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Star Trek Beyond

#283 - Star Trek Beyond
Justin Lin, 2016

When the Enterprise respond to a distress signal, the ship is attacked by hostile aliens and the crew are marooned on a nearby planet.

Considering how Justin Lin managed to oversee the Fast and Furious series' metamorphosis from low-rent pieces of carsploitation to high-concept mega-blockbusters, it naturally makes sense that he would once again get tapped to direct a threequel in a fledgling yet promising cinematic franchise. While I've grown to appreciate the Star Trek franchise over the past few years, I haven't thought too highly of J.J. Abrams' attempt to reinvent the relatively cerebral yet notoriously campy sci-fi franchise for the 21st-century blockbuster market. Though I haven't exactly loved Lin's work on the Fast series either, I can see how he has a knack for developing an ensemble of actors in addition to providing high-octane action sequences. Hopefully, his filmmaking abilities would translate into the world of Trek and help lend some weight to a rebooted series that had yet to reach its full potential under Abrams' slick yet hollow supervision. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case here. Now that the series is no longer constrained by either the need for re-establishing the characters within an alternate-reality canon or coasting on former glories by bringing back one of the franchise's most memorable antagonists, it might actually have the freedom to tell a decent story.

Beyond certainly has plenty of promise as it takes the Enterprise (whose crew has settled into a comfortable yet stagnant routine) on a rescue mission that quickly goes wrong, leaving the Enterprise destroyed and its surviving crew members scattered across the surface of a nearby planet. The film even gets to set up some arcs and stakes to carry the characters through the film; most prominently, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) must contend with the growing uneasiness surrounding his role as captain , while First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) has his loyalty divided by his obligations to Starfleet and his duty towards his fellow Vulcans. Other characters either spin off from those two (Karl Urban's medical officer Bones and Zoe Saldana's communications officer Uhura being the chief examples for Kirk and Spock respectively) or effectively exist independently in the cases of Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin). After being split up, they all deal with the threat posed by Krall (Idris Elba), a barbaric warlord with a grudge against the Federation who plans on capturing a MacGuffin in order to carry out an evil plan. To this end, the Enterprise crew must not only find each other but join forces with Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a formidable alien warrior who is waging her own war for survival. It's a thin framework that can be filled out with action, characterisation, and thematic exploration, but this balancing act proves a little too skewed towards the former for its own good.

As much I want to like Star Trek Beyond (and as much as it gives me things to like about it), somehow it's not all clicking into place for me. Lin definitely handles certain aspects of the film well enough as he is capable of developing the ensemble that is key to the Trek experience, even if it does amount to little more than a steady stream of sharp-witted banter punctuated with the odd moment of warm emotion (with Quinto and Urban proving the true MVPs in this regard as their caustic interplay is a constant treat). However, it is the action side of things that lets things down as this archetypal Trek plot is padded with all sorts of frantic-looking set-pieces that still manage to feel tedious despite the obvious technical flair on display (though they do gradually improve as the film progresses). It is nice to see various little nods to recently-departed cast members like Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy, plus the focus on the Enterprise crew as a surrogate family is likely to help Beyond hold up quite well on re-watches. However, being the best film in this rebooted series does not necessarily mean that Beyond becomes great in its own terms and it really does leave a little too much to be desired.