Space: the final frontier. An infinite vacuum of darkness wherein a film series can come out strong and full of promise but then eventually devolves into a by-the-numbers affair that repeatedly follows the same plotlines apparently forever and ever while its custodians keep busy on other IPs like Star Wars. Thus is Star Trek Beyond.
When we rejoin the crew of the Starship Enterprise in the midst of their 5-year mission to, uh, study … space stuff, tensions are high. James T Kirk (Chris Pine and his hairless chest) is listless, and his stalwart crew is feelin’ it, too. Crazy things have happened to these people, much of which we’ve seen before, but it would seem the previous insanity they’ve faced wasn’t enough to stave off space-boredom.
This is why, when the captain of an attacked ship appears alone in the Federation’s newest and most absurd space station and begs for help in retrieving her ship and crew, Kirk, Spock (a painfully boring Zachary Quinto of American Horror Story), Sulu (the always charismatic John Cho of Harold & Kumar, who is given a pointless two-second “he’s gay, how novel” backstory that even pissed off the original Sulu, George Takei), Bones (Judge Dredd’s Karl Urban), Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin), Scotty (Simon Pegg, who also boasts a writing credit for this outing) and the rest of the gang jump at the chance to lend a hand. But of course the whole deal isn’t as it seems, and the Enterprise crew winds up stranded on some distant planet thanks to Krall (Idris Elba), a mysterious space-jerk who leads a species that utilizes swarm-like military space-tactics and who wants something the Enterprise has onboard. There’s also a shipwrecked alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) hanging around who loves Public Enemy, cracks wise at every turn and uses space-gadgets to space-fight everyone. Krall is pretty furious for mysterious space-reasons, and he circumvents the aging process by space-vampiring the redshirts.
And it’s weak. The promised peril never feels urgent, and it isn’t even that we can blame the actors for bad performances—the writing is just boring; hackneyed, even. This is odd considering Simon Pegg’s usual caliber of work, but the infinite Star Trek loop of “crew gets in over their head/crew gets separated from ship/crew perseveres while doing whatever it takes to get things done” goes so beyond formulaic (maybe that’s the Beyond to which they were referring) that it’s borderline irritating. No new ground is tread whatsoever to the point that it’s hard to tell if Beyond is even actually different from 2013’s Into Darkness, only this time we don’t have Benedict Cumberbatch’s wild and wooly magnetism to even things out. As villains go, Elba ranks among the flattest, and his ultimate motive is so thin and tiresome that they could’ve easily chosen just about anything else for better results. Thus, the film feels lazy. Plot points are telegraphed so obviously, interactions feel forced and tiresome and, worst of all, audiences are underestimated. This particular reboot series certainly has promise and deserves credit for its alternate timeline subtext. That said, the filmmakers behind the series have done better before, and it sure would be nice if they’d try a little harder next time.
Star Trek Beyond
Directed by Justin Lin
With Pine, Quinto, Cho, Pegg and Elba
Violet Crown, Regal, DeVargas