“Just another day in Starfleet.”
A few years have passed since Paramount and JJ Abrams tried to convince us that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t really Khan. Even non-Trek fans like myself walked out after trekking Into Darkness to a resounding “meh” and a muscle-pulling shrug of the shoulders. So, I guess that makes it time for yet more Star Trek… Goodness?
Out is Abrams – off making star films of the Wars variety – and in is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the Fast and Furious films. Hoping to inject a little something different into this franchise and hopefully make fans forget about the travesty that that was the bastardisation of The Wrath of Khan back in 2013.
Sent into uncharted space on a routine rescue mission, Captain Kirk and his crew cross paths with a mysterious ship that chooses to respond to their calls with hostility and sets about attacking the Enterprise. Making light work of the Federation ship, the hostile race forces the captain and the crew that haven’t been taken prisoner by the unknown foe to abandon the Enterprise to crash land on a nearby planet.
Spread across the rocky landscape of the planet, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) must brave the odds and rescue their crew from their maniacal hostage taker, the leader of an old race that live underground, known as Krall (Idris Elba in some very heavy makeup). With a little help from mysterious warrior Jaylah (Kingsman‘s Sofia Boutella), the last of her race, stranded on the planet by Krall and his murderous race, the survivors have little time to release the prisoners, escape the planet and find a way to stop Krall and his plans to destroy the galaxy.
Here’s the thing with Beyond – or in fact any of the Star Trek films whether they be originals or from the rebooted now trilogy – they are safe films. For fear of pissing off a massive fan base, they’ll never do anything groundbreaking to the franchise. I mean, they couldn’t even kill Kirk properly in the last bloody film could they? In an effort to keep the rabid fanbase appeased, there will never be something done that they can’t come back from and while I did quite enjoy my time with the latest in the sci-fi series to clearly be missing a colon in its title, it meant that even the opening salvo of destruction had very little in the way of peril in it.
It did look good though. The annihilation of the Enterprise by Krall’s “Bees” like a hot knife through butter looked amazing and was a solid fifteen minutes of beautiful destruction. But the franchise has gotten to a stage where it feels a lot like the episodes everyone used to watch and rave about. Once the world famous ship has crashed landed, it’s very run-of-the-mill and definitely more about the characters than the set pieces. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that at all – my favourite films his year have had almost no action and been all exposition – but the third film in this rebooted franchise should feel comfortable enough to keep bringing the action and maybe hold back a little with the fanboy callbacks. When there are set pieces, though, it’s generally pretty good. Action is competent, combat is thrilling and the camaraderie between long-standing characters during these moments is always fun to watch.
The characters are definitely what makes this film – and the previous entries in this reimagined franchise – worth sticking with. I’ve enjoyed watching the relationship build between Chris Pine’s James Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock as the pair are put in these impossible situations that does nothing but strengthen their friendship.
The same can be said for Spock and Karl Urban’s Leonard McCoy; who I honestly think steals the show in each of the films with his neurotic insanity and paranoia. Urban brings such a wealth of character and comedy to the doctor that you can’t help but love him.
As you can imagine, Idris Elba is very cool as the bad guy and fits the maniacal monster perfectly. Like a great bad guy in an episode of the show though, you always wish for a little more screen time that just doesn’t happen, and it’s a real shame.
Some bizarre choices made by the creative team all the way through do hinder the film a little though. Ok, it hinders the film a lot. The script may be the poorest of the trilogy with some achingly bad dialogue and a real lack of effort in parts. One glaringly obvious and just awful moment hits you towards the end when Elba’s Krall spots Kirk in the heat of a massive dogfight and utters “Kirk, my old friend.” Even though the characters have never met before the film and they spent around eleven seconds in each others company up to that point. By those standards, everyone I spoke to getting my Starbucks on the way in to see this film should be getting an invite to my wedding! It’s moments like that, that take this film down a notch or two to just another average flick.
Briefly, because I haven’t really mentioned these thing in reviews, podcasts, or even in my usual rants on social media. A couple of things I want to touch upon:
First, I love the way the death of legend Leonard Nimoy is handled; with grace and respect. He’s given a send off worthy of a man who played such a classic role. Bravo.
Second, the gay Sulu thing. I love it. I think it’s about time a franchise of this magnitude embraced the times and making Sulu the focus of these attentions is great. In my humble opinion, of course. I don’t buy the “Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have wanted it” shit. The man famously gave us a black woman front and centre in a time that it wasn’t done. I believe he would have done the exact same thing for the gay community. Bravo, again.
And finally, while he doesn’t have much screen time, it’s achingly sad to see Anton Yelchin up on that screen. His dedication at the end of the film, along with Nimoy’s, was lovely.
Anyways, to wrap up. Dodgy scripting, some ghastly CGI, especially around a certain motorbike scene that made me cringe and massive sections of plot and continuity ignored, made for frustrating viewing at times. That’s not to say it’s unwatchable, but overall Star Trek Beyond is on a par with the previous entries in the series. You already know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t expect the world to change with this flick.