“Star Trek Beyond”
2 hours, 2 minutes
I think a lot of people out there are getting superhero fatigue, or franchise fatigue, or are simply tired of having to keep up with a million extended universes. Not me. I like all that stuff.
No, what I’m fed up with is high-stakes plotlines. In nearly every big budget fantasy film, the fate of the world is at stake. To quote Mr. Incredible, “No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know …”
That’s how I feel. “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “The Avengers,” “Batman v Superman,” it’s all the same. Millions of lives hang in the balance and only a few plucky individuals stand in the way of total armageddon. It’s getting old. I think that’s why I was so bored in the last “Independence Day” — it’s all the same, been there, done that. I can’t wait for them to make a “Batman” movie where our hero is solving a case and stopping a criminal. And that’s all. Sure, there’ll be personal stakes, but not necessarily global ones.
This week’s entry into the ever expanding “Star Trek” family of programming, “Beyond” comes very close to eliminating this problem and I appreciate the effort.
Three years into their five-year mission to explore new worlds and find new lifeforms, Captain James T. Kirk is in a major rut. The trip, to this point, has been exciting, but Kirk wants to do more. He wants to effect positive change, and doesn’t see galloping around in a starship as the way to do that. So, the first chance he gets Kirk puts in for a promotion to vice-admiral, a position that would necessitate his leaving the Enterprise and taking up residence on a massive space station out in a far quadrant of the galaxy.
Spock, similarly, is at a crossroads. His mentor, Spock Prime (played by Leonard Nimoy, whose Spock character traveled into this parallel universe via a rip in the space-time … you know what? Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter.) has died and our Spock is thinking of leaving the fleet in order to be an ambassador. This is kind of par for the “Star Trek” course — everyone’s all set to go their separate ways when, uh oh!, a threat arises to bring them all back together.
In this case, it’s a distress call in an unexplored nebula that will bring Kirk and crew face to face with one of the most dangerous foes they’ve ever encountered.
Importantly, this foe (Idris Elba in heavy alien make-up) is a threat to the Enterprise, not all of creation. Krall (Elba) leads a swarm of converted mining ships that, together, act as a wave of destruction. The bad guys are slavers, searching for a lost artifact that will, in the wrong hands, spell doom for all the planets of the Federation, which I know pretty much spoils my entire thesis.
For most of the movie, however, “Beyond” feels more like an episode of the original show, self-contained and personal. A new character is introduced — Jayla, formidable and beautiful, played by Sofia Boutella, who wowed everyone last year as Samuel L. Jackson’s legless bodyguard in “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”
All of the regulars bring their A-game. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, as Kirk and Spock, respectively, are note perfect, and the rest of the team is given more to do. This is a remarkable group of actors. Zoe Saldana, as Uhura, is great, as are Karl Urban as Bones and John Cho as Sulu. Simon Pegg, excellent as Scotty, is also credited as screenwriter of the film, so much of the credit for the tone and evenness of the film can go to him.
There’s a bit of a pall over the production following the tragic death of Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov. Yelchin, who was killed in bizarre car accident, will not be replaced in subsequent “Trek” movies, but will rather be retired, much as was done with Paul Walker’s character in the latest “Fast & Furious” movie.
“Star Trek Beyond” is a lot of fun, a welcome change from the dour tone set in the last “Trek” film, “Into Darkness.” It is also not burdened with continuous call-backs to the original series. It’s as though the cast and crew are finally comfortable with their place in the “Trek” canon and don’t have to justify their existence.
Director Justin Lin, who cut his teeth on the aforementioned “Fast & Furious” series, brings a welcome note of action and humor to the production. When it comes to big fun summer movies, the season has been pretty spotty. There’ve been plenty of disappointments, but “Beyond” is a surprise in the other direction. The trailers for this film looked a little tired and I wasn’t expecting a lot out of the film. It helps that I didn’t have to watch it in 3D, a format that almost ruined “Ghostbusters” for me.
I hope “Star Trek Beyond” is a return to classic “Trek,” self-contained, personal stories that hint at a grander, stranger universe. That’s what makes these movies different from a typical action film. Let’s hope the people in charge realize that, too.
“Star Trek Beyond” is rated PG-13 for mild language and space action.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.