PROMOTING Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the rebooted sci-fi franchise, has been bittersweet for its stars.
On the one hand the film helps to mark this month's 50th anniversary of the series, but on the other, the cast and crew are still reeling from the sudden, accidental death of actor Anton Yelchin, who played Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov.
Emotions were clearly still raw for returning stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and John Cho when they introduced the film in Sydney for its first public screening.
Pine told the audience he hoped the new film celebrated both Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy, who passed away in February last year and made cameos in the previous two films as "Spock Prime" opposite Quinto as the younger Spock.
The new film is a fitting tribute, making a seamless transition to a new direction by Justin Lin, who took over from JJ Abrams, and scriptwriting by star Simon Pegg (Scotty).
"One of the more rewarding aspects of making this film was that collaboration. Simon forwarded us a draft really early on and said: 'What do you guys think? Email me any thoughts and ideas that you want'," Karl Urban tells Weekend.
"He was wonderfully inclusive and collaborative, and right throughout the film we continued to work on it and elevate it. We were very grateful to have him in that capacity."
Quinto is full of praise for Lin, who is best known for his work on the Fast & Furious franchise.
"As a leader he came in with a real strong sense of what he wanted to do, but he coupled it with a respect for all of us and our relationships and the fact we've had these connections to these characters for two other films now," he says.
"He was able to come in on an already moving ship. He didn't have much time to prep for this film and I was incredibly impressed by his ability to maintain a calm, confident point of view as he was pulling it together."
Captain Kirk and his first officer Spock both question their futures with Star Fleet during the film, which is set in and around the remote outpost of Yorktown halfway through the SS Enterprise's five-year mission to explore the outer reaches of the universe.
"He's not as loud or raging against the system as he had been in the first two films," Pine says of Kirk.
"In the first two films he was very much a guy driven by the ghost of his father, needing to be something and proving himself to be something because his father was so great. Now he's 35 and he's proven himself and what else is there? It's a very existential, lost-in-space kind of moment for Kirk."
The brief and matter-of-fact revelation that John Cho's Sulu is not only a father but a gay man in the film has also been a talking point in the media.
Despite original Sulu actor George Takei voicing concerns over Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's vision for the character, Cho says he was happy with the opportunity to delve into Sulu's personal life.
"It's interesting to have the stakes be very intensely personal, with his family living on the Yorktown base which is being attacked in the movie," he says. "It certainly coloured it differently for me."
The relationship between Spock and Enterprise medical officer Bones (Urban) is also explored in the new film when the two are stranded together on a strange planet.
"To be able to spend most of this film with him was exceptional fun," Quinto says. "Those characters historically are so diametrically opposed that I think audiences enjoy the banter that is born out of their differing perspectives."
Star Trek Beyond opens nationally on Thursday.
Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba.
Director: Justin Lin
Reviewer's last word: Director Justin Lin, taking over the Star Trek reboot's reins from JJ Abrams, brings exciting visuals and action to this entertaining new instalment.
Star Profile: Sofia Boutella
Quirky fact: Worked as a back-up dancer for Madonna and Rihanna before getting into acting.
Best known for: Kingsman: The Secret Service, StreetDance 2, Monsters: Dark Continent.
If you like this movie you'll like these: Ghostbusters, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Jason Bourne.
Quote: "When I was dancing, the question was, 'Why am I doing this piece and why am I dancing?' It is exactly the same when you are acting. You have a very close relationship with your body movement. You have to find the physicality of your character."
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