Star Trek Beyond,
directed by Justin Lin
(Paramount, 2016)

The Enterprise has been destroyed a few times now, but never, I think, quite as thoroughly as it's destroyed in an early scene of Star Trek Beyond.

The movie, which picks up three years into the young crew's five-year mission in deep space, begins with a much-needed bit of shore leave while the ship resupplies on Yorktown, a new Federation space station with crazy, beautiful geometric architecture. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are both questioning their place in Star Fleet, for very different reasons, when an alien arrives with a distress call for her crew, downed on an uncharted planet in the middle of a dangerous nebula (and, apparently, a concurrent asteroid field). Enterprise, of course, is the best ship for the job, so shore leave is curtailed and the crew is on the job.

Then, BOOM, crash, the ship meets its fate, leaving survivors among the crew to fend as best they can on a hostile world.

After the major stumble that was Into Darkness, the second film in the new franchise, Beyond can easily be called an unqualified success. It's exciting. It's fun. It's funny. It demonstrates the rapport among the ship's officers and crew so artfully built decades ago by the original cast.

And, with a brief but touching tribute to Spock No. 1 and the late Leonard Nimoy built into the script, the movie also manages to make one brief, heartfelt nod to that first generation of actors who so boldly went into the Star Trek universe.

The cast has settled nicely into their roles, with Karl Urban absolutely shining as Dr. McCoy. McCoy's interactions here with Spock are priceless -- and often provide some of the movie's best laughs.

John Cho as Sulu, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Simon Pegg as Scotty are all neatly fleshed out in this movie, and all of them have plenty of screen time. They might not be quite as committed to following in the original cast's footsteps as some of the others, but they're doing good things with their characters all the same. The same can be said for Anton Yelchin as Chekov, whose unfortunate real-life death precludes Chekov's presence in future films.

As for aliens, I was underwhelmed by Idris Elba's Krall -- nor did I find his motivations convincing -- but I liked Sofia Boutella's Jaylah quite a bit. I am curious, given the ending, if she will reappear in the next Trek.

As for the plot -- Beyond felt in many ways like an extended episode from the original series ... which, from what I've read about director Justin Lin, is exactly what he was shooting for. It's a little more action-packed and CGI-heavy than the old days, of course, but it should satisfy the modern need for constant stimulation while still providing for the more cerebral and, yes, liberal leanings of the Star Trek universe.

Word is that the cast has extended their contracts for a fourth film, even as some of the actors have said in interviews that they're ready to move on from the franchise. I hope the former is true, and I hope they keep these going a while longer. Short of actual time travel -- to bring a young Shatner, Nimoy, et al, back into the fold -- Trek fans can be happy that the mission continues with these folks at the helm.

review by
Tom Knapp

30 July 2016

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