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Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Written by Scotty himself (Simon Pegg) and Doug Jung, Star Trek Beyond is the first of the revamped series not to be helmed by JJ Abrams. Fast & Furious director Justin Lin directs this time, and it’s fair to say the trailers for this were pretty rubbish, painting it to be nothing more than one elaborate action scene after another… or Fast & Furious in space (at least the poster campaign was superb). Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto et al reprise their roles, this time joined by Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba.

Following an attack on the ship, the majority of the story plays out with the Enterprises’ crew split up and divided from each other on the planet Altamid. I enjoyed this as it forced entertaining interactions between characters that we hadn’t seen in such prolonged close proximity. Where this works the best is with Spock and Karl Urban’s grizzly Bones. I always thought Urban had taken a back seat in the previous two instalments, making way for The Kirk & Spock Show but he steals this film. His glass half empty attitude and ever present expression of disgust are hilarious, and when he’s stuck on an unforgiving planet with the frank Spock for company the results are great fun. The two character’s bickering and underlying respect for each other works really well, and I enjoyed Bones coming out from the two star’s shadows.

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Unbeknownst to each other Kirk and Spock share the same inner crises, as they both question whether trawling through infinite space is actually what they want (or are meant) to be doing any more. More is made of this conflict for Kirk, although still not enough for me. It’s an interesting story but one that isn’t really brought up again after the first act until the very end as the film makes way for action set piece after action set piece. Therein lies the film’s greatest strength and weakness. When the action is good, it’s really good, but it leaves little room for the character or story to breath, and they’re left impatiently rushing through the bits in between as they try to explain why all this is happening. I found the multiple short cuts one after another really distracting a bit exhausting to watch, and the shaky cam used in the fight scenes leaves you asking who actually hit who. Maybe I’m thinking too much about this too, but how characters conveniently managed to bump in to each other in the middle of a planet was a bit daft. In the end, the reason why stuff’s happening becomes a bit of a side show and while we’re left with a great spectacle, it’s all a little shallow.

There are great nods to the late Leonard Nilmoy and Anton Yelchin (one for the latter right towards the end that was entirely unplanned, but heart breaking watching now). Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is brilliant and an absolute baddass (looking forward to more of that in The Mummy reboot next year), and I really like the “controversial” character development added for Sulu. Idris Alba’s villain is a frustrating one looking back though. For about 80% of the time he is in it, there is absolutely no reason given for why he’s doing what he is and he comes across like a simple “I just want to kill everyone okay?” villain that is just there because he has to be. Then suddenly with 15/20 minutes to go we found out his backstory and suddenly we have an interesting character on our hands. It’s way too late though, and potential parallels with other characters aren’t made enough of and I felt like they had missed a real opportunity to have a memorable villain.

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As ever, the visuals in this are superb. The attack on the Enterprise, and the introduction to Yorktown, the new Starbase is breath-taking. I’ve read some criticism of the sets, particularly on the planet Altamid and while I see what they mean this didn’t bother me. I’m no Trekkie, but if anything some of the sets looked straight out the original series and that could be a good or a bad thing I guess. The score for this film is as brilliant as the first two, and there’s a great “classical music” choice later on that encapsulated how fun this reboot franchise can be. Star Trek Beyond is a perfectly good popcorn action movie, with some great dialogue and laugh out loud jokes. It’s probably the weakest of the three reboots, so I’m still waiting for a sequel that even comes close to the first, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great ride.

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