Eye For Film >> Movies >> Star Trek Beyond (2016) Film Review
Star Trek Beyond
Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall
Director Justin Lin of the Fast And Furious franchise takes over the captain’s chair from JJ Abrams, as the relaunched Star Trek movie franchise reaches it’s third instalment. Star Trek Beyond also sees supporting star Simon Pegg take over co-scripting duties with Doug Jung, which results in plenty of witty, pop-culture saturated banter being laced into the mix. The likeable cast are all back playing the same iconic characters, slightly upgraded for modern times but still led by the heroic Captain James T Kirk. The slick design aesthetic (think a future designed by Apple) largely remains the same. But Lin brings with him frantic pacing and dialogue delivery that results in the film being more worthy of the title Star Trek: Beyond Coherence. Still, grumbles aside, it’s a romp good enough to banish those post-Brexit blues.
Paralleling the fact that the third original Star Trek movie – 1984's Star Trek III: The Search For Spock – saw the starship USS Enterprise destroyed, Star Trek Beyond finds the crew having to abandon ship after an ambush by unknown aliens in a mysterious nebula, two years into their five-year mission. The slow whittling down of the Enterprise to a battered husk, the result of swarms of small dart-like ships that cluster and reform in clouds, is one of the highlights of the movie. So iconic is the Enterprise that this scene of brutal CGI dismemberment, which leaves the severed saucer section plummeting towards the surface of an unknown planet at the heart of the nebula, packs quite an emotional punch, though this new franchise has never really made the Enterprise as much of a dynamic player as it could have. The ship in all three of these new incarnations has tended to warp up to a location, get shot to pieces, then simply stall in space while the crew run around. Maybe the original Enterprise carried more weight as an icon as it was built on the history of an entire TV series, and several movie outings, before it was first destroyed.
Marooned on this mysterious planet, the scattered crew - Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), Doctor McCoy (Karl Urban), Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) Sulu (John Cho) and Chief of Engineering Scotty (Pegg) - uncover the identity of their mysterious attacker, a life-force leaching alien called Krall (Idris Elba), and are forced to break out of Krall’s prison camp while at the same time repairing a stranded old starship called the USS Franklin so they can flee. However, this means applying some ingenious sci-fi alchemy, which stranded warrior Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is able to provide.
As the crew start to unite against this threat, Jung and Pegg’s script lets the natural chemistry and charisma of the cast do most of the heavy lifting. This franchise's great strength has been its casting. Pine brings the swagger and recklessness, Quinto is world wearily logical and Urban hides his bromantic urges for Spock with grumbles. The rest of the cast get fewer moments to shine but there is a genuine sense of warmth between them all. The spunky, combat-capable Boutella is a welcome addition to a line-up that has not been blessed with many female roles.
The film’s flaws come primarily in the weak villain and some irritating editing and plotting choices, the former has plagued this entire franchise from the start, the latter is more specific to Lin’s time at the helm. As Krall, Elba has some heft, but is buried under a mass of prosthetics (Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse was doomed to the same fate) and his motives for taking on the Federation never convince, leaving you to conclude he is yet again another simply insane foe. It is also unclear how his backstory connects with the events we see taking place in the film, and how he is able to muster such a large force of foot soldiers and seemingly unending swarms of space-borne drones that can take down a starship, never seems to be explained either.
Maybe the fact that so much of the dialogue in this film is delivered against a backdrop of explosions, during frenetic actions sequences that play like the cameraman was literally drunk (seriously, try to get your eyes through the scene where Chekov and Kirk infiltrate the marooned Enterprise saucer and escape by sliding down the hull), explains this confusion. It also doesn’t help that the main character arc that anchors the film, that of Kirk finding a new reason to commit to his ship and crew after growing disillusioned with the boredom of space, reels retrograde. Didn’t he settle this whole ‘destiny’ thing in this own mind in the last film?
It is telling that the only compelling villain this new Star Trek movie series has mustered up - Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, ably played by thesp Benedict Cumberbatch - was a remixed version of a nemesis from the original series. This reboot of a venerable franchise has, bar a great new cast, always struggled to create something memorable on its own terms, as opposed to being simply a very entertaining distraction that feels a though Marvel Studios could have been behind it.Reviewed on: 22 Jul 2016