Taiwanese-American filmmaker Justin Lin began his career with the independent crime-drama Better Luck Tomorrow before gaining his action bonafides with the Fast and the Furious films, starting with Tokyo Drift.
The first two Star Trek films in the rebooted universe bare the unmistakable hallmarks of their director, J.J. Abrams. Beyond the lens flares was Abrams’ unmistakable love of disguises and spy tricks along with flashy dogfights. So Abrams departed for more Star Wars looking pastures, Justin Lin ultimately got the job. And while film fans could probably point out the hallmarks of an Abrams movie, what did Lin and his years of blockbusting Fast and Furious films bring to his own take on the Gene Roddenbery sci-fi adventure series?
Largescale Vehicular Appreciation
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Enterprise so lovingly detailed as I have in Star Trek Beyond. From the moment the Enterprise departs the orbital Federation station, to when the ship crashes into Krall’s planet, the Enterprise is treated as an entity on its own. This is reinforced by Kirk’s captain’s log during the opening in which he details how five years aboard the enterprise has helped foster a unique community aboard the ship. This leads to the second thing that Lin captures better in Beyond than previous films…
We all know that the main crew of the Enterprise are a family. What this film does so well in particular is give a sense of how the entire Enterprise crew, not just the ones in the cabin, function together. As Kirk narrates how the crew has grown close, audiences see flirty relationships and messy break-ups, along with cliques and friendships at all levels of the Enterprise. These relationships help familiarize audiences with the extended crew, and makes their demise or capture at the hands of Krall that much more heavy.
It’s not just the Enterprise however. In the film we see Kirk question his father’s legacy, Sulu’s previously unknown family, and Spock deal with the fallout of Spock Prime’s death. A plot which incorporates the real-life death of actor Leonard Nimoy. As the various blood related family members pass away or come under threat, the Enterprise, in Beyond more than any of the previous other films, confirm that your crew is similarly important.
Smaller Vehicular Appreciation
The motorcycle Kirk rides to help free the crew of the Enterprise from Krall’s prison camp deserves its own special mention. While the star ship received lovingly detailed scenes up until its demise, the motorcycle acrobatics reminds fans what exactly Justin Lin was doing for the past several years of his careers, namely putting badasses on wheels. While the motorcycle makes very little sense within the story (why was it in space? How does it still run on fuel?) it was a kickass scene nonetheless. What’s even better is that Kirk actually does something with it, unlike that time he drove a convertible off a cliff for some reason.
Fast and Furious could be seen as an evolution of crashes. As the films progress, so do the size of the things Toretto and his crew take down. Starting with street cars, Lin moved on to crashing trucks, trains, and tanks. The last thing Lin crashed before Star Trek Beyond? It was a large carrier jet. Now, he’s put down an entire starship before rampaging through a tidal wave of space drones. Really makes you wonder what Lin might blow up next in his career if given the chance.
Lin has filmed his Fast and Furious films in exotic locations, from the coasts of Brazil to the cliffs of Greece. Likewise, his Star Trek film not only looks brighter, but the exotic locations look actually grounded. While Abrams opened viewers in Into Darkness with a neon red, lens-flared planet, Lin’s space adventure isn’t only just naturally lit, but made to look like a natural space habitat.