Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba
While on their five year mission to explore uncharted space, the crew of the S.S. Enterprise find themselves under attack from a mysterious enemy named Krall (Elba). After having to crash land on an unknown planet, Captain Kirk (Pine) and his crew find themselves separated and stranded, and must team up with a mysterious resident of the planet named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) to defeat Krall and stop him from acting out his deadly plan of destruction on the entirety of Star Fleet.
With three big superhero juggernauts releasing their latest instalments at the very beginning of the blockbuster season, anyone could be forgiven for forgetting that the latest instalment of the Star Trek franchise was also due for release. Let’s not forget that under the eyes of J.J. Abrams these have been two very good, and (more importantly to certain people) financially successful action blockbusters of recent times.
Well, though we have the same cast, it is all change on the other fronts with Abrams taking a backseat as producer (well, he does have another franchise set in space to focus on) and Justin Lin of Fast & Furious fame taking the captain’s seat as director while Simon Pegg has taken on key writing duties. I (and I am sure others) had a few reservations about Lin directing, but though I have no idea if he is a trekkie or not, his directing and camerawork are actually very good. The set design in particular is stunning, and Lin manages to capture this perfectly without having to resort to too many flashy or lazy techniques. Likewise Pegg, a huge Star Trek fan, has written a script that provides many superb individual moments of both great comedy and also engaging interaction between the film’s key characters.
However, for all of its great individual moments of visual splendour and both humorous and emotional character interaction, overall as a whole Star Trek Beyond does not manage to reach the high standards of its individual parts. This therefore makes it an often visually stunning, enjoyable and engaging blockbuster, but renders it overall rather forgettable and unsatisfying, with a real lack of genuine danger or peril throughout.
One of the interesting creative elements of Star Trek Beyond is to initially separate and pair off the key members of the Enterprise’s crew. This provides superb moments of interaction and character development that prove to be equally hilarious and engaging. In particular Spock and Bones. Of all the actors of the modern franchise, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban have most successfully nailed their characters, and every scene they share is a real treat; both actors delivering both genuine emotion and great comic timing in equal measure. Likewise Chris Pine’s Kirk and the late Anton Yelchin’s Chekov share some great moments together, as do Simon Pegg’s Scotty and newcomer Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah.
However, other characters do feel side-lined such as John Cho’s Sulu and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura who both have very little screen time and do feel like they solely exist at the narrative’s convenience. Meanwhile the main character to suffer from a lack of development is Idris Elba’s antagonist Krall; the attempts at giving him a backstory and a reason for being the film’s antagonist are very lame and lazy, and this is unfortunately one of the key reasons as to why Star Trek Beyond lacks the levels of engagement, danger and intensity of the first two films.
Director Justin Lin of course knows how to direct frantic action sequences, and the film’s individual action sequences are very well put together, but the lacklustre overall plot does take away any real sense of genuine danger or engagement from these scenes. There is no denying that Star Trek Beyond is both written and directed by people with obvious passion for the material, and this film’s individual moments are better than that of the previous two films, however this (and perhaps lack of guidance this time from Abrams who has proved himself to be a great manager) seems to have caused a lack of focus on the film’s overall narrative to produce a blockbuster that certainly entertains and deserves to be seen on the big screen, but is one of unrealised potential.
Star Trek Beyond has that rare quality in that it is a blockbuster made with genuine passion, but with this passion comes great individual moments, but a lack of overall focus to produce a film that if often visually stunning, genuinely engaging and laugh-out-loud hilarious, but overall unsatisfying.