It seems that this summer’s blockbusters have been duds so far. Thankfully, Star Trek: Beyond has no such major issues, and is definitely worth a watch or two.
Like the Enterprise, the show begins by slowly shifting into gear. Kirk, via voice-over, reminds us of the issues our crew face – Kirk is caught up figuring out his identity and what he should become, while Spock is struggling to balance duty with independence.
However, it is improbable that these issues will develop into difficulties as there are constant reminders that both men will step out of their respective predecessors’ shadows. Kirk trails and protects his crew instead of going down with his ship like his father, because he knows he’s on a different path. Spock is reminded, time and again, that his place is with Starfleet. The homage to the original crew of the Enterprise only solidifies this idea.
Once the crew begin their rescue mission however, the show really kicks off into warp. Instead of a typical focus on our man-of-the-hour, Kirk, scriptwriters Pegg and Jung have chosen to direct us to the perks of having an incredible ensemble on one’s side. The crew has been split into pairs, each with their own challenges to face: Uhura and Sulu’s scenes have them bargaining with the enemy and developing their burgeoning leadership skills. Kirk and Chekov are stranded with only their wits and instincts to save them. This series of intertwined narratives allows to truly understand the complexities of each character, and each actor is given a chance to shine.
This does come at price though – the diversity of focus means that the dynamics between each pairing is given less time to develop. Nevertheless, this approach is a welcome breath of fresh air. What I particularly loved about it was how we truly see the crew’s strength in unity. They deliberate important issues together, they care for one another’s concerns and take pains to address them. Although unity does have its weaknesses, as Krall demonstrates, it is ultimately through team-work that our heroes prevail.
Although fans of the original ST would know that the dynamics between Kirk, Spock and Bones (the “Trinity”, as they are called) are the cornerstone of the ST universe, this is the first movie to openly establish that fact. Bones’ character is fleshed out as he finally delivers more than snarky commentary – the “frenemy” dynamic between him and Spock is capitalized on to deliver some laughs and touching moments.
The introduction of Jaylah was a pretty great move as well. While she may be seen as a cheap attempt at balancing the gender ratios onscreen, Jaylah is used to good effect. The parallels between her and Kirk are deliberate and striking, in that she represents what Kirk could have been if it wasn’t for his crew – bitter, afraid and alone. Both have experienced the loss of a father, and for Jaylah it is made all the more devastating seeing how she had to survive on her own. Having Kirk offer her an opportunity to re-shape her future, and her perspectives, could be an indication that he has resolved his identity crisis and is helping her do the same.
ST:B also lives up to its subtitle of going Beyond. In line with creator Gene Roddenberry’s aspirations, ST:B pushes the boundaries of what can, and should, be acceptable in society. While both homosexuality and diversity are issues most societies have gripes with today, such narrow-mindedness is notably absent in the Star Trek universe. Instead, the movie portrays such acceptance as an ideal we should strive towards.
My only grouse is the painfully boring villain, Krall. Once again, a person-of-colour is made to play a heavily made up, costumed warrior. Krall could be Apocalypse’s relative, with their similar mundane formula of world destruction and monosyllabic liners. It is disappointing how Idris Elba’s charisma and acting chops are not put to good use, especially since Khan (from Star Trek: Into Darkness) has raised the bar for Villain Complexity. At least Khan was enigmatic and sympathetic. Krall’s background story does nothing to fully shed light on his motivations.
Nevertheless, ST:B remains an entertaining, adrenaline-pumping ride most viewers will enjoy.