As Yoda now famously once said, “judge me by my size, would you?” I was reminded more than once (and within the first couple of minutes) of the late, great Douglas Adams. In Hitchhikers Guide, he told at least a partial story of an alien race that received a signal from earth and immediately set about travelling to the unsuspecting planet to overthrow the human race and take it for themselves. It wasn’t until they got here that they realised their somewhat massive error of judgement.
Nevertheless, lots of little enemies are still, when properly organised, something of a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced here in the third JJ Abrams Star Trek adventure, this time directed by (Steve does a Spock eyebrow) Fast & Furious director Justin Lin.
Less the third part of a trilogy and more a standalone project, the crew are all back together on the Enterprise, at least for a while, before finding themselves separated and shipwrecked on a planet on the very edge of known space. The backstory is in place, so a potted history of the first two films of this reboot is beneficial, if not entirely necessary.
Most notably, Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scotty) takes up script-writing duties here and depending on what you read, this was a monumental failure or an averagely satisfying choice. There aren’t many corners where you’ll find critics shouting about how great the writing was, however. Personally, I would lean towards the latter and suggest that whilst it is far from awful, it rarely inspires. It is not as funny as it might be and you do get the feeling that Pegg wanted this to have the cool overtones of Guardians Of the Galaxy, with whipsmart-crackling dialogue, Beastie Boys wailing over the battle scenes notwithstanding. Oddly (says the bluff old cynic), Scotty ends up with a good deal more screen time too. Again, whether you think that’s a good thing or not depends on your particular brand of tea.
Karl Urban is back too, still determined to sport his ridiculous American accent as Bones, the often enflamed and frustrated Doctor, Chris Pine as Kirk, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu and Quinto as Spock. Sadly, every time he was on screen, we were reminded of the premature end Anton Yelchin, who for the last time plays Chekhov. Both he and Leonard Nimoy are remembered in the credits at the end of the picture, which may well bring a lump to your throat.
And really it’s ‘as you were’. The plot is thin, the setup brief and the action huge, vast and glorious. One thing we can’t argue about is just how fantastic this picture is for the eyes. Watch it in 3D and you may well find it a little dark in places (which has been mentioned elsewhere, and I can confirm that this is indeed the case). Pine still has enough swagger to pull off the maverick captain (just about), Quinto and Saldana still genuinely smoulder in each other’s company and the rest of the crew are on point and do their duties well enough so as not cause frustration to Trekkies everywhere.
Some may gripe about the extended amount of sway and influence offered to Pegg (let’s be honest, the boy has done very well for himself from his days on ‘Spaced’), as he seems to have failed to steer the script to either popcorn tomfoolery or scientific plausibility, choosing, we assume, to remain somewhere in the middle. Star Trek fans are geeks, let’s not deny it, but they do like their bangs and whistles. Here, the science-fiction is overlooked mostly and the plot suffers for it by the end.
The $185 million budget clearly went on the pretty and not on the ‘thinky’, as the story is flimsy and the script enough on the wrong side of irreverent to make me believe its shortcomings were accidental and not by design. This is far from a flop, you understand, but the hardcore Trekkies (of which I am most certainly not one) may have more trouble swallowing it than previously. It’s a rip-roaring spectacle in the Gene Roddenberry universe, with characters inspired by the great man himself, but these latest versions, as polished and politically correct as they are, remain pale imitations of their original inspirations. New additions Idris Elba as Badguy #1 and Sofia Boutella as Unpredictable and unusually adept alien academy rookie-to-be do add to the mix with decent performances, but really, what this seems to lack above everything else, is soul. A fact you’ll be reminded of if you sit through the credits.
Nonetheless, this is worth the entry fee for pure, candied, hedonistic mayhem.