Stagnation serves as a crucial part of Star Trek Beyond, the third feature in the rebooted Star Trek universe. It is not just the characters and their battle against stagnation, but the filmmakers too, who enlist Simon Pegg’s writing talents and the work of Fast and Furious franchise stalwart, Justin Lin, in the director’s chair. Not the worst of pairings, but the cracks are beginning to show. The strain takes hold. Let it ride. Star Trek Beyond is clutching at straws as soon as it begins without any real sense of who the villain is, how they’re going to patch over tragic omissions and where the story is going to take a group of characters that are now a little too comfortable for one another.
Comfort is one great aspect when used correctly. To have characters three films in and not feel stale just yet is an achievement Pegg and company continue with, but the shakeup of clientele behind the camera makes for some stuttering moments throughout. Nowhere in Star Trek Beyond is the convincing moral duty of the fleet, or the dynamic shift that often happens between Spock (Quinto) and Kirk (Pine). Sadly, that is the real draw for the first two features and is often the glue that holds it together. Firing these characters off into space and, for most of it, away from one another, throws a spanner in the works of an otherwise competent and consistent series that never pushed for more. Its acceptance of solid blockbuster entertainment is reassuring, but even Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness managed to take these characters somewhere.
Where, then? Pegg draws the short straw and must come up with something convincing, and fast. Much of Star Trek Beyond feels like poor reiterations of the first two, but without the benefit of a vaguely interesting villain. Idris Elba and his intentions are horrendously poor and ill-established, but at least he has the draw of being a relatively interesting performer. He does not bring much to this feature, primarily because he is sidelined as the Enterprise crew split up and look for clues. A villainous nothing, never built up as something to fear or be surprised at when Elba inevitably shows up with some shoddy effects splattered on his face. The lack of build-up to his character is the major fault that steers Star Trek Beyond away from being anything more than a glossy sci-fi feature that cannot build on its already established characters.
Beyond what, then? What does Star Trek Beyond do better than the predecessors in this series? Very, very little. It knows that its use of colour was always a strong draw, but without J.J. Abrams at the helm, the third instalment is a surprisingly soulless one. Despite all the great performances within, they are isolated and lonely beasts that never control their story arcs. Shuffling through with more indifference than anything else, Pegg tries to capture the spirit of the television show but forgets that those episodes were half the time of a feature film, and even then, had more story to show.