The 13th Star Trek movie is the third reboot movie, and the first without its mastermind as director, J J Abrams, who has headed off to Star Wars. It is directed by action director Justin Lin, maker of three slick Fast & Furious movies, and bringing in that kind of expertise and style. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban continue their excellent, robust impersonations of Captain James T. Kirk, Commander Spock and Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy.
So it’s business much as usual at the USS Enterprise, which docks at a new space station while on a five-year mission exploring uncharted space. There a mysterious space woman claims her ship and crew are marooned on the remote planet of Altamid. The lads are shockingly gullible and easily tricked. Aren’t they supposed to be smart? So the Enterprise rushes off to the rescue, but is nearly destroyed, stranding the injured and split-up crew on the remote planet out of communication. Their mobiles have no signal on Altamid! Only kidding!
The crew encounter a new ruthless enemy – Krall (Idris Elba) – a man with a grudge who wants a piece of an ancient weapon that will somehow allow him to destroy the Federation. It is Kirk’s mission of course to vanquish Krall, meanwhile reuniting his crew and somehow getting back to Earth. Simple! Easy peasy! Krall sounds quite a lot like Krull, or even cruel, but there we are.
With 50 minutes of story spread over two hours, the plot plays like an old Star Trek episode, which is no doubt what the fans want. And we’re back to future with a retro movie, honouring the spirit and actuality of a pioneering 50-year-old TV show whose appeal back in the day was ironically entirely futuristic. With Quinto being told the news on the death of Admiral Spock, the film also serves as a sincere and sombre memorial to Leonard Nimoy, and is dedicated to him ‘in loving memory’ – and also, hastily, to Anton Yelchin, ‘for Anton’.
Appallingly, Anton Yelchin was killed on June 19 2016, aged 27, outside his LA home, struck by his Jeep Grand Cherokee. Abrams has said he won’t be replaced in the series.
The film starts with Urban congratulating Pine on his birthday, and Pine telling him to keep it quiet, because his birthday is giving him intimations of mortality. There’s a melancholy middle-aged air of sadness, people passing, and time passing, about Star Trek Beyond, an odd feeling of helplessness in the universe, in a series that is all about gung-ho sorting the universe out.
Yelchin has quite a lot to do this time as ship’s navigator Chekhov, forming a useful double act with Kirk in their sequences stranded together. Spock and Bones are partnered, giving Quinto and Urban a sparky double act. And then there is Simon Pegg,in a huge role as engineer Scotty, in which his comedy dithering competes with his rotten ‘Scots’ accent for awfulness.
Scotty encounters a new character, the alien warrior princess Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), so that’s the movie’s third double act during its middle section. Jaylah seems entirely generic as a feisty, fighting fit female, without any further embroidery, with, say, a character, but she’s welcome enough. In time, she may develop and fit in. She looks good though, in her white, stripey look.
But not only does Pegg appear, he also co-scripts with Doug Jung (who appears as Ben). This is too much! Pegg has not only increased the size of Scotty’s role in the movie, but also given himself and the other actors some immensely cheesy dialogue. Scotty needs to be taken down a Pegg or two. Why don’t they put a call out at the next Star Trek Convention for Trekkies to come up with a great script, or at least a great plot, for the next movie?
Also next time, let’s have far, far less huge-scale CGI. Let’s keep the images taut and credible, concentrate on the story in hand, closely locate the characters on their chosen landscape, keep it small and beautiful, adhere to the motto less is more, and maybe really go back to where things started with our stalwart heroes battling rubbery aliens on cramped cardboard sets.
However, I nearly forgot to say, I did enjoy Star Trek: Beyond, not as much as the last one Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), but quite a lot, plenty actually. It’s just a generic series episode, and ultimately unmemorable, but it’s slick, fast paced, exciting and very entertaining while it’s on screen.
Sadly, the Shatner-directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) is usually regarded as the worst in the series. He is now 85, and it is way overdue to get him into the reboot.
© Derek Winnert 2016 Movie Review
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