Thursday, 21 July 2016

Star Trek Beyond

(M) ★★★

Director: Justin Lin.

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella.

BACK in 2009, JJ Abrams boldly took Star Trek where it hadn’t been in 30 years – the mainstream.

With one eye on the past and the other firmly on the franchise's future, he and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman crafted a Star Trek film that not only appeased the legions of Trekkies but also won new fans previously disinterested by the adventures of the USS Enterprise and its crew.

An equally lucrative sequel followed before Abrams jumped spaceship to reignite the hyperdrive of the Star Wars franchise, so for Star Trek reboot film #3 (which bears the rather drab subtitle Beyond), the captain’s chair is filled by Justin Lin, best known for directing four Fast & Furious films (including most of the good ones).

Beyond finds the Enterprise crew three years into their five-year mission exploring the furthest reaches of space. During a stopover at a massive space station, they agree to head into an uncharted nebula to find a missing spaceship and its crew –  a mission that will bring them into the path of the villainous Krall (Elba).

After the excellence of the first two reboot movies, Beyond is a step down. It feels more generically “Trekkie” than its predecessors and less remarkable – Beyond has an “adventure of the week” quality to it that it never manages to shake. While there were some intriguing ideas at play in its 2009 and 2013 predecessors, this one’s plot about answering a distress call and hunting for a MacGuffin weapon is nothing special.

The advantages of a big budget certainly help compensate for any plotting inadequacies. A crash-landing of the Enterprise (something that seems to happen in quite a few of these movies) gets the spectacular mega-bucks treatment, while a couple of space battles and a visit to a space station are CG spectacles Gene Roddenberry could only have dreamed about.

The by-numbers plotting aside, this is still reasonably enjoyable. The humour helps (the opening scene gives the movie an hilariously off-the-wall start), as does the fact the crew members are at home in their roles. Pine’s Kirk is no match for William Shatner’s, and ditto for Quinto’s Spock vs the late Leonard Nimoy (who gets a touching tribute in the film) but they do their jobs well, as do Cho, Saldana, the sadly departed Yelchin, and Pegg (who co-wrote the script). The real stars here are Urban, who continues to be a scene stealer as Bones McCoy, and newcomer Boutella as alien warrior Jaylah.

Elba’s Krall is a less-defined villain than the previous films’ Nero and Khan, but he is still a scary presence. The way he fits into proceedings, however, is one of the plot’s weaker points, so it’s to Elba’s credit that Krall is a memorable and threatening figure.

When it works, Beyond is great. The Beastie Boys’ classic track Sabotage, used so effectively in the 2009 reboot, gets another airing here, and it’s an endearingly dorky (and awesome) sequence that feels like a throwback to the original films (maybe Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and which momentarily lifts everything up a notch.

But predominantly this is so-so Star Trek that feels like a small episode of one of the series, enlarged for the big screen.

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