As I was walking out of the IMAX cinema at the Mall of Africa following the premiere of Star Trek: Beyond last week, I asked my plus one, an ardent Trekkie, what she thought. Good, she said, falling somewhere between the first and second, the first being the best of the trio in the latest reboot. Highly enjoyable, I thought.
Three years into the USS Enterprise’s five year deep space mission, Captain James “Jim” Kirk (Chris Pine) has cabin fever bordering on existential crisis. Bored, frustrated and contemplating the meaning of the mission. His latest diplomatic endeavour – during which he tried to gift the leaders of another race an ancient war artefact called the Abronath – has failed. When the Enterprise docks at a massive space station, Starbase Yorktown, to resupply, Kirk decides to apply for a high-level position, one that will keep him grounded.
But when the station picks up a distress signal from an alien Kalara, who claims her ship and its crew were stranded on an unknown planet, Altamid, Kirk decides to help and leads a rescue mission. When the Enterprise approaches the planet, the ship is ambushed by a bee-like swarm of monstrous little crafts. While some of the crew try to escape in their pods, the leader of an alien race, Krall (an unrecognizable Idris Elba), boards the craft, looking for the Abronath. When he can’t find it, he kidnaps some of the lead crew members – including Mr Spock’s love interest, communications officer Lt Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and helmsman, Sulu (John Cho), hoping Kirk will come looking for them and bring the artefact.
Kirk orders the remaining crew to abandon the heavily damaged ship, which comes down onto Altamid in spectacular fashion. Kirk, ship navigator, Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) and Kalara crash together. The ship’s medical officer, Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) and first officer Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto) make it down together while chief engineer, Scotty (Simon Pegg) escapes safely on his own. With the help of an alien scavenger/fighter, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), the group must band together, figure out how to stage a rescue mission and recapture the Abronath, before it’s used to destroy the universe.
There’s no real mystery or intrigue in Star Trek: Beyond, but of course, it’s impossible to retain the ‘freshness’ and magic JJ Abrams injected into the franchise with the first two films in this reboot. But Beyond is adventurous and entertaining enough, with plenty of funny moments (Simon Pegg, who was the screenwriter for the hilarious spoof, Hot Fuzz, was co-writer on this script).
But it’s really the cinematography and eye-popping visual effects that make it worth paying for the 3D IMAX ticket. Director Justin Lin – known for producing and directing five films in the fast-paced Fast and Furious franchise – seems like a natural choice for Star Trek: Beyond, swapping super-fast cars for warp-speed space vehicles and stunning fight scenes. And Rihanna’s theme tune, Sledgehammer, is an absolute winner (get to the movie in time to catch the kick ass music video before the feature film).
Does this third installment in the reboot go ‘beyond’ the first two? No. But it’s more than enough to please fans while being accessible to those of us who only started exploring deep space in 2009. Trekkies might need a tissue or two as the credits pay tribute to Anton Yelchin who died in a freak car accident in June, and the late Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, who has a cameo in this film. Live long and prosper friends.
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
SA release date: 26 August 2016