Star Trek Beyond is cheeky. The film opens with Captain Kirk’s monologue lamenting on the monotony of exploring the unknown. The mere fact that the uncertainty of what lies ahead has become so banal for Kirk is kind of a meta statement considering Star Trek ’s 50-year outer space conquests. After half a century of being around, including several television renditions and 13 films, Star Trek can hardly keep delivering punch after punch. But that’s not to say Beyond fails. On the contrary, it’s the perfect example of how a film revels in its self-awareness.
Beyond begins halfway through the USS Enterprise’s five-year space mission when a routine stopgap to restore supplies brings our beloved crew a new endeavour. Unbeknownst to them, it’s a trap laid by Krall (Idris Elba under multiple layers of make-up), an alien warlord whose swarm of battleship ‘bees’ wreak havoc in the universe. Our antagonist seeks a component (picked up by the Enterprise on a previous mission) to unleash a bio-weapon’s power on Yorktown. Pretty straightforward. There’s no mystery here. We know the Enterprise crew must save the day. And save they do, like they’re supposed to.
But despite its predictability, Star Trek Beyond works. In spite of knowing what’s going to happen next (for instance, our hero cannot die), you’re still left on the edge of your seat every time there’s a showdown on screen. Perhaps it’s the well-developed characters: Chris Pine as the steadfast and sincere Captain who will go down himself before letting anything happen to his crew. Or Zachary Quinto’s adored Vulcan Spock and his straight-faced dialogue delivery. Then there’s also his camaraderie with Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban). Together, the duo packs in most the film’s humour. The rest of the laughs though come from the Simon Pegg’s (incidentally the co-writer of the film’s screenplay) Montgomery Scott whose affinity for the word ‘lassie’ will leave you in giggles. While we would have loved to see more of Elba’s face, he’s menacing enough under all the alien garb.
May be it’s the effects: director Justin Lin — who we know from the Fast and Furious series — brings his A-game to Beyond . His deft move from fast cars to sci-fi won’t disappoint; there’s plenty of adrenaline-pumping slick outer space and even hand-to-hand combat scenes to keep a non-Trekkie hooked. But when the fight of the film arrives, so does Star Trek Beyond in all its glory. It’s also when the film’s breakout star makes an appearance: The Beastie Boys track, Sabotage .
Another likely reason could be that the film capitalises on our basic human tendency to empathise with a motley crew of do-gooders who will protect each other and fight evil. ‘There’s strength in unity’ and ‘no one gets left behind’ keeps springing up despite Krall’s effort to prove otherwise. Strangely enough, this positive reinforcement is never corny. And you can’t ignore the scores of Star Trek fans who will throng to simply partake in the Kirk-Spock bromance which doesn’t disappoint. They do make a good team and they know it. And then when Beyond finally showcases Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu’s (John Cho) homosexuality in a fleeting matter-of-fact manner, metaphorical fist bumps fill the air.
There’s plenty going for Star Trek Beyond when the only thing holding it back is its formulaic approach. But you don’t always have to go where no man has been before.