The third outing in this hit-and-miss reboot is notable for having been penned by one of its stars – England’s own Simon Pegg. His fingerprints are present throughout, as Dr Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) traverse a script full of pop-cultural references and obvious reverence for all things Trek.
We meet them in a visually stunning opening sequence, before the Enterprise takes off for a far-flung planet and is ambushed by the much-heralded villain Krall (Idris Elba).
Pegg had promised a more reflective, self-critical Star Trek, examining the colonial baggage of the Federation, a liberal-interventionist force tracing the boundaries of space to ‘keep the peace’. This new perspective is not much in evidence here.
Krall is given an ostensive reason for wanting vengeance against the Federation, but he comes across as a tinpot intergalactic fascist, endowed with a lazy backstory and tiresome viciousness. I’ve often thought that geek-culture movies live or die on the strength of their villains, and on this barometer, Star Trek fails.
Elba only emerges from the stifling CGI in the last half hour, and is woefully underserved by Pegg’s prosaic dialogue. He writes in a contrived vernacular rehashed from his own cultural touchstones – cheesy action movies, schlocky 80’s sci fi – and the result feels laboured and dated.
The real draw is the glacial calm and aphoristic logic of Quinto’s Spock, particularly his self-analysis of his troubled relationship with Lieutenant Uhuru (Zoe Saldana). There's also poignancy in watching Anton Yelchin, now sadly deceased, bound about the Enterprise.
But rather than a series-defining self-examination, this is Star Trek by numbers, rarely rising above the ordinary nor sinking below the watchable.