The third movie in a series is becoming the most difficult to get right. Most franchises have a desire to go darker for a sequel and then having put their heroes through hell, come into the light for a third installment. Star Trek is no different but in bringing the characters back into a more fun, colourful and less-serious adventure, some of the depth and character development which made the first two movies so successful has been lost.
There is nothing wrong with focusing on fun and Star Trek’s rebooted universe has been doing that well since it’s return in 2009. It is a movie series which has it’s tongue firmly in-cheek and this leads to some very funny moments in the movie, a great use of Beastie Boys “Sabotage” and some of the better interactions between characters we have seen in the trilogy so far.
Writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung come up with some interesting character journeys for the original crew. Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s Bones offer some great humour in their adventure, as do Chris Pine’s Kirk and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, arguably getting the brunt of the action sequences in the second act too. Even Zoe Saldana and John Cho, as Uhura and Sulu respectively, get some story, although it lacks the necessary depth as their characters often do.
In fact, the whole plot lacks depth. You can boil it down to villain hates Starfleet, villain wants to destroy Starfleet and Kirk and crew must stop him. It doesn’t equate to much more and because of this, it is difficult to care about what is happening to the characters. Some attempts at emotional heft are attempted, particularly between Spock and Uhura but this feels as under-developed as the rest of the plot-points.
This is made even more infuriating because the villain could have been one of the best of the series yet. The casting of Idris Elba alone should make the movie’s protagonist a stand-out but this villain has an interesting backstory, some actual depth which could be explored and eventually explained, making his actions relevant and realistic. Instead, a quick scene in the third act, beyond the point of the audience caring, is all Elba’s principle baddie gets.
Not everyone watches Star Trek for the deep plot though. The film series is about action too and luckily this is where Beyond delivers. The first, devastating attack on The Enterprise is a spectacle, even if this kind of scene has been done by the franchise many times before. The same for the “rescue” on the planet the crew are stranded on. Kirk on a motorbike, while newcomer Sofia Boutella battles a henchman is staged well with a good pay-off for it’s conclusion. Even the finale is one of the better of the rebooted series, offering a fight in anti-gravity and some actual, thrilling stakes.
Beyond is an example of how much depth in both characters and story matters though. As good as the action sequences are, without any investment in their outcome, they lose the magic. Compare this to the same devices used in the 2009 reboot and it’s sequel into Darkness and you can see the glaring differences and why this movie doesn’t quite measure up.
Overall, Star Trek Beyond is a fun, exciting and explosive third entry but swaps depth for humour and lightheartedness. It pales in comparison to it’s two predecessors, which is a shame considering the clever story devices it tries to use, a great potential villain and a cast of crew the audience are heavily invested in.
Rating – 3.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)