Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Star Trek Beyond goes nowhere we haven't been before


Updating his captain's log early on in this third film of the Star Trek revival, James T Kirk ponders out loud if his life aboard the Enterprise is getting a little "episodic".

It seems he's worried there might be more to his existence than going boldly where no man has ever gone before.

Hold on, you're the captain of a friggin' spaceship. There really is no point worrying about a higher purpose. You're there.

But it's a sly warning about the movie to come.

Yes it is more episodic. It might be a big Star Trek movie but a fair bit of it feels like an instalment of the original old show when Kirk and co spent a lot of time firing their phasers from behind polystyrene rocks.

And no, Captain, while it's called "Beyond" there is no deeper meaning.

While JJ Abrams' spectacular first two Star Trek reboots built in big questions about life, the universe and everything - as well as recalibrating Trek mythology - this one lacks, well, gravity.

That's possibly to be expected given that its co-writer is Simon Pegg. His past scripts have tended towards fanboy-friendly near-parodies.

Though if you are a fan of his Scotty, you'll be happy to know he gets more screen-time here than in previous instalments. He also gets a space-babe sidekick named Jaylah.

And that's also to be expected given that Abrams has passed the baton to Justin Lin, whose main qualification at old school sci-fi is having put some cars into low orbit in the Fast & Furious franchise.

All of which might explain silly touches like songs by Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. Or having Chris Pine's Kirk, on a distant planet, doing X-games things on a motorcycle.

His stung riding is just one of Lin's incoherent action sequences - scenes where who's punching, phasering or proton-torpedoing whom gets lost in the visual noise.

Anton Yelchin and Chris Pine appear in a scene from Star Trek Beyond. Photo/AP
Anton Yelchin and Chris Pine appear in a scene from Star Trek Beyond. Photo/AP

The movie spends a fair amount of time on that rocky planet after the Enterprise heads there on a rescue mission. That leaves much of the crew kidnapped by Krall (an unrecognisable and under-utilised Idris Elba).

It's all part of his plans involving the Federation star base "Yorktown", basically the Death Star with better town planning and nicer shops.

But first he needs an ancient artefact to add to his cosmic weaponry. Or something. Couldn't work it out. Guardians of the Galaxy did this sort of nonsense better.

Unlike Benedict Cumberbatch's Kahn or Eric Bana's Nero in the previous instalments, Elba's Krall is memorable mainly for his make-up. Think biped Tuatara.

There are some historic complexities to him and his nefarious anti-Federation plans but it's all left a bit late to be revealed to really engage.

That said the Enterprise mainstays prove as watchable as ever. Pine's Kirk is, again, entertainingly Shatner-like; Quinto's Spock remains a treat and as Bones McCoy, our own Karl Urban gets plenty of action stuff to do in between his regular exclamations of "My God ..."

Yes, as you may have heard, Mr Sulu (Cho) is gay Dad and maybe it's a pity that a well-meant tribute to the original Sulu, George Takei, hasn't worked out that way.

And it's a pity too this will be the last we'll see of the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov.

Yes the original casting is holding up well, three movies in. But while it's patchily entertaining, Beyond has lost the emotional pull of its predecessors and its sci-fi smarts too.

It boldly goes nowhere we haven't been before.

Star Trek Beyond

Cast: Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba
Director: Justin Lin
Rating: M
Running time: 122 mins
Verdict: Beyond? Beyond caring, more like.

- NZ Herald

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