The first of the Trek reboots to move J.J Abrams from behind the camera to the role of producer and to have a new screen-writing duo seems more of an attempt at steadying the ship rather than reinventing the wheel. The action-first blueprint of the Abrams films still remains, and the action does require numerous and large suspensions of belief; but life-long Trek fan and co-writer Simon Pegg and writing partner Doug Jung inject some elements that long-time Trek fans have felt was missing from the reboots.
Even if the forgettable plot and actual events bare little resemblance to Roddenberry’s “Wagon train to the stars,” there is a real feeling of a crew actually boldly going where no man has gone before, and in a seemingly routine rescue mission in deep space they certainly find a strange new world.
Moreso, this new creative team remembers that the crew are meant to be characters first and props for a series of action sequences second (or, at the very least both things equally); and realise that the original Trek was built around the idea of three best friends in space, not two. Yes, Beyond finally gives an expanded role to Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy; and he does not disappoint. While taken as a whole the dialogue is still very hit and miss, Urban steals all the best lines and the scenes between him and Quinto’s Spock for the first time truly evoke the spirit of watching Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley’s bickering in the original series. If anything they even try and save the poor writing of the earlier reboots by implying they’ve had a grudging mutual respect all along.
Beyond works best when it splits people into pairs; the aforementioned Spock/McCoy partnership a highlight which includes Kirk (Pine) and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) teaming up and Scotty (Pegg) working with new girl Jaylah (Boutella). Jaylah deserves a special mention, as does Boutella – she could easily have been a throw-away token alien newcomer never to be thought of again, but she is a much more rounded character, with her own fears and motivations meaning she is much more memorable than she otherwise might have been.
Beyond does an exemplary job of toasting the recently fallen heroes of the Trek cannon. Quinto Spock staring into the vastness of space after hearing news of Nimoy-Spock will leave a lump in the throat of even the most hardened of fans; while in light of the recent tragic death of Anton Yelchin (actually given a much bigger role here, too) Kirk toasting “absent friends,” is a sad moment given extra poignancy.
Justin Lin’s direction is a little too fast and furious, occasionally not allowing a set-piece the chance to breathe and allowing the audience to catch-up on events (although he does thankfully tone down the quota a little), but generally does a commendable job of handling huge space-set sequences and close combat ground battles.
A lot of review coverage has been less than satisfied with Idris Elba’s villain; and while it is fair to say that Stringer Luther is barely in it, he is actually very good for the screentime he has. He isn’t an overly memorable villain, with (just) understandable and quickly glossed over motivations; but Elba himself creates a very physical, very intimidating presence.
For the average cinema-goer lured in by the reboots the story will have been forgotten seconds after the credits role and there is no single, great moment to talk about and salivate over for years to come; but Beyond is a very solid entry into the rebooted cannon and life-long trekkers put off by the very poor first trailer or turned off by the previous films trying desperately to be anything but Star Trek needn’t worry.
The Verdict: Unlikely to elicit the same passionate responses (both positive and negative) as Into Darkness; Beyond feels like a much safer Star Trek film: one that maintains the relaunched universe’s focus on action while allowing more of the elements that the traditional Star Trek fan will want to see.