By Saul Blackwell
This is the third movie in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, after the incredibly successful Star Trek (2009) and the not so successful Star Trek Into Darkness. More importantly this is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Yes, back in 1966 William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley headed into deep space to tackle issues such as sexism, racism, the Cold War and, of course, make-out with as many scantily clad green women as they could. While the original series only lasted three years, it spawned 13 movies, four more TV series and a new series starts in 2017.
So there’s a lot of weight sitting on the shoulders of this movie. It has to solidify where the franchise is headed, while recognising the past and appealing to fans of both the original and rebooted series. It’s a big ask. A great comparison is Skyfall in the James Bond franchise. It was the 50th anniversary film, third in the rebooted series after the wonderful Casino Royale and the sucky Quantum of Solace. Skyfall did a fantastic job of bringing action, tying in the past and setting a direction for the future. It’s not a perfect film but it made existing fans happy and brought in new fans.
Star Trek Beyond fails in these goals, hard. Not because it’s terrible, not even bad, it’s just meh. Slow opening where the main crew contemplate their navels, meh. Bad guy making vague threats but not actually doing anything, meh. Everyone standing around explaining the plot, meh. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some amazing fight scenes, big action, things blowing up everywhere, but they all feel flat. Mainly because the stakes aren’t set up until the very end of the film. Idris Elba is great, love his work, but when he spends an hour and a half telling everyone he’s going to do something evil, well, shit or get off the pot. If there had been a demonstration of these evil powers in the first 15 minutes, I would have known what I was supposed to be afraid of. Waiting until 20 minutes from the end of the film is too little too late.
It’s not fault of the casts, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are as good as ever, Karl Urban embraces the role of McCoy, but the script just isn’t there. Which is especially disappointing since Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty, co-wrote the film. He’s a lifelong fan of Star Trek as well as the star/co-writer of films such as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. The expectation was that that he would help add humour and also more of a traditional Star Trek feel to the films. While Scotty definity got a bigger part and funnier lines, the script seems confused, unsure of what it’s trying to convey, or where it’s going. Though there might be a lot of blame to go round, after the original cut was finished Paramount head honchos insisted on major changes leading to months of reshoots, so it’s impossible to know what the film was suppose to be.
Justin Lin, the director, may not be a good choice either. His main body of work is with the Fast & Furious franchise, the influence of which appeared on screen as weird mechanophilic shots of the Enterprise, which came out of nowhere and pushed you out of the film.
Overall it’s a shame this film isn’t better, there’s a memorial to the late Leonard Nimoy and this is the last film by Anton Yelchin who passed in an accident soon after filming was complete.
Sadly, a generation of people lost Charlie Bartlett.
One last note, Star Trek Beyond. Beyond what? Infinity? Maybe they will do better for the 60th anniversary, this one’s for fans only.