“Star Trek” has turned fifty, shortly after I did the same, so I hope you can forgive the difficulty I had avoiding getting all warm and fuzzy about it. I grew up with the original series (reruns, of course–I wasn’t watching at the age of one!), and I’ve seen ALL 13 films, a good half of them in the theater. This was my first 3D experience though! I’ve grown accustomed to the rebirth of the gimmick–I even own a 3D television. Some of the movies have been quite good, and others–not so hot. In fact, you can search here, and find that I didn’t enjoy 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness” much at all. It had too much Indiana Jones-like hijinks, while the human element felt forced. But the emotional interplay between Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock was nice this time. “Star Trek Beyond” hits most of the notes just right. I hope the modest box office of this installment doesn’t prevent another chapter. I want more.
Past the halfway point through the “five-year mission” of the starship Enterprise, Captain James Tiberius Kirk (Mr. Pine, totally grown into the role) is seeking out a promotion and a transfer. He recommends his friend, and first officer, Spock (Mr. Quinto…excellent) as his replacement. But after the Enterprise is sent out on a special rescue mission, it is attacked by a swarm of small ships–and fatally crippled. Captain Kirk orders the ship be abandoned, as it hurtles towards a nearby planet, and so a number of his crew becomes stranded there. Some are held hostage by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba!), while others team up with the scavenging female warrior Jaylah (a smashing Sofia Boutella). Bottom line: Krall wants to obtain a powerful relic, Kirk is in possession of it, and a battle will ensue to keep the device away from malevolent hands.
There have been six “Star Trek” television series, including an animated one from the 1970’s, and a seventh one is on the way. “Star Trek Beyond” is the 3rd film in the current reboot cycle of the feature franchise, and, in all honesty, it does feel a bit creaky on occasion. That’s to be expected (I guess), though it’s certainly not fatal. Hey, there’s still plenty of action and special effects–and they’ve even worked some motorcycle stunts! There’s much respect and tribute given to the late Leonard Nimoy, who appeared in the last two installments as Spock Prime. And the recently deceased Anton Yelchin is given some wonderful moments as the young Pavel Chekov–he will be missed. Justin Lin’s direction is strong. Simon Pegg returns as Montgomery Scott, plus he co-wrote the script. Karl Urban is sharp and hilarious as ‘Bones’ McCoy. Zoe Saldana is the perfect Uhura. And John Cho as Sulu is given a character reveal that can only be interpreted as a tip-of-the-hat to the legendary George Takei. Listen, for a blockbuster that flaunts the word ‘beyond’, there’s really nothing much new here. But it’s as comfortable as a pair of well-worn slippers. And that’s a good thing, right?