Let's make one thing fundamentally clear before we begin - the 2016 summer movie season (the period between the start of May and the end of August) has been one to forget, and occasionally one to detest. Over the last few months, we've been subjected to forgettable mediocrity (Warcraft, The Secret Life Of Pets), abject disappointments (X-Men: Apocalypse, Gods Of Egypt) and downright bullshit (The Legend Of Tarzan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows). But they do say patience is a virtue, and with the release of Star Trek Beyond last weekend, we movie reviewers may finally have a film to praise. Here's 5 reasons why Beyond could be Summer 2016's warp-speed saviour.
5. A STORY WITH STAKES (Well...close enough)
Star Trek Beyond's plot isn't too dissimilar from the rest of the blockbusters around at the moment - villain seeking a weapon to destroy, a group of people having to stop them, etc. But watching the attempts of the Enterprise crew - its rebooted cast now in its third outing - to stop battle-born alien Krall from obtaining an ancient galactic weapon actually feels important. New franchise director Justin Lin ensures the audience remember just how far we've come with Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew, and those characters mean something. The destruction of the Enterprise by Krall's advanced weaponry, for instance, is not only a brilliant action scene but an emotional scene as well: when the detached saucer tombstones into the surface of Altamid, the remaining Enterprise crew scattered, its a blow that makes you want to see the payback. Some twists in Star Trek Beyond's plot are a little tricky to go with at first, and there's a couple of plot holes to be found, but the execution of the story is good, and Beyond is a really enjoyable watch.
4. SIMON PEGG & DOUG JUNG'S SCRIPT IS A PERFECT SUMMER SCREENPLAY
With J.J Abrams busy directing the franchise he preferred as a child, and the previous writing team of Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof busy working on other projects, the core team behind Beyond is new from the ground up, and the replacements brought in were...pretty eye-catching. Justin Lin had proved his action chops before on four Fast & Furious movies, but many doubted his ability to transition from the balls-to-the-wall style of Fast into the more cerebral, story-driven pace of Trek. But Simon Pegg's addition as screenwriter, while being left-field, is looking like a masterstroke already; a proven comedic writer on the brilliant Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, Pegg and partner Doug Jung not only NAIL the interplay and banter between the Enterprise crew (the writers decision to scatter the crew and give them their own stories, similar to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was a very nice move) but also understand Star Trek as social commentary, a 23rd Century portrayal of modern-day issues. There's an underlying theme of the importance of unity as Krall tries to divide the crew and incite war amongst the Federation. Sometimes it's a little unfocused, and a few story arcs don't quite go how you might want them to, but this is as solid as a summer blockbuster script as you'll find this year.
3. THE REBOOTED CAST HAVE NEVER FELT MORE AT HOME
The rebooted Star Trek movies have all been so solid that we're almost starting to take one of cinema's best ensembles for granted; after three movies, everybody feels right at home. Chris Pine's even got a new, Shatner-like haircut. On the subject of Pine - or 'The Chris That Time Forgot' when you stack him up against the Marvel Chris-trinity of Hemsworth, Evans and Pratt - he continues to radiate star quality like a plant radiates light, or Morgan Freeman radiates 'I am only here for the money'. While Pine has the Shatner brashness held down, Zachary Quinto continues to be a perfectly cast Spock, his portrayal of the character brought ever more into the spotlight by Leonard Nimoy's tragic passing last year: Beyond gives Nimoy a subtle, effective tribute. Quinto balances superbly the logical and calculating Vulcan brain of Spock with an emotional undertone more present than in Nimoy's portrayal. The rest of the ensemble have all become assured in their roles, and there isn't a weak link to be found. Beyond's new additions are also solid - Sofia Boutella, best known for being one of the most badass things ever seen on a cinema screen in Kingsman: The Secret Service, is a very strong female alien that recalls Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, and Idris Elba doesn't get much screen time without heavy prosthetics, but fulfils the 'dangerous, intimidating villain' job effectively, but is probably the weakest villain of the three reboot films.
2. IT'S THE BEST LOOKING FILM OF THE SUMMER SO FAR
Cinematography - the mysterious and confusing art of actually nailing the 'look' of a movie. While many assume that it's the job of the director to decide shots, its more of a collaborative effort between the cinematographer, who suggests and plans them, and a director who gives them constant feedback. In this case, Justin Lin made the utterly stupendous decision to work with Tomorrowland and Life Of Pi's Claudio Miranda (meaning the Star Trek Beyond clapperboards will have said Lin-Miranda, which I assume means something to all musical theatre enthusiasts). Miranda's absolutely beautiful shots, especially of Federation starbase, Yorktown, make this not only the best looking Star Trek movie yet, but the best looking of the summer. Claudio is probably a Top 3 cinematographer in the world right now, and everything he shoots make space look like an 18th Century landscape painting. Let's not forget Lin either, who brings in that all-out action style he honed on four Fast & Furious movies of increasing scale and decreasing logic, but only brings it in when useful. Lin captures the tone of Star Trek really well, maybe even better than Abrams did, and Beyond feels like an extended episode of the TV series in a good way.
1. THE MUSIC IS FREAKING AWESOME
Star Trek Beyond's composer is Michael Giacchino. End of discussion. Giacchino can fall asleep in an orchestra pit and conduct an Oscar-nomination level score, let alone when he tries. And despite his truly staggering body of work, Up (one of the best scores ever written) being amongst that CV, I still believe that his Star Trek music is his crowning glory. Once again, Giacchino's themes for the franchise swell like a balloon with helium, lifting the audience immediately. But this isn't just a love-letter to Michael Giacchino (as much as I'd happily write him one) - the use of music throughout is really fantastic. You may remember in the first, quite criticised trailer for Star Trek Beyond, that 'Sabotage' by Beastie Boys was scoring the whole thing, and of course was used in the car-stealing sequence in the 2009 Star Trek film. Well it's back, and you won't believe how; it treads the line so tightly between total euphoric triumph and totally ludicrous implausibility, but it works anyhow.
The whole of Star Trek sometimes walks that tightrope, trying to be a convincing and investing franchise despite its far-future promises of a United Federation of Planets, interstellar travel several times faster-than-light seeming pretty damn utopian considering the world's situation right now. But Star Trek Beyond is one hell of an escape, a solid summer movie in the best sense, full of action and humour, a decently strong plot and decent characters all over it. And although it's not a perfect movie - its not even the best of the reboot movies in my opinion - its a movie which we have desperately needed to save this summer.
Let me know what you thought of Star Trek Beyond! Has it saved your summer? If you've already seen it, sound off in the comments below. If you want to read my full review of Star Trek Beyond, or just want to know my thoughts on movies, then check out my blog - This Week In Movies.