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New Release Review - STAR TREK BEYOND

The crew of the Enterprise is forced to abandon ship following an ambush by a hostile alien race.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Justin Lin

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Sofia Boutella



For the most part, Star Trek Beyond is a character drama. This should be a good thing, but the characters here simply aren't engaging. If ShatnerNimoy et al were the weathered marionettes you found at the bottom of a wardrobe in your grandparents' house, Pine, Quinto and co. are action figures fresh off the shelf and still in their packaging.





The summer of 2016 has become synonymous with sequels, reboots and sequels to reboots. We've already had X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through the Looking GlassTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, The Conjuring 2, Independence Day: Resurgence, Now You See Me 2, The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters and Ice Age: Collision Course. In its history, has Hollywood enjoyed a less original summer? We've certainly rarely been offered such a crop of outright stinkers. Surely the Star Trek franchise can offer something worthwhile, some brains for our blockbuster bucks?

Unfortunately not. This is Star Trek, 21st century style, allergic to taking risks and exploring anything approaching a theme. This is Fast & Furious in space, slam bang, no thank you man. Of course, the Trek films never reached the cerebral heights of the various TV incarnations, but even at their cheesiest they were at least 'about something'. Star Trek Beyond is so vacuous it makes The Voyage Home play like Solaris.


The script for this one was cobbled together at the last minute following the departure of writer Roberto Orci, and it shows. The plot is almost non-existent, and the movie features a villain whose motivations seem to have been swiped from Ed Harris's angry General from The Rock.

Answering a call for aid, the Enterprise finds itself ambushed by an alien race led by a being named Krall (Idris Elba, wasted under make-up playing a generic baddy, just like Oscar Isaac in this summer's X-Men sequel). This leads to - once again - the destruction of the Enterprise, and the various crew members jumping ship, crash-landing on Krall's planet.

As a result, the crew is split four ways. Scotty (Simon Pegg) lands on his own, but teams up with a tough female alien (Sofia Boutella) who rescues him from a gang of troglodyte thugs. Bones (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are thrown together, as are Kirk (Chris Pine) and Chekhov (the late Anton Yelchin). Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) are captured by Krall, because the former is a woman, and thus needs to be rescued by her boyfriend, Spock, and the latter is, well, Sulu.


JJ Abrams' previous two installments of the rebooted franchise never quite felt like Star Trek, and we later found Star Wars was a better fit for his approach, but Justin Lin's version feels like nothing more than very expensive Trek fan fiction. We never really believe any of these characters are who we're told they are; they're simply archetypes with names we recognise - the handsome one, the southern one, the alien one, the female one, the Russian one, the Scottish one and the Asian one (now also the gay one).

Splitting them into small units highlights the lack of chemistry between these characters, and how strangely undeveloped they feel in comparison to the earlier Abrams' directed movies. The dialogue is laboured, as if the screenwriters (Pegg and Doug Jung) expelled all their energy on thinking "what would Kirk/Scotty/Spock etc say in this situation?" rather than writing characters that speak like actual people, be they of the human or alien variety. The worst example of this is Bones, whose dialogue is little more than a supercut of catchphrases.

For the most part, Star Trek Beyond is a character drama. This should be a good thing. This is what we want from a Trek movie, but the characters here simply aren't engaging. If Shatner, Nimoy et al were the weathered marionettes you found at the bottom of a wardrobe in your grandparents' house, Pine, Quinto and co. are action figures fresh off the shelf and still in their packaging.


When it's not a character drama, Star Trek Beyond delivers the sort of overblown, headache inducing action set-pieces we've become accustomed to, and numbed by. With flashing lights and manic cuts, the space battles create the illusion of being assaulted by a possessed Christmas tree. The big climax is scored to a Beastie Boys tune, played loud, presumably to mask the sound of Gene Roddenberry turning in his grave.

Star Trek returns to its natural home, TV, next year, and no doubt it will be more comfortable in the living room than the multiplex. TV can take the risks Hollywood no longer is willing to, and doesn't hold its audience in the same intellectual contempt. Star Trek is about 'boldly going', but if summer 2016 is any indication, Hollywood is going nowhere fast.



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