Star Trek Beyond

star-trek-beyondStar Trek Beyond (2016), Rated “PG-13”
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella
Directed by Justin Lin
Review by David L. Felts
Rating: threestars

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I finally got around to seeing Star Trek Beyond. I enjoy seeing movies in the theater, but I’m not the sort to rush right out opening week. Even if I do go soon after release, I go early on a Saturday or Sunday and still get to enjoy a less-than-full theater. STB has been out a while now, and the Saturday 10:30 am showing I attended ended up hosting 13 people, including myself. Nice.

But you probably couldn’t care less about my theater going habits, so let’s move on to my review: meh.

It was all right. Enjoyable in an extended television episode sort of way. It’s a straight-through adventure ride without much pause for breath, with some decent humor tossed in for good measure. I liked how this film gave the secondary characters more screen time and opportunity to be involved in the story. But maybe the original series and the 80s movies with the original cast are too ingrained in my DNA for me to fully accept this new incarnation.

As the film opens, we find Kirk waffling about his commitment to the Federation (Kirk waffling on anything?). Seems captaining a starship isn’t as much fun as he expected. Spock, too, is having his own crises, what with being one of the few remaining Vulcans after the destruction of his planet in the first film. But they’ll have to put their plans on hold when an escape pod shows up while they’re docked with the star base Yorktown. Kirk and the Enterprise soon find themselves headed into uncharted territory on a rescue mission, which, of course, turns out to be something much more.

Despite a host of supporting players, Star Trek’s main characters have always been Kirk, Spock and Bones. While others have their roles, they’ll regulated to supporting cast and getting only the occasional spotlight. In STB, it’s nice to see some of them get a chance to do something that directly affects the action.

As I mentioned above, the story is a straight forward action tale. Lin, unlike Abrams — who tends to open movies with phasers firing — takes time to set things up, getting is settled into and invested in the story. Once we are, things take off with a series of battles both big and small, all of which were well done, despite the occasional overly convenient element that made me think “yeah, right, that would happen”.

While Idris Elba can turn any role into a performance, he doesn’t really have a lot to work with here. He wants to destroy the Federation and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, but that’s presented in a vacuum, and it’s not until the final scenes of the film that we’re able to understand is (in my view) rather thin motivations. And by then the movie’s almost over. This made him feel hollow and flat.

It’s worth mentioning hat the movie comes with some off screen news, the first being the death of Anton Yelchin who plays Chekov. I don’t know much about him, but he made a good Chekov and had a much larger role in this film than in the previous two. Sad.

There was also some drama around the character of Sulu, who, in STB, is depicted as being gay and having a partner (and adopted child), ostensibly to honor the original Sulu, George Takei, who came out as a homosexual decades after the original series aired. Takei was quick to point out that while he might be gay, Sulu was not. And it’s not as though that aspect of Sulu’s character was given any exploration in the film anyway, making the whole thing feel like a cheap gimmick.

In the end, I found it to be flawed, but entertaining. Fun, although I suspect it’s more fun for those who were introduced to Star Trek through the reboot and not those of us who spent an hour after school watching original series (or their reruns) on a 12 inch black and white.

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