Three years after “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (2013) was released, it’s time for the third installment of the rebooted science-fiction franchise. “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) continues with the journeys of the U.S. Enterprise, headed by captain Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) and commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Their mission is to explore uncharted territories, to boldly go where no one has gone before, and this leads them to a remote planet. Here captain Kirk and his crew need to fight to stay together, but also to save Starbase Yorktown from the ruthless Krall (Idris Elba).
“Star Trek Beyond” sounds pretty straightforward and similar to that of the film’s predecessors, but it turns out to be very different. Firstly, this third installment is not directed by J.J. Abrams, who rebooted the “Star Trek” franchise back in 2009. Instead it is Justin Lin, the man behind the “Fast & Furious” franchise, seated in the director’s chair. And secondly, the film is co-written by Simon Pegg, the British comedian who stars as fan-favorite Scotty. Two very noticeable differences – but two differences that worked in the film and the franchise’s advantage.
The first thing that struck me about “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) was the fact that it was funny. Under J.J. Abrams’ wing, the “Star Trek” franchise had become slightly darker and grimmer, but the third installment seems much more light-hearted. The writing is much more focused on humor and making the audience laugh, which might have something to do with Simon Pegg co-writing the film’s story. The result is a perfectly pitched script and a “Star Trek” film that is much more light-hearted, without it being ridiculous for even one second.
The second thing I noticed about the film, is how I did not notice that “Star Trek Beyond” was directed by someone other than J.J. Abrams. And that is impressive. The man in the director’s seat is Justin Lin, who has also directed and produced the majority of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and he does a remarkable job. I didn’t miss J.J. Abrams’ directing nor his iconic sense flares for a moment and instead I was mesmerized, confused and drawn into the camerawork of the film. The camera constantly simulated the idea and feel of movement, by using tilted shots of Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (the recently deceased Anton Yelchin), and moving and panning shots of Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Bones (Karl Urban).
The third thing about “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) that struck me, was the film’s antagonist. Krall, portrayed by British actor Idris Elba, was not a very original or very threatening villain. He is supposed to be terrifying, literally sucking the life out of people to stay alive and plotting to destroy a Starbase thereby killing millions of people. Instead, Krall is just… meh. And that is disappointing, especially because Krall is played by Idris Elba, the actor who stars as the fascinating yet slightly terrifying John Luther in the BBC hit series “Luther”. I think Elba could have done so much more with the character, if he had been given more screen time or more opportunities to develop his bad guy.
Despite the disappointing villain, “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) is incredibly entertaining. The third installment of the “Star Trek” franchise has significantly less lens flares, but more humor and fun, thrilling action. And that works well in the franchise’s advantage.