Star Trek Beyond is both enjoyable and entertaining but a lack of depth really holds it back from reaching the heights of the previous installments.
After receiving a distress call, the crew of the USS Enterprise go to investigate the nearest nebula in an attempted rescue mission. Upon arrival, the Enterprise is attacked where the crew is subsequently split up and stranded on a lone planet. Clearly caught in a trap, it’s up to Kirk to bring the team back together and take down the newest threat to the universe.
On the surface, Beyond does manage to blend in nicely with the franchise. From the intentional screen flare in the opening sequence, you can tell Justin Lin has tried his hardest to emulate the quality of his predecessor (and boss!). Somewhat surprisingly, the film itself (for the most part at least) looks pretty decent, with only a few minor sections suffering from the cheap effects that plague the Fast and Furious films. Although that may seem like a swipe at Lin’s previous directorial attempts, it was a worry that definitely stood out when it was announced he was to take the reins.
Aesthetics aside however, a lack of experience with complex characters and a basic plot structure stop this entry from reaching the heights of the previous entries. With some of the most beloved characters in TV history, JJ Abrams was always one of the better people to take on the franchise from the beginning. A writer by trade, his skills have transferred effortlessly to the big screen on more than one occasion. Justin Lin however, does not have this experience….he has the Fast and the Furious franchise behind him – a franchise that has as much character development as a bowl of cereal. Although what happens on the screen is watchable, the main issue is that the characters aren’t handled well enough to make you empathise with them and we end up with something lacking the same tone that the others have built up so well.
This lack of depth is then exacerbated further with a rather uneven plot. As mentioned before, the central story, while a little basic, will keep you in your chair for the two hour running time – its unfortunately the subplots that leave you wishing for a little more. With no real character development (on both the good and bad sides), pacing becomes an issue as the subplots don’t really add as much as you would like. The result is that we end up with a more ‘stand alone’ story that barely scratches the surface that the others have done so naturally.
No matter what happens with the story however, the cast is definitely the reason people go and watch this film. The crew of the USS Enterprise are just as good as they have ever been with each member picking up nicely from where they left off. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto lead the ensemble perfectly while the others do an excellent job as ever. Although not nearly as engaging as Khan, Idris Elba does a good job as Krall – the main antagonist and helps round off an incredibly good line up.
Overall, Lin’s contribution to the franchise is ok but the incredibly high level of expectation proves to be a little too high for the relatively niche director to reach. Although entertaining to watch, a lack of character development and weak subplots reduce engagement, putting a lot of pressure on the central story arc. Thankfully the cast keep this one well and truly in orbit. 3 out of 5.