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Dan's Review: "Star Trek Beyond" is great summer action

Jul 22, 2016 12:54PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella and Anton Yelchin in Star Trek Beyond- © 2016 Paramount Pictures.

Star Trek Beyond (Paramount)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim, Lydia Wilson, Deep Roy, Harpreet Sandhu, Melissa Roxburgh, Anita Brown, Doug Jung, Danny Pudi, Kim Kold, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ashley Edner, Jason Matthew Smith, Bryce Soderberg, Shea Whigham.

Directed by Justin Lin.

Written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, based on the television series Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:

Okay, NOW we have a summer movie. After several lackluster summer film offerings, both in box office and critical response, we now have a certified action movie that might gain a little footing. Star Trek Beyond is the third film in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted franchise that began in 2009 (he turned over the director’s chair to Justin Lin in order to throw his main resources into the Star Wars reboot, while keeping his producer status). Abrams has bucked a few trends in his reimagining of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi opus: new realities, altered time/space continuum, and insertion of 21st Century cultural norms into a universe created in the 1960s. Will Star Trek Beyond save the summer?

The regular cast is back, including Chris Pine as Captain James Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the film) as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. The new baddie is the ridged-faced Krall (Idris Elba), who attacks the Enterprise near an uncharted planet and captures most of the ship’s crew, using a swarm of killer fighter ships. He’s after a part of an old doomsday weapon that Kirk is hiding, which he intends to use for universal domination and destruction. After Kirk, Chekov, Bones, Spock and Scotty escape Krall’s forces, they discover and ally in Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), an alien whose been stranded on the planet after Krall attacked her ship and killed off her family. Jaylah’s hideout is the U.S.S. Franklin, an old Federation ship that crash-landed hundreds of years before, mostly intact. When the free Enterprise leaders finally pool together, they plan an attack on Krall’s base, where he is holding the rest of the crew (including Uhura) hostage, Krall is able to stay alive by sucking the live energy out of the captives. The plan also includes resurrecting the Franklin and flying back to Yorktown, a deep-space Federation space-city where millions reside. They hope to thwart Krall’s attack with his new doomsday weapon (he found hidden on an Enterprise crewmember) by their wits and a lot of luck.

Star Trek Beyond is a very good sci-fi action thriller. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it’s quite clear that the rebooted franchise is beginning to suffer from a bit of fatigue. Case in point, Kirk’s main struggle is overcoming the boredom and bureaucracy of space exploration, while Spock is still torn between duty to his crewmates/friends and his Vulcan heritage. It’s not exactly the universe-shaping mission we got in the other films. Another small gripe I have with Beyond is what seems like an alteration of character traits you’d come to expect from the crew of the Enterprise. For instance, the skirt-chasing Kirk is now all business (that wouldn’t be PC); Spock is given to more than the occasional display of real human emotion (we got rage in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, we get more tears this time). There’s also the revelation that Sulu is gay. Now, before you stamp Yours Truly with a homophobe scarlet letter, let me explain that this nitpicking has nothing to do with depicting diverse sexuality in films (which is fine), and more to do with straying from Roddenberry’s original blueprint (the original Sulu, George Takei – who is gay - agrees with me on this). In other words, it seems that Abrams, Pegg & Co. are trying a little too hard to make the Star Trek cinematic universe culturally acceptable by modern norms, rather than sticking with great character chemistry and awe-inspiring tales of space exploration at its roots. Again, the PC alteration isn't a deal-breaker in my decades-long love of Star Trek; it's just a little distracting is all.

A decent villain coupled with plenty of action and humor tend to gloss over such sundry Trek quibbles, not to mention an interesting new character in Jaylah.

I really enjoyed Star Trek Beyond as summer escapist fare, but I don’t think it adds a lot to the overall Star Trek universe.

Sad note: Star Trek Beyond is the first Trek film made since the passing of Leonard Nimoy, and the last appearance of Anton Yelchin as Chekov, who was killed last month in bizarre auto incident. Both actors are given due respects in the end credits.


Star Trek Beyond Trailer

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