The world feels like a rather divided place at present. With a conflict of ideals, there’s a palpable friction amongst people, particularly in the United States and the UK. With liberal, progressive thinkers locking horns with the ultra-conservative, leaving millions disillusioned, wondering where the compassion and inclusivity has gone. Escapism in the form of cinema is always a vital diversion at times like these. But with Star Trek Beyond, it’s more than just a distraction, as it’s a franchise that has always thrived off the notion of togetherness and equality – and this latest instalment is no different, with an overriding sentiment being that no matter who you and where you are from, if we join forces we can triumph in the face of adversity; living harmoniously, as one.
The third film of the rebooted series, we see Justin Lin take over the helm from the departing J.J. Abrams, and we catch up with the USS Enterprise crew in the third of their five year mission. With Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) questioning just how much longer he wants to be a part of this endeavour, the same thoughts creep into the mind of Spock (Zachary Quinto) – though when they find themselves on the end of a deceiving lie that sends them into the trap of an arch adversary, they know it’s that sense of loyalty and diligence that will see them through.
The lair which they find themselves in is that of Krall (Idris Elba) who carries with him an uncompromising disdain for the Federation. During a battle the Enterprise crash-lands on a remote planet in unchartered territory, leaving Scotty (Simon Pegg) with the task of discovering a means of escape, as Bone (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and their new ally Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) lend a hand. They haven’t got much time to play with however, for fellow crew members, including the likes of Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana), remain hostages of the nefarious Krall.
One of the reasons why Star Trek Beyond makes for such an engaging cinematic experience, is because Pegg is on screenwriting duties (alongside Doug Jung), and having been such a big fan of the franchise, he implements that affection for this universe in a loving, non-contrived manner, with a certain warmth. It also helps, of course, that’s he’s such a talented writer, and brings his distinctively British comic sensibilities to proceedings. But the film works on other levels too, being particularly profound in the more intimate, emotionally charged sequences, which remain equally as compelling as the big set pieces. It’s a film driven by characters, with some of the very best scenes taking place when stranded on this remote planet. That being said, given this is such an ensemble feature, it is tough to balance such a myriad of respective character arcs and expect us to invest in them individually, and regrettably Lin doesn’t succeed, with certain characters – Uhura in particular – not really given anything to do.
The weakest character, and the one stain on this otherwise joyous slice of contemporary sci-fi, is Krall, simply as you do not fear him enough. He’s introduced far too swiftly into proceedings in an all too flippant manner, and as we get to know him he seems too fallible. Nonetheless, Star Trek Beyond remains arguably the finest of the three offerings in this current big screen series yet, and while Lin has left behind a franchise (Fast & Furious) that continues to get better and better, he’s now on hand to ensure this is another series of movies that may just steadily improve.