|UK Release Date||22nd July 2016|
|Starring||Jim 'n Spock n' Bones|
|Reviewed||16th July 2016|
The daily grind. The old nine to five. The ritual of getting up every day and having to go and do something to earn a living. We’re all stuck in it, or at least most of us are - not all of us can drop in and out of a salaried job whilst bashing out a noxious column on a Sunday for the Telegraph. But surely, if your job is something as interesting as exploring the depths of space, you would be foolish to complain? Well, maybe check in with Pinback, Lt. Doolittle, Boiler and Talby before you go making assumptions on that one. Space you see is big, largely empty and well, there’s just so much of it….
And so we catch up with our friends over on the USS Enterprise for the latest instalment of the now JJ Abrahms produced space saga - Star Trek Beyond. Handing over the directing helm to Fast & Furious director Justin Lin and the writing duties to Doug Jung and Scottie himself, Simon Pegg, we find Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) in somewhat of a mid mission funk.
Space, it would appear, is getting to be a bit of a slog. For a motorcycling flyboy who ‘...joined on a bet’, negotiating peace with miniature beasts in some far flung corner of space and otherwise seeing the same old faces around his gleaming starship is becoming a little old hat. Why is he really out there? What are they hoping to achieve? Why do we never see a cleaner in these spotless corridors? Kirk hits his birthday (or thereabouts, he doesn’t like to celebrate on the day) with some Scotch pilfered by ship’s medic Bones (Karl Urban) and a massive dose of existential career angst. He’s not the only one in bother. Spock and Uhura (Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana respectively) are having the kind of inter-species relationship troubles I guess you always get when one of you is an emotionally repressed weirdo (am I right or am I right ladies, eh, eh?) and, well, there isn’t really too much time to get into everyone’s issues here.
Fortunately for everyone, this deep space deep naval gazing doesn’t get too much time to fester, it’s not long before Kirk and co arrive at a space station stolen right out of Mass Effect and receive a distress call. Before you can say Tribble, Kirk has once again volunteered every single soul on his ship to fly off through an asteroid field (or some such) in order to rescue whoever it is that’s in bother. I’m not an expert on hyper-space travel but I can Google and I have a side query about the staffing of the ship. A Galaxy-class starship has a crew of around a 1,000, the majority of which are civilians. Which kind of makes sense for the on-going / five-year mission thing. But surely for a rescue mission, you would leave most of these at home?
Anyway, it’s not long before the ship is in deep space-doodoo and has been literally ripped apart by something nefarious. During a set-piece that must go on for a good twenty minutes and left me with absolutely no clue what the hell was going on, Kirk reluctantly issues the order to abandon ship and the civilians are rounded up by the bad guy and put into a camp, whilst the crew are scattered around a planet. Fortunately, this being a Movie Planet, the crew soon find each other and, along with a particularly angry space ninja that Scottie befriends, they are off to the Rescue. Huzzah!
I enjoyed large parts of Beyond, I really did, but it’s a messy old thing none the less. There seems to be an ongoing tug between the more traditional, chatty, cerebral, buddy sections of the movie and, well, the bits that Justin Lin dealt with. When we’re with the characters and they’re dealing with their wide variety of bromances (relationships with the girls get almost no breathing room) all is well. Once Lin gets hold of things, he pretty much just slings the camera out into the void amongst the debris and just lets it swing there. Which would be a lot more tolerable if the action sections weren’t so long. The ship destruction section goes on an interminable length and anchoring yourself in any one part of the ship so you can understand what’s going on is impossible.
The script is good fun and the series (both new and old) is dealt with as reverentially as you would expect from a geek (I think we’ve got past the idea that ‘geek’ is an insult now) like Pegg. At times it threatens to be genuinely touching and the team are generally all well served considering space has to be made for the seven regulars, the few semi-regulars and the new guys on both sides of the action. Likewise the movie’s over-arching theme of unity in the face of adversity is maintained nicely, contrasting well with Krall (Idriss Elba)’s lonely view of things (which in itself is odd considering his use of hive-like spacecraft).
Of the newcomers, Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a winner. Stranded on the planet and having escaped death at the cost of her father, her character is both strong and humorous without ever being hammy. Elba registers less well. Krall's motivations are left late to be revealed and under a ton of prosthetics, Elba’s usual onscreen magnetism is difficult to maintain.
With so many characters though, it’s inevitable that some of the existing crew make less of an impact than others. John Cho’s Sulu is becoming a capable pair of hands on the bridge and his gay relationship and fatherhood was dropped in nicely to be followed through later but he doesn’t have a huge amount to do. Likewise Anton Yelchin’s Chekov - difficult to watch without an overwhelming sadness that this is his final appearance - is sparky throughout but never really has much to do. That said, the pair do have a perfectly staged hold your breath moment towards the end - Lin isn't all bad news.
Spock and Uhura’s relationship seems only partly written (or perhaps trimmed in the editing) but Quinto’s relationship with Urban and Pine is as great as ever. The Spock / Bones pairing continues to be warmly funny (laugh out loud in parts) and the bromance between the pair and Kirk makes you feel like they have known each other for years. Scottie’s relationship with Jaylah is entertaining and wisely steers clear of anything resembling romance.
When Star Trek Beyond gets busy being a Star Trek movie, Pegg and Jung’s script flies with wonderful relationships, entertaining quips and a welcome old school feel. When Lin is whizzing his camera around in the darkness, his movie quickly becomes a chore. Having absolutely no idea who is hitting who / what or where they are or, frankly, what the hell just happened is not good direction. An entertaining summer movie then, that probably does just about the right amount to appease long-standing series fans and newcomers alike, I can’t help but feel though that in less Furious hands, this would have registered more thinking. And whoever’s idea it was to chuck that motorbike in, please, please, please stop.