Star Trek Beyond – Review

I often wonder if Hollywood isn’t deliberately trying to ruin things for me. First it was all the live-action Disney reboots. Then I discover that Dredd isn’t getting a sequel, whilst Pacific Rim is but without Charlie Hunnam. And now it appears even JJ Abrams reimagined Star Trek can’t stay unsullied, because the crafty bugger has jumped ship, leaving the poor old Enterprise at the mercy of Justin Lin, the man behind the Call Of Duty of all movie franchises Fast And Furious. OK granted he also worked on True Detective, but that won’t earn him a pass, especially after this project.

The change in the creative team behind this film is palpable, and unfortunately this comes across in a few very distracting ways. The first of which, petty though this niggle may be, is in the lighting. What with many scenes taking place underground as the Enterprise’s crew are held hostage, or being set at nighttime, in a cave or a powered-down starship, the use of darkness is actually incredibly distracting and makes it quite difficult to decipher what’s happening in the scene. It’s a pity that the title Star Trek Into Darkness has already been used, because it would’ve been very appropriate in this instance. I know we gave Abrams an earful about his use of lens flares but this is the other extreme. Combine this with the frankly nauseating levels of shakey-cam used throughout many of the action scenes, and one ends up straining very hard to see what on earth is actually going on.

Another glaring creative difference is the writing. Messrs Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci have left the franchise along with Abrams, and left the task of scriptwriting in part to Simon Pegg, a self-confessed geek who sadly is a little to enamoured with the subject matter. The previous charm and razor-sharp wit of the the reboot franchise has been scaled back massively and replaced with half baked moments of philosophical sincerity and impenetrable ‘treknobabble’. This is particularly noticeable with Karl Urban’s portrayal of Bones who previously provided more comic relief than Scotty (the one played by a COMIC actor). As a result of Pegg’s penmanship, the good doctor comes across as hammy and much of his banter seems forced, although the scenes between he and Spock still manage to render the odd chuckle, due in part to the incredible dryness of both Urban and Zachary Quinto’s characters.

Star Trek Beyond has become yet another victim of over-exposure and hype. The casting of Idris Elba as the main villain is a complete waste of talent because, much like Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises, we have no clue that it’s him until the very end of the film, whereupon the villain’s motives are finally revealed. This plot element does hold up well, in keeping with the dynamic villains of the previous two films, but it’s too little too late and one wonders why it was kept so far until the end when it did very little to serve the plot. The controversial decision to make Mr Sulu a homosexual is entirely without note, as the revelation is entirely token, has no impact on the character or plot whatsoever, and was clearly just another exercise in studio box-ticking.

It saddens me that this film has tainted the reputation of the new series, as there was considerable promise. The action was exciting enough to hold my attention throughout, the characters were still highly engaging, and it acts as a suitable homage to the late Anton Yelchin by having his character receive a little more focus than usual. But sadly, the previous creative spark has disappeared with Abrams on this one, and while Lin has done his best to make this film his own, his vision simply does not do the new series justice. Perhaps these are the musing of a disappointed fan, but unfortunately the cons do outweigh the pros heavily, and as such Star Trek Beyond is not a film I’d recommend seeing more than once.

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