By George M. Thomas
Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine), center, Ensign Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Lt. Sulu
fight a mysterious alien in STAR TREK BEYOND.
Directed by Justin Lin, who helmed several of the FAST AND FURIOUS films, from a script by Simon Pegg (who also plays engineer Montgomery Scott) and Don Jung, it possesses its own charms that those who hold a blasé attitude about this iconic franchise that is currently celebrating year 50 will find attractive.
First of all it gushes with action, with few moments bogging it down and it deftly balances it with humor. It’s by far the most balanced Star Trek film since STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME in that every character is given something substantive to do.
With a cast that usually relied on three principal characters - Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), the Vulcan, Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) - this proves to be one of the more refreshing aspects of BEYOND. Because Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (the recently deceased Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Pegg) provide just as many enduring moments as the former three.
That fact shows up on screen in the chemistry that this version of the STAR TREK cast displays that lifts an occasionally pedestrian script.
However, TREK represents an altogether different animal in the realm of pop culture by inspiring scientists and rip-offs. Owning 50 years of history and stories – though some suffered from intra-series theft or recylcling – it’s survived in American pop culture that long for a reason.
It struck a nerve with its mix of intelligent science fiction blended sometimes with action, other times with Shakespearean drama and occasionally dabbling in overt silliness.
Many fans haven’t shied away from expressing their disdain of the alternate timeline that this version inhabits in the TREK universe, and that feeling certainly manifested itself in the reception for the second film in this series, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, which borrowed liberally from STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. Some argue that WRATH is the best TREK film of all.
They’re not going to find BEYOND wrapped up in science fiction. They will find a traditional space action/adventure. I suspect that's what Paramount Pictures wanted. To, in their view, move the franchise into friendlier territory for millennials as Capt. Kirk and his crew deal with being kidnapped by a mysterious alien named Krall (Idris Elba) and helped by Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).
There’s no shame in that. It’s reality. It’s cinematic evolution. By the same token, Lin and Pegg’s script cannot forget the audience and generations that brought Trek to where it is now.
The reality: there’s just enough of the nostalgia factor – references to Ambassador Spock – and other conventions of the original series and films to make this a reasonably satisfying entry. It’s as if the players behind the Star Trek films (Viacom controls the Star Trek TV series and any future ones produced) have decided that all audiences can jump aboard with what the franchise is now or be left behind.
Given the stakes, that is only logical for a franchise that is evolving for the times.
Movie: STAR TREK BEYOND
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Idris Elba, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin
Rated: PG-13 (sci-fi action sequences, violence)
Running time: 120 minutes
George’s rating: 3 out of 4 stars