I’d hate to take control of a franchise that has been running for decades. Yes, you might have the latest great idea to be creative with it, but you’ll be faced with millions of fans who are scared of change and want it to be like the first time they fell in love with the franchise. It’s why you have a James Bond civil war between the people who want the cool and suaveness of the Sean Connery era and the over-the-top zaniness and fun that was the Roger Moore era. And with Star Trek being 50 years old, there’s plenty of attention on Star Trek Beyond.
The USS Enterprise is continuing its mission to explore the deepest parts of space but Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, Rise of the Guardians) is starting to grow bored of simply plodding forward. However he won’t get much time to mull over that as he is sent on a rescue mission which ends up being an ambush led by Krall (Idris Elba, Prometheus) who has a grudge against the Federation.
So instead of trying to be a great big world ending saga like the previous two films, this film focuses on a simple plot which actually feels like it’s an episode from the original series. Its basically a plot where the Enterprise crew get dragged down to an unknown planet and must find a way to fix their ship, escape and defeat the villain of the week. And I appreciate that as its something not many series do. Every blockbuster feels the need to risk the entire world to make us care but sometimes by pairing down the story and making it more intimate, you can make us care far more. Deadpool had a lot of success doing this at the start of the year and so do this film. Ok, there is a bit of mass destruction at the conclusion, but for most of the film it’s fairly simple.
And as usual, the cast are very strong in their roles. I do wish that Chris Pine would stop trying to do any sort of impersonation of William Shatner as he is prone to do in the quieter scenes as that’s akin to impersonating Tommy Wiseau in a romantic thriller, but he’s still fun in the action scenes. Zachary Quinto (Margin Call) is pitch perfect as Spock and it’s also nice to see Karl Urban (Dredd) get to do a bit more as Bones as to be quite frank I actually forgot he was in these films and to make Urban forgettable should be a crime.
And yeah, the look of this film is great. It’s nice to see that the director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) has elected to use real sets for the planet as it is way too easy to make it all CGI and making it all real makes it feel more tangible, more real. It’s easier to care to plastic and plywood than it is for polygons, that’s what I’m saying. And because every film must now be inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy in some way, there’s a lot more colour in this from the sets to the characters. The design of Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, Kingsman: The Secret Service) is testament to that, looking alien while still being human for us to empathise with her plight.
However the issue with this film is that while there are a lot of good parts, they never really come together to make anything particularly remarkable. Yeah, the action and look of the film is certainly good, but nothing about it really jumps out and keeps you gripped to the screen, mainly as we’ve seen it before. Yes the Enterprise gets destroyed but that’s been done so much it wouldn’t feel like a Star Trek film if it didn’t get blown up. It’s the same for the performances too because while they are good, which is why I’ve praised them earlier in this review, none of them really stand out as extraordinary. We’ve seen them all do it before whether it Quinto’s Spockiness or even Simon Pegg’s (Shaun of the Dead) fun take of Scottie. Nothing about this film screams amazing, it all mutters this is pretty good I suppose.
And that does go for the villain Krall as well. There’s effort that goes into him for sure, he has a good backstory which shows you why he is doing what he’s doing, which comes far too late in the film for it matter but it is there, and I do like the prosthetics which make him out to be a different sort of threat. And yes, Elba puts in a good performance but considering he’s been in every other film this year, I don’t think this one is particularly great compared to some of the other stuff he’s done. He has little presence on screen and while those prosthetics look cool, I fear Elba may have been limited acting wise by it.
Star Trek Beyond isn’t bad, far from it. The film has a lot of fun moments and it certainly has the parts to be a success. And I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that devout Star Trek fans get more out of it than I did because I’m sure there’s plenty of little easter eggs to make them happy such as the opening scene, which seemed silly to me but is actually an homage to an original series episode. But while there’s a lot of good in the film, it’s not able to put it together to give us the truly great Star Trek film we all want.