Star Trek Beyond (Cinema Review)

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12A – 122mins – 2016 – 3D



With J.J. Abrams consumed with reawakening the Force, his role is reduced to that of producer on this third film in his action-led Trek reboot. Fast & the Furious franchise stalwart Justin Lin steps into the breach to assume the helm in this Into Darkness follow-up which sees Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the renowned crew of the USS Enterprise already almost three years into their five year mission in this alternative reality timeline.

It’s a bit of a jump given how this rejuvenated theatrical series could run and run, but with Star Trek 4 (or XIV if we’re counting Shatner and Stewart’s long-form adventures, too) already confirmed to include an element of time travel (Chris The Huntsman Hemsworth will return as Kirk’s deceased father from the 2009 kickstarter), who’s to say it still couldn’t? There’s no linear structural restraint in science fiction. And if nothing else the gap lends itself to a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek Captain’s log which references the “episodic” feel to life on ship.

With Simon “Scotty” Pegg and Doug Jung taking over screenwriting duties, Beyond could have been a wholly divergent affair, but despite a lessening of the lens flair and a noticeable darkening to some of the action shots, this is otherwise very in-tune with what came before: likeable, chucklesome, less strict with modern vernacular, and with swooping, swerving camerawork.

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Roused out of shore leave on the wondrous starbase Yorktown by a call for help from the sole survivor of an alien attack (Lydia Wilson), the Enterprise is swarmed by a contingent of deadly drone-like vessels led by the lizard-like warlord, Krall (Idris Elba), who is hellbent on retrieving an alien artefact in the Enterprise’s care.

With the iconic starship near destruction and descending towards an unsurvivable crashlanding on a hostile nearby planet, the crew are forced to evacuate in escape pods and then battle the elements – and Krall’s soldiers – in a bid to find a way off-world.

By separating the Starfleet’s top squad between those that escaped and those held captive by their foes, certain members who were dangerously close to being lost in the mix in 2013’s first sequel – such as Sulu (John Grandma Cho) and Chekov (the tragically late Anton Yelchin, honoured in the credits) – are able to stand out as individual heroes in their own strands. Scotty, meanwhile, more profuse than ever with his chirpy Scottish exclamations, is partnered with the instantly-endearing stranded scavenger Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who looks something like a female albino Darth Maul, fused with Rey’s charm.

While I could bemoan another case of the main villain transpiring not to be who we first believe (which so signified Into Darkness‘ entire campaign), this is another fun, pacey, action-packed joyride of a Star Trek movie; both respectful in its references to Gene Roddenberry’s 50 year legacy (Leonard Nimoy’s passing is both courteously handled and integral to the plot, while a photo very nearly garnered an audible cheer) yet braver than ever in pushing forward into new frontiers (new allies, new foes, new relationship for Sulu).

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Star Trek into Darkness (Blu-ray Review)

12 – 132mins – 2013
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzland, Damon Lindelof
Based on the series created by: Gene Roddenberry
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve


Before engaging hyperspace and departing for a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams returned to the other behemoth sci-fi franchise with “Star” in the title. No, not Stargate, you know… the one he successfully rebooted with 2009’s continuity-dodging reinvention of the USS Enterprise’s original crew.

And this terribly-titled follow-up (they were adverse to using a colon) is once again a bright, fun and action-packed adventure for the youthful Kirk (Pine), Spock (Quinto) and gang. A gorgeous looking popcorn film, then, but Gene Roddenberry’s expansive future-verse comes with a rich history and an enormous level of responsibility. It is in keeping up with this that Star Trek into Darkness falls short.

For a sequel perfectly primed to forge its own path in an alternative timeline, STID feels remarkably samey and all-too-often constricted by countless shoehorned fan-servicing references. Did Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy, RIP) need to return? Did the horrendously-redesigned Klingons need to make a cameo? It’s almost as if J.J. saw what worked well last time around and stalled on reinvention.

A number of scenes – particularly those involving rebel Kirk in bed with aliens, losing command of the Enterprise and receiving a pep-talk from father-figure Admiral Pike (Greenwood) in a bar – could easily have been lifted straight from the 2009 film, while the plot concerning Benedict Cumberbatch’s fugitive “John Harrison” is an unashamed rehash of the series’ most popular movie.

Cumberbatch is deliciously cold, ruthless and steely-eyed as the genetically-engineered superman raging a one-man war on Starfleet, but so much else feels contrived, overly-convenient and deliberate to the point it feels unnatural; you can almost hear the well-orchestrated cogs turning and the scrape of JJ’s pencil on his script ticking off a checklist of required plot points:

Find an excuse to get Scotty (Pegg) off the Enterprise? Tick. Find an excuse to put a Tribble in the medibay? Tick. Find an excuse to put Spock in peril so he can utter an iconic quote? Tick. Find an excuse to see Carole Marcus (Eve) in a bra? Tick.

That last point raises another bone of contention: the sexualisation and grittiness of this parallel universe – blood, violence, flesh and swearing – may be “modern” but just does not feel like classic Trek. When Shatner’s Kirk uttered “bastard” at his son’s killer in The Search for Spock (1984) it was so unexpected his hatred was palpable. Here, “shit” is flung around like it’s a prime directive!!

I may sound resoundingly negative, but Star Trek into Darkness isn’t a complete pile of —- (quite); the effects are superb, the dialogue punchy and the action bubbles along wonderfully to reach a dramatic – tragic – conclusion. But it doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings; a real problem with a fanbase as passionate and detail-savvy as Trekkies. Let’s just hope that Justin Lin injects fresh-blood in the director’s chair to put next year’s …Beyond back on course as the Enterprise finally embarks on its famous five year mission.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars