Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

As
Yoda now famously once said, “judge me by my size, would you?” I was
reminded more than once (and within the first couple of minutes) of the late,
great Douglas Adams. In Hitchhikers Guide, he told at least a partial story of
an alien race that received a signal from earth and immediately set about
travelling to the unsuspecting planet to overthrow the human race and take it
for themselves. It wasn’t until they got here that they realised their somewhat
massive error of judgement.

Nevertheless,
lots of little enemies are still, when properly organised, something of a force
to be reckoned with, as evidenced here in the third JJ Abrams Star Trek
adventure, this time directed by (Steve does a Spock eyebrow) Fast
& Furious director Justin Lin.


Less the
third part of a trilogy and more a standalone project, the crew are all back
together on the Enterprise, at least for a while, before finding themselves
separated and shipwrecked on a planet on the very edge of known space. The
backstory is in place, so a potted history of the first two films of this
reboot is beneficial, if not entirely necessary.


Most
notably, Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scotty) takes up script-writing duties here and
depending on what you read, this was a monumental failure or an averagely
satisfying choice. There aren’t many corners where you’ll find critics shouting
about how great the writing was, however. Personally, I would lean towards the
latter and suggest that whilst it is far from awful, it rarely inspires. It is
not as funny as it might be and you do get the feeling that Pegg wanted
this to have the cool overtones of Guardians Of the Galaxy, with
whipsmart-crackling dialogue, Beastie Boys wailing over the battle scenes
notwithstanding. Oddly (says the bluff old cynic), Scotty ends up with a good
deal more screen time too. Again, whether you think that’s a good thing or not
depends on your particular brand of tea.


Karl
Urban is back too, still determined to sport his ridiculous American
accent as Bones, the often enflamed and frustrated Doctor, Chris Pine as
Kirk, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu and Quinto as Spock. Sadly,
every time he was on screen, we were reminded of the premature end Anton
Yelchin, who for the last time plays Chekhov. Both he and Leonard Nimoy are
remembered in the credits at the end of the picture, which may well bring a
lump to your throat.


And
really it’s ‘as you were’. The plot is thin, the setup brief and the action
huge, vast and glorious. One thing we can’t argue about is just how fantastic
this picture is for the eyes. Watch it in 3D and you may well find it a little
dark in places (which has been mentioned elsewhere, and I can confirm that
this is indeed the case). Pine still has enough swagger to pull off
the maverick captain (just about), Quinto and Saldana still genuinely smoulder
in each other’s company and the rest of the crew are on point and do their
duties well enough so as not cause frustration to Trekkies everywhere.


Some
may gripe about the extended amount of sway and influence offered to Pegg
(let’s be honest, the boy has done very well for himself from his days on
‘Spaced’), as he seems to have failed to steer the script to either popcorn
tomfoolery or scientific plausibility, choosing, we assume, to remain somewhere
in the middle. Star Trek fans are geeks, let’s not deny it, but they do like
their bangs and whistles. Here, the science-fiction is overlooked mostly and
the plot suffers for it by the end.


The
$185 million budget clearly went on the pretty and not on the ‘thinky’, as the
story is flimsy and the script enough on the wrong side of irreverent to make
me believe its shortcomings were accidental and not by design. This is far
from a flop, you understand, but the hardcore Trekkies (of which I am most
certainly not one) may have more trouble swallowing it than previously.
It’s a rip-roaring spectacle in the Gene Roddenberry universe, with characters
inspired by the great man himself, but these latest versions, as polished and
politically correct as they are, remain pale imitations of their original
inspirations. New additions Idris Elba as Badguy #1 and Sofia Boutella as Unpredictable
and unusually adept alien academy rookie-to-be do add to the mix with decent
performances, but really, what this seems to lack above everything else, is
soul. A fact you’ll be reminded of if you sit through the credits.


Nonetheless,
this is worth the entry fee for pure, candied, hedonistic mayhem.



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