The Enterprise and her crew are back on a rescue mission that leaves them stranded on a planet against an enemy that would put Khan through his paces. With all seemingly lost, they have to escape the planet and rescue a space station from destruction in a race to protect their species from annihilation. In a fight that tests the loyalty of friends and of the Federation itself, personal struggles are put aside for the preservation of unity and all that Starfleet holds dear.
(Watch out for Spoilers in this review)
I watched this film in its 2D IMAX glory and to say I participated doesn’t even begin to express what an experience this was. Not since Avatar have I been so immersed, I was in space skimming the saucer section of the Enterprise, I was by turns in peril to the point of maximum tolerance, on the edge of my seat, at the edge of my nerves, and then suddenly laughing as the tension was eased by the sharp pen of Simon Pegg and Doug Jung.
Directed by Justin Lin, and as one would expect from the Bad Robot production company, the visuals are like nothing I have seen before in any generation of this franchise. The Enterprise is close to many of our hearts and is a character in her own right. The special effects showed this beautiful ship in all its glory: we flew along side her and joined her at warp speed. We joined the crew in their disbelief as the ship was destroyed by the enemy aliens and watched our old friend crash and burn in the first few minutes of the film. I should have realised I was in for the ride of my life from this moment on.
Opening with the crew at odds with each other, in the limbo and routine of the reality of months in space, the exploration of tested friendship, unity and loyalty is the central theme throughout this movie. The desires of Starfleet and the Federation to push the Frontiers and have planets join them versus those that do not want to be part of a union is recurrent throughout. This touched home not only because it is the triumph of good over evil in Hollywood tradition but because we are facing this in stark reality so close to all our homes, be it in Brexit, the Scottish referendum, support for refugees, or even Trump versus Clinton. We are so many nations divided in thought and deed at this moment that the film resonates even more when viewed than it may have done otherwise.
The arc of the story is deftly handled with a deference to the memorial of those beloved actors who have recently passed and who were so much a part of the universe. Commencing with the marking of Ambassador Spock and thus Leonard Nimoy’s death through its communication to the present day Spock, the story is unleashed as it throws him into a world of uncertainty, unsure of his loyalties between his species and the love of his life. Ending with Spock finding peace with his friends and his place in the world, he opens the articles left to him by the Ambassador including a picture of Leonard Nimoy amongst the actors and Enterprise crew who were his companions for so many years. I have not seen a memorial placed with such care as part of the arc of a story before and it was seamless and stunning. There was also a memorial to Anton Yelchin at the end who received his own applause from the film’s audience as his name appeared.
Simon Pegg’s role in the writing of this film is keenly felt throughout. The jokes fall just when the tension is unbearable and relieve us while keeping us completely bought into the crew and the adventure without stilting the storyline. In the way Pegg does so well in his films, the humanity and vulnerability of the characters is opened up in a way it has not been done before and we see them sometimes at their most raw, questioning themselves and their actions so that they become much more multi-dimensional than has been present in any other film to date in my opinion.
This film is one of the best of its kind. Characters that I have grown up with and feel I know, the ship itself in its grandeur have been opened up in a way that I have not experienced before and the applause that it received at its end was absolutely deserved.
Reviewer: The Aviator