Film Review – Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond

Convention dictates that at the very least I attempt to begin a review with a recap of the plot. How best to begin with Star Trek Beyond? Certainly there are the bare bones of a plot in here somewhere, but it’s so simultaneously garbled and threadbare that any time spent attempting to cover the narrative is not time well spent.

I’ll be brief. The crew of the USS Enterprise have in their possession a mysterious artefact which the maniacal alien named Krall (Idris Elba) covets. The crew is lured to a planet beyond the reach of communications, are ambushed and the artefact stolen. That is, as they say, it. Bordering on the high concept, Star Trek Beyond is so lacking in narrative depth, it begins to make Mad Max Fury Road seem convoluted and deep. Thankfully, it is enormously funny but, unlike George Miller’s surprise hit of last year, Star Trek Beyond is a visually exhausting affair that just about keeps its head above water on the strength of its numerous gags.

Co-helmed by Simon Pegg, a man with a pretty illustrious comedic track record, Star Trek Beyond is, mercifully, consistently funny throughout. Pegg and Doug Jung’s script romps and breezes along as the series begins to shift in tone somewhat following Into Darkness’s relentless solemnity. In terms of tenor, it’s closer to the fish out of water comedy of Voyage Home (albeit without some of the charm) but in terms of complexity it’s as thin and perfunctory as Search For Spock.

Justin Lin, stepping into some inarguably large shoes following the franchise-jumping of JJ Abrams, brings a juvenile, mangled visual style to the party. Running with the theme that there’s no relative up or down in space, Lin keeps his cameras in perpetual motion, swooshing through  action set-pieces that become increasingly disorientating and jumbled. Much of the drama is so confusingly shot, it becomes all but impossible to follow. A relatively early combat sequence in which the crew of the Enterprise abandons ship, looks and feels like a fire drill in a nightclub. The action here is in desperate need of some grounding.

Thank goodness then for the frolicking sense of abandon that runs through this ensuring that you’re never bored despite the mechanical storyline and psychotic visuals. Star Trek Beyond is a middling entry into a long and varied series of movies but at least it contradicts the popular theory that every odd numbered one is a disaster. Simon Pegg has put himself in the shop window for a funny follow-up, but he’ll need to back up his gags with something heftier and hope that someone nails down the camera.

[rating=3] | Chris Banks

Sci-fi, Adventure, action | USA, 2016 | 12A | Paramount Pictures | 22nd July 2016 (UK) | Dir. Justin Lin | Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Simon Pegg, Soufia Boutella

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