Continuation of the voyages of the USS Enterprise, by way of a prequel reboot, has yielded an interesting new arc in the science fiction franchise that Gene Roddenberry created in the 1960s. With J J Abrams at the helm, the revival has impressively bridged the gap between the old and the new, with the first film – 2009’s Star Trek – in particular doing a terrific job in re-establishing the beloved franchise. For the third chapter in the reboot series, Abrams has vacated the director’s chair and passed the baton to Justin Lin. The result is Star Trek Beyond, an instalment that boldly goes where Star Trek has gone before but still managed to be quite entertaining.
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Led by Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine), the crew of the Enterprise are three years into their five-year exploratory mission when they are assigned the task of rescuing a ship stranded on a planet in uncharted space. But the rescue turns into an ambush as the Enterprise comes under attack by the evil Krall (Idris Elba) and his forces, which are after an ominous alien artefact. With no option but to abandon their ship, the crew finds themselves separated and stranded on the foreign planet. They must then regroup, figure out how to defeat Krall and find a way to get off the planet.
There is a certain degree of predictability that is inescapable in franchises such as Star Trek, so the viewer is never in any doubt about which side will eventually emerge victorious. But the action-packed execution of the film still makes the journey exciting. The movie’s minutiae may not stand up to scrutiny, but the special effects, as always, are impressive, and there are action sequences (some of which evoke Lin’s Fast & Furious style) that are interestingly conceived and well shot.
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The film does, however, seem more reliant on action than character development. Krall, for instance, doesn’t exactly make the most fascinating or menacing villain; the writers don’t do a very convincing job with his back-story and don’t convey his motivations with the necessary believability and impact. The supporting characters, on the other hand, just run around frantically while exchanging witty banter. The movie does spend some time helping us connect with its leads though. The struggle Kirk feels in finding continued meaning in the mission brings depth to his character. But ultimately, it’s Spock (Zachary Quinto) who gets the most poignant storyline, with a touching farewell to the late Leonard Nimoy weaved into the tale.
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The movie’s style harks back to the old Star Trek television series as it pays homage to its origins. While the basic plotline feels familiar and the script isn’t as sharp as one would have hoped, there is enough wit and thrill to make Star Trek Beyond an entertaining ride. Yes, it doesn’t quite match the inventiveness and exuberance of the 2009 film that started the revival, but if you’ve enjoyed the reboot series so far, then you are very likely to enjoy this one too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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