12A – 122mins – 2016 – 3D
With J.J. Abrams consumed with reawakening the Force, his role is reduced to that of producer on this third film in his action-led Trek reboot. Fast & the Furious franchise stalwart Justin Lin steps into the breach to assume the helm in this Into Darkness follow-up which sees Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the renowned crew of the USS Enterprise already almost three years into their five year mission in this alternative reality timeline.
It’s a bit of a jump given how this rejuvenated theatrical series could run and run, but with Star Trek 4 (or XIV if we’re counting Shatner and Stewart’s long-form adventures, too) already confirmed to include an element of time travel (Chris The Huntsman Hemsworth will return as Kirk’s deceased father from the 2009 kickstarter), who’s to say it still couldn’t? There’s no linear structural restraint in science fiction. And if nothing else the gap lends itself to a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Captain’s log which references the “episodic” feel to life on ship.
With Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung taking over screenwriting duties, Beyond could have been a wholly divergent affair, but despite a lessening of the lens flair and a noticeable darkening to some of the action shots, this is otherwise very in-tune with what came before: likeable, chucklesome, less strict with modern vernacular, and with swooping, swerving camerawork.
Roused out of shore leave on the wondrous starbase Yorktown by a call for help from the sole survivor of an alien attack (Lydia Wilson), the Enterprise is swarmed by a contingent of deadly drone-like vessels led by the lizard-like warlord, Krall (Idris Elba), who is hellbent on retrieving an alien artefact in the Enterprise’s care.
With the iconic starship near destruction and descending towards an unsurvivable crashlanding on a hostile nearby planet, the crew are forced to evacuate in escape pods and then battle the elements – and Krall’s soldiers – in a bid to find a way off-world.
By separating the Starfleet’s top squad between those that escaped and those held captive by their foes, certain members who were dangerously close to being lost in the mix in 2013’s first sequel – such as Sulu (John Grandma Cho) and Chekov (the tragically late Anton Yelchin, honoured in the credits) – are able to stand out as individual heroes in their own strands. Scotty, meanwhile, more profuse than ever with his chirpy Scottish exclamations, is partnered with the instantly-endearing stranded scavenger Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who looks something like a female albino Darth Maul, fused with Rey’s charm.
While I could bemoan another case of the main villain transpiring not to be who we first believe (which so signified Into Darkness‘ entire campaign), this is another fun, pacey, action-packed joyride of a Star Trek movie; both respectful in its references to Gene Roddenberry’s 50 year legacy (Leonard Nimoy’s passing is both courteously handled and integral to the plot, while a photo very nearly garnered an audible cheer) yet braver than ever in pushing forward into new frontiers (new allies, new foes, new relationship for Sulu).
CR@B’s Claw Score: