Film review: Star Trek Beyond - a formulaic but fun blockbuster
Star Trek Beyond is one of those films that might not go down in history as the highlight of the franchise's long and wonderful career, but boy, is it one hell of a ride. And with a $185 million budget, you'd better hope so.
And full disclosure right from the get-go: I am at a disadvantage while this review. I saw the 2D version, not the grand made-for-3D film that has been encouraged so triumphantly amongst cinemas and distributors. Even so, my partner and I sat down in a relatively packed movie theatre on Saturday night, icecream at the ready, fingers splayed out in a Vulcan salute. There were no visibly dressed up Trekkies attending the show (I guess that was reserved for the premiere), but from the audience reactions afterwards, it seemed like everyone had fun.
If you saw Star Trek Into Darkness, where Khan was the main villain and introduced many Benedict Cumberbatch fanboys and girls into the club, you may remember that the 2013 version of the USS Enterprise sure looked lovely. The 2016 version looks fantastic too.
Trekkies will either love it or hate it. There are plenty of little things to poke holes in, though fans of the original 1960s TV series will appreciate how far the franchise has come visually, especially when you think back to the cheesy ways the actors threw themselves around during turbulence or battle...
The same core team from Into Darkness is back, so whatever your opinions on the modernised cast you might (or might not) find fitting for the roles, prepare for more. Justin Lin, the film's director, has a fair few fast-paced flicks under his belt, including four of the Fast & The Furious series and the announced director of the upcoming Space Jam 2. With Star Trek Beyond, Lin has another substantially decent notch on his film belt.
Simon Pegg not only co-wrote the film alongside Doug Jung, but also brings comedic value to one of his most favourite roles as Scotty. We see Anton Yelchin's final roles as Chekov, following his death last month. The rest of the modernised crew reprise their roles, while Sofia Boutella plays Jaylah, the new renegade addition in this film out to save her ship.
In Star Trek Beyond, we finally get to see the starbase and thriving metropolis Yorketown, which vaguely reminded me of Neil Blomkamp's Elysium, but with way more spaceships. In a fleeting moment of happiness, we get to see the Enterprise crew reunite with their families.
And in a touching (but fleeting) nod to the late, great Leonard Nimoy, we see young Spock express something very like sorrow as he's notified of Commander Spock's death. Kirk is thinking of retiring too, and despite the rumours, there's no inkling of Sulu's sexuality.
But before Spock or Kirk can think about what career decisions to make, enter a strange, unidentified ship approaching the sanctuary's walls. A call for help and the Enterprise crew is off to save another species from the wrath of an evil fiend.
The big villain this time is Krall, played by Idris Elba. Krall is a mutated monster with vengeance on his mind. Using millions of ships as 'bees', Krall first instructs them to commit an all-out assault on the ship. And those were the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. The heartbreaking destruction was phenomenally done and one of the most magical moments of the film.
What happens after that? I won't give too many more spoilers, but we get a glimpse of the USS Franklin and some quite lame 'scared crowd running away from attack' scenes, in-jokes and motorcycles. And I'm sure there was a lot of other content left on the cutting room floor.
While the plot seems a little formulaic and typical of most blockbusters these days out to capitalise on big money rather than appeasing the core fans, the film weaves humour and great special effects that might look better (or worse) on a 3D screen. The 2D screen let the imagery down a little as it was slightly grainy, dark and not always hi-def.
There was no doubt it was originally developed for a 3D screen. On that point, I can't say whether a 3D screening is worthwhile, but I don't think a 2D theatre viewing is worth it unless you want to make a solid night out and need something fun to watch. I'll keep an open mind what paths future films (if any) take, but I'm not entirely sure hardcore fans will want this blockbuster series to "live long and prosper".