Idris Elba as ‘Star Trek Beyond’ villain, Krall (Photo: Paramount Pictures)
(Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Star Trek Beyond.)
You don’t have to be a Trekkie to be excited by the thought of Idris Elba playing James T. Kirk’s latest nemesis in Star Trek Beyond. But in the run-up to movie’s release, many people expressed disappointment, and even outright befuddlement, that director Justin Lin opted to bury the charismatic actor under layers of make-up in order to portray Krall, the despotic warlord who brings the Enterprise crashing down to the surface of an uncharted alien planet. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that all that latex isn’t just covering up Elba’s handsome face…it’s also masking Beyond’s big plot twist: Krall may look like an extraterrestrial, but human blood is coursing through his veins.
And that’s not all! As Kirk (Chris Pine) comes to discover, his enemy is also an insignia-wearing Starfleet officer, one that’s nursing a serious grudge against his former employers. Before he transformed into Krall, he was Balthazar Edison, a decorated soldier that joined the fledgling Federation a century ago and was given his own starship, the USS Franklin, to command. He piloted the vessel right into a patch of uncharted space, eventually landing on the planet that Kirk and his surviving crew members are struggling to escape from. Cut off from Starfleet, Edison grew increasingly bitter about his accidental exile, and his fury continued to curdle over the passing decades — an extended existence made possible by technology the planet’s previous inhabitants left behind.
Kirk prepares to take the fight to Krall (Photo: Everett Collection)
But immortality comes with a price, which in this case happens to be a severe facial makeover, coupled with a twisted sense of justice. Krall’s master plan is to strike back at the Federation by destroying the nearby starbase, the Yorktown, with the help of an artifact currently aboard the Enterprise. The big climax takes place aboard that base, where Krall — whose features are steadily becoming more Elba-like now that he’s off his resurrection juice — has a gravity-defying battle with Kirk.
As many reviews have pointed out, with Furious 7 veteran Lin at the helm, Star Trek Beyond is heavy on action and a little light on theme. But the Krall/Edison revelation does point to a bigger idea that screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung raise in the script, namely what an extended tour in deep space might do to a person’s psyche. Early on in the film, we hear a weary Kirk expressing frustration with the daily grind of exploring the final frontier, and his serious reservations about Starfleet’s mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. In fact, after docking at Yorktown, we learn that he’s considering giving up a captain’s life for a desk job as a Vice Admiral…a career track that William Shatner’s Kirk had grudgingly followed in the gap between the original Star Trek series and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
In that context, Edison represents a kind of cautionary tale, and his metamorphosis into Krall makes him the literal manifestation of the fears and frustrations that run through the mind of a starship captain far away from the safe confines of Earth. That’s probably not a development that Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, would have been pleased with. After all, in his near-utopian future, mankind had largely evolved beyond petty internal and external conflicts.
But the rebooted film franchise overseen by J.J. Abrams has tended to defy that rule, most notably in the last film Into Darkness, when Starfleet is almost brought down from within by the corrupt Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) and his designated enforcer John Harrison a.k.a. Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Krall is another example of how the version of the Federation that exists in the so-called “Kelvin Timeline” (the name that’s been given to the pocket universe where the new film series takes place) has noble ambitions that exceed its grasp.
Paramount has made it clear there will be more adventures to come; Abrams recently let it slip that the next Star Trek feature will reunite Pine with Chris Hemsworth, who played his onscreen father in the opening sequence of the 2009 reboot. Hemsworth’s presence is felt, but not seen, in Beyond, when Kirk marks his birthday — which also happens to coincide with the anniversary of his dad’s death — by pouring an extra shot of bourbon for George Kirk. That moment clearly lays the groundwork for the story that lies beyond Star Trek Beyond. Here’s hoping it doesn’t involve Kirk coming face-to-face with a false God.
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