Last week, I raved about how much I enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Not only did the movie live up to my expectations, but it also led me to fall deeper in love with the series. So when the 2011 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness came out, I was so excited. However, my excitement soon faded into disappointment and anger once it was revealed that Khan, a prominent person-of-colour, was to be played by a white man, Benedict Cumberbatch. As you probably know by now, diversity is an issue close to my heart and hence having one of my favourite series end up white-washing such an iconic character was a pretty big blow. My disappointment furthered when I watched the movie and Khan’s character was kinda butchered (he’s supposed to be this insanely scary sort of fellow who poses a real threat, but Cumberbatch’s character was a mystery midway and then ends up being evil but with no real threat so you’re kinda just watching the movie bored). As a result, I kinda grew disillusioned with the series reboot. So when the 2016 sequel, Star Trek Beyond, was released, I actually didn’t care that much. I watched a trailer or two, and that was it. However, my friend convinced me to come along and watch the movie with her, and ladies and gentlemen, my love affair with Star Trek has rekindled.
One of my favourite things about the Star Trek series, alongside its space focus (I adoreeee anything to do with space, it’s so fascinating!), has always been the teamwork. Each member of the Enterprise works in tandem with the others. No one is the one, main star player, not even Captain Kirk. Before some of your Trekkies come at me with pitchforks, lemme explain. Captain Kirk functions as the leader of the Enterprise. He makes most executive decisions and the team relies on him to direct them. However, despite Kirk’s starring role, he’s not the only one who ‘fixes’ every situation. Kirk comes up with the plans, but their execution and even the planning stage, requires action and input from the other members. Their missions always end up being full-on group work; each Enterprise member plays a key role. Take the 2009 reboot movie, Kirk actually gets kicked off the ship and marooned on some distant planet. If it wasn’t for Scotty (and Spock), then Kirk would’ve never made it onto the ship again. Similarly, when Kirk and Sulu destroy the Romulan beam, it’s Chekov who manages to save them from certain death and beams them back to the ship. And even in the very beginning of the movie, its Uhura’s extra-credit work that spots the future Romulan ship in the first place! If any one of these members had missed their jobs/ hadn’t done them, then the entire outcome of the adventure would’ve ended up differently. That’s what I mean by it being a group effort. And my point was further illustrated in the recent film. Hence, onto the review:
The movie begins where the last one left off, with the Enterprise crew on their 5 year mission in space. Getting tired of the monotony and feeling disillusioned, Kirk contemplates quitting being Captain and instead becoming Admiral. However, a situation arises in which he and his team get attacked. It takes the entire teamwork of the team to escape the situation and save the day (much like the 2009 film). Without Uhura’s bravery in detaching the ship’s disc (no idea what it’s called) from the other part of the ship, Kirk probably wouldn’t have had time to escape Krall and escape the crashing ship. Without Spock to distract the aliens, McCoy probably wouldn’t have taken control of the alien ship and learnt how to control it. Without McCoy’s medical knowledge, Spock probably wouldn’t have survived long with his wound. Without Sulu and Uhura’s leadership capabilities, the team would’ve never discovered that Krall was tracking them or what his end plan was. Without Chekov, Kirk probably wouldn’t have been able to trap Kalara or get Krall’s location. Without Scotty, Jaylah wouldn’t (or perhaps would’ve taken a much longer time that needed) agree to give up her home and help the crew escape. Hell, without Jaylah and her knowledge and gadgets, the Enterprise crew would’ve had a much more difficult time rescuing everyone. Without Sulu’s determination, the ship probably would not have flown into space (everyone doubted that they’d reach terminal velocity except him!). Without Uhura’s linguistic skills, no one would’ve discovered that Krall was actually Balthazar Edison. And without McCoy and Spock, Kirk probably would’ve died.
Yet, unlike the 2009 film in which the sense of adventure was present but still subtle, this movie all but exclaims that it’s your run-of-the-mill adventure heist film (although they aren’t really the criminals here). It literally follows the sequential system that heist films operate upon. There’s a planning stage, the actual heist, and then a denouement. Although, this heist appears midway through the film, I think it still counts.
On that note, as you can probably guess (if you’re particularly good at reading between the lines!) that this film isn’t really about the general Star Trek universe. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a lot of discussion about the starfleet and the role played by the federation. However, there’s also a lot of focus upon the characters themselves and the heist plot doesn’t really explicitly need the Star Trek universe. In other words, you could totally imagine the heist happening in some other science-y movie.
That said, I still really enjoyed the film, just for the sheer amount of teamwork in the film and the little looks into each individual Enterprise team member and their personal life. Spock and Uhura are still in love with each other, with Spock still struggling between following his passion and doing his alleged duty. Uhura is still a badass who will do anything to save her crew. Sulu is married and has a daughter and remains a true dependable leader. Bones still dislikes Spock but comes to understand him better. Spock does the same with Bones and comes to express his respect for him (LOL). Chekov remains smart but has also begun thinking about leadership roles. Scotty develops a mentor bond with a young woman and delves into what being in a team means to him. And Kirk comes to grips with combating space weariness and being older than his dad ever was.
I also quite liked the character of Jaylah introduced in this film. Played by the wonderful Sofia Boutella, Jaylah is a young alien woman who had survived the hardship Kirk and his crew were going through. It is through her help and ingenuity that the team is able to reunite and save the day. I just thought it was quite nice to have another female character in the film who played a prominent role and was so smart and quick on her feet. I also enjoyed the villain Krall, played by Idris Elba. Although I think his story could’ve been more impactful, I still enjoyed what he represented, i.e. the other side of the federation and how not everyone could be a fan of it. And of course, as this film was directed by a different director, I think it’s also worth to address that. If you’ve read by 2009 reboot movie review, then you probably know that I was pretty annoyed with the constant lens flares. Thankfully, this movie doesn’t have those! The movie was directed by Justin Lin. I’m already pretty familiar with his work (through the Fast and Furious franchise and Community), so I kinda already knew that I would enjoy his work. Lin, in my opinion, is particularly good at doing action scenes (although he does have the tendency to do too many), and it definitely showed in this movie. But I think it also kind of played up the entire adventure heist element of the film, so it worked out. My only criticism, would perhaps be that sometimes, things fell into place too conveniently. Some intense suspense or thrill was lacking in certain scenes because you already knew what would happen. Nonetheless, I think this film was a solid entry into the franchise and is still a pretty enjoyable movie.
My rating: watch it to enjoy some cool space action and awesome team work!