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.
An already established universe behind it, Star Trek Into Darkness should have an easy run of worldbuilding exercises that can help further expand this J.J. Abrams science-fiction vision. No such luck. Meandering along without much to prove and even less to show for itself, Star Trek Into Darkness is an uncomfortably predictable piece with quite a strange change in pace and tone. Bumping out some of the more established characters and gambling on the introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch as a nostalgia-pop villain, surrounded by the fairly well-established new heroes adorned in roles of a bleak and whimsical past. There is room to grow into them for these characters, and thankfully, Star Trek Into Darkness does offer that in spotty moments of discourse.
Even with those thick, glossy atmosphere choices, the work of J.J. Abrams on Star Trek is far better than first expected. Having no love for the series that spawned it all certainly helps when engaging with what is, essentially, a remastering of the characters and varied stories at the heart of this installation. A reference here or there will go over the heads of newly approached novices to the Star Trek universe, but as long as the bulk of it is understandable, the threats obvious and the chemistry between the ensemble successful, then Star Trek will have no trouble appealing to a new generation. A desire to engage with that is quite difficult, but easily optimised by smart writing that rattles through the quick and successful portions of the Gene Roddenberry show.
Ensemble adaptations and interpretations of great American crises seem rather humdrum at this stage. The Big Short, The Wolf of Wall Street and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps are just the tip of this slightly larger-than-expected iceberg. Margin Call does not wish to tread on any toes, despite releasing some years before two of those three aforementioned projects. With a gap in the market, it is rather ironic that a film where characters must take risks has a director who takes very few himself. J.C. Chandor must have been a tad starstruck, brushing shoulders with the big shots of this generation. Who can blame him? It is not often directors get a dream cast. But here, it turns into something of a disaster for Chandor.