IT IS TO THE credit of writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman and director J.J. Abrams that I enjoyed the first instalment of the new Star Trek franchise despite finding the original television series about as thrilling to watch as a loading screen. It is to their further credit that I found the second instalment, Into Darkness––rated by Trekkies as the their least favourite Star Trek film ever, incidentally––to be a solid follow-up (thanks in large part to Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Khan) if not exactly thrilling. The third, however, Star Trek: Beyond, fails to go––well––beyond anything. Rather, new director Justin Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung seek out safety in the familiar, and the result is big-budget blandness.
Star Trek: Beyond, fails to go––well––beyond anything. Rather, new director Justin Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung seek out safety in the familiar, and the result is big-budget blandness.
The best action of the film comes in the first half-hour, when the U.S.S. Enterprise, which has been sent on a “straightforward” (uh-oh) rescue mission to a stony faraway planet, is torn apart by a swarm of spiked ships at the direction of the reptilian Krall (Idris Elba), a villain who, in typical Star Trek fashion, just happens to look exactly like a human but for a few added appendages and to have a good grasp of conversational English. The destruction of the Enterprise is a visually dazzling event, let down, perhaps, only by the failure of the franchise to establish the Enterprise as anything more than a very large prop, and so to give the scene any emotional weight. And it’s all downhill from there, as they say. Like their predecessors, Pegg and Jung have vanishingly little to say about the Enterprise’s cowboy captain James Kirk (Chris Pine), who, at the film’s inception, is considering handing over the reigns and taking a high-level desk job, or, for that matter, anyone else in his motley crew. (You do wonder, incidentally, how Kirk, who the franchise has established as being not quite the brightest star in the universe, would handle a desk job.) The effects, which include a gyrospherical space station in the style of the eponymous Elysium, are certainly impressive, but its all par for the course.
It seems slightly unbelievable that an actor, having been promoted to writer, might promptly give himself a greater role and all the best lines, but it appears that is exactly what Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, has gone and done. The stranding of the U.S.S. Enterprise crew on the planet Altamid permits Scotty and his peculiar little alien colleague to leave the basement of the ship for once and roam the planet with Beyond’s plucky new alien heroine, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), occupying screen time that might have been issued better, relatively speaking, to Spock (Zachary Quinto), or Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), which would also save the audience from its subjection to a string of gags which, unless you believe there to be something inherently amusing about a Scottish accent, aren’t funny enough even to force a smile. And the less said about the banter between Spock and Bones, the better. (A (serious) question: Is anyone remotely entertained by Spock’s logical deadpan?) It’s a crying shame that Pegg could not think up a better script, not least because he is most of the time a comic writer of the very first rate: Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are comfortably among the funniest British films of the last ten years, and I dare anyone to disagree.
It’s a crying shame that Pegg could not think up a better script, not least because he is most of the time a comic writer of the very first rate.
If the objective of the Star Trek film reboot was to make the series appealing to agnostics such as myself, then Beyond must be seen as an abject failure, because it’s hard to imagine anyone other than die-hard Trekkies finding much to rave about with this tedious film. Star Trek: Beyond is, to put it plainly, poor stuff, and instantly forgettable. “Things have started to feel episodic,” muses Kirk in the captain’s log. You bet.