If there were ever an argument to be made that studio execs and film-makers really do listen to what cinema audiences want, Star Trek Beyond would be a great piece of supporting evidence. The follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ divisive Star Trek Into Darkness – a film I massively enjoyed, in spite of it being labelled by fans as the worst instalment in the franchise to date – this latest adventure distances itself from the darker tones of its predecessor in favour of emphasising the fun of the original series.
From the moment the film opens with Captain James T. Kirk coming under attack from an alien species who may not be quite as big and tough as they appear, the tone feels lighter. This carries through as we’re re-introduced to the familiar cast of characters in a way which we’ve never quite seen them before; in a state of boredom as the monotony of space travel begins to take its toll after three-years. As Kirk puts it himself, “Things are starting to feel a little…episodic”, a line which perfectly sums up the feel of this adventure which does indeed play out as an extended episode of Gene Roddenberry’s original series – only with much better visual effects and a soundtrack which features, amongst others, the Beastie Boys.
The narrative is simple: the Enterprise is shot down over uncharted territory and must face a villain named Krall; an evil alien who wants to use a weapon to bring down the federation. The simplicity and brevity of the story is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst there’s lots of fun to be had throughout ‘Beyond’, the fact that the screenplay from Simon Pegg and Doug Jung seems content in going from action sequence to action sequence means there’s very little emotional engagement to cling onto.
There’s no denying that the action is handled confidently by Fast and Furious director, Justin Lin, even if some of them do get lost amongst the Transformers-esque metal-on-metal sequences. That said, other than the film’s climatic, explosion-filled battle which sees the Enterprise crew take on a swarm of enemy ships, there isn’t a set-piece which stands out as particularly memorable when compared to those from the previous two films.
Best described as adequate, the actions sequences are considerably overshadowed by the film’s characters, which is something that Pegg and Jung get absolutely right. The fact that the crew are stranded on an unknown planet and separated from each other makes for some entertaining viewing. When the story is focused on the various combinations of odd-couple pairings – Spock and Bones are a joy together – it allows for some wonderful moments of genuine comedy which are made all the more enjoyable due to the obvious chemistry of the cast. It’s a shame then that when the characters do find each other – and a lot sooner than I had hoped they would – the film does fall back into what feels like the same old routine of lasers, fist-fights and general destruction. And whereas I can’t say I was bored by any of those things, I can’t say that I was left completely satisfied either.
In the end, your enjoyment of ‘Beyond’ will all come down to how you like your Star Trek. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, any fans of the franchise should be pleased by this light, colourful and action-packed instalment. However, as somewhat of a “Trek-outsider”, I couldn’t help but miss the creative narrative flourishes of the last two films that I enjoyed so much. The biggest thing I’ll take away from this is the tremendous sadness surrounding the deaths of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin to whom the film is dedicated to. Everything else is, unfortunately, instantly forgettable.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com