sedentary. His First Officer, the endearingly awkward Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) is contemplating tending to his Vulcan roots and there’s a general sense of space sickness that is affecting our fleet of explorers. Predictably, all this changes when their ship comes under attack. Krall (Idris Elba), a half-alien half-human warlord wants to get his hands on an artefact that’s on board. He abducts members of Kirk’s crew and takes them to a remote planet. The rest of the film, put succinctly, is a rescue mission. Beyond follows a pattern similar to its two predecessors, but doesn’t hit warp speed.
Director of the first two Star Trek reboots – Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) – JJ Abrams seems to have mastered the sci-fi blockbuster act. His Star Wars: The Force Awakens ticked all the boxes fans would have liked him too. For Beyond, however, he has handed over the reins to Justin Lin. Even though the Fast and Furious director does not deviate from Abrams’ template, the film doesn’t add oomph to the franchise. The jokes aren’t as funny. Kirk sadly seems more earnest than brash. Spock doesn’t seem troubled by his mixed Vulcan-human heritage. His love affair with Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is fraught and tepid. You can’t help but go – ‘Been here, done that.’
Playing the renegade Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch had brought to Into Darkness a villainy that was unpredictable. Like him, Krall also has an axe to grind, but his predictably evil lines – “Unity is not your strength” – don’t lend him any heft. The makeup and garbled delivery are convincing, not so much his menace. The film, in the end, works because of its supporting cast. The medical officer Bones (Karl Urban) has more screen time than before and his sardonic asides are adequately amusing. Simon Pegg might not earn brownie points for his writing on Beyond, but his portrayal of Montgomery Scott is, as always, welcome relief. Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah deserves mention. The alien scavenger is the only character who makes you want to cheer on each time she takes to kicking ass.
Beyond, it must be said, does break some ground. Played by John Cho, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu is shown walking with his male partner and daughter in a scene. This acknowledgment of an open homosexuality in a possible blockbuster is a leap. It’s just disappointing that the film itself doesn’t go ‘beyond’ one’s expectations. In moments, this Star Trek film is entertaining enough, but when considered holistically, it only amplifies nostalgia. It doesn’t exceed the franchise’s earlier frontiers.