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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Review

Good But Not Quite Out of This World

In 2009, long before J. J. Abrams took on the venerable "Star Wars" franchise, he rebooted "Star Trek" in a surprisingly successful way. How often are reboots so fun? He directed the sequel, "Star Trek Into Darkness," but now has passed the reigns onto Justin Lin, who maintains the success of its predecessors with"Star Trek Beyond," the third entry into the new series (albeit with some caveats).

Chris Pine returns as Captain James. T. Kirk, and Zachary Quinto reprises his role as Commander Spock. Both actors have always seemed comfortable taking on the iconic roles, beloved by so many. This time around Kirk seems wearier than before. Commanding the Enterprise appears to have taken a toll on him. He ruminates over years gone by and ponders what lies ahead. Quinto continues to be stoic as Spock. Like any two people who have worked together for so long, Kirk and Spock bicker but have a mutual respect for one another. They share thoughts about possibly leaving the Enterprise, but not with each other as boht are concerned about how the other would react.

Any of their musings on the future are quickly ut to rest once the Enterprise comes under attack. Once the evil Krall (Idris Elba, threatening even under loads of prosthetics) and his crew board the ship, Kirk, Spock and their entire team become fully aware that they are massively outgunned and outnumbered. The crew is forced to flee the Enterprise and roam a harsh, unwelcoming planet.

Despite all of the subplots and different character squabbles (the script gets a bit busy at times), "Star Trek Beyond" is about good guy versus bad guy - and that's okay. So many of the disappointing (and some plain awful) blockbusters we have seen this summer have been so turgid and heavy-ended that a simple tale of good guys against the bad guys will do.    


Taking over from Abrams (who stayed on as producer) is a daunting task but Lin - who breathed new life into the "Fast and Furious" franchise - is able to handle the picture on his own. His action scenes are exciting and glossy but he struggles with the in-between scenes. "Star Trek Beyond" feels much more episodic and choppy than before - Kirk even uses the term "episodic" to describe his extended time in space, in a sly wink to the original series. Lin struggles to find an even pacing, which tends to be a bit jarring at times. When he's on, Lin is great but your attention may waver at various moments.

Now on their third film together, the cast is the most comfortable aspect of the film. Karl Urban returns as Doctor Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the film) as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Everyone has individual moments to shine and play off another member of the cast.

"Star Trek Beyond" is a soft success, but a success nonetheless. What has always been refreshing about this franchise is how inclusive they are. This is not an alienating, for-fans-only reboot of the original series. They provide enough action and humor to welcome audiences who don't know much about "Star Trek" lore, but there are also enough references and homages to the source material to keep die-hard fans entertained. My knowledge of Trek lore is fairly basic but deep enough to suspect that "Star Trek Beyond" is likely to be enjoyable to most, cherished by many, and disappointing to few. Bring on Star Trek IV?

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