Star Trek Beyond

I often complain about a movie if it doesn’t take any chances.  Especially in these series movies, like Star Trek or Star Wars, the filmmakers are particularly risk adverse.  They have whole story generating universes to explore but are unwilling to do it, particularly in the summer.  TV is where all the creative action is right now and I’m really looking forward to this new Star Trek series.  That’s where Gene Roddenberry’s vision will ultimately be carried on.

Now, of course it’s possible to make a good movie that doesn’t challenge formulas.  After all pushing the envelope all the time can be just as tiring as seeing the same old thing time and time again.  Thus when the movie is a summer blockbuster that costs millions, us fans are dependent on the filmmakers’ ability to make a good movie within the formula.

So Star Trek Beyond gives us a Big Bad, Idris Elba playing Krall, a new fearsome enemy with seemingly invincible weaponry, an angsty Kirk and a plucky crew.  Yeah, they destroy the Enterprise but we’ve seen that before too.  Believe me there’s nothing new in this stew.

The plot is immaterial.  You know it; you’ve seen it a million times.  What you don’t see is a lot of the action because the screen is so dark at times.  I saw the 2D version so I can’t even blame the 3D glasses.  Plus the action scenes are cut too tightly and the camera is too close.  It’s really hard to follow especially in the beginning.  But of course it’s impossible to get lost in this linear hackneyed plot.

And yet I enjoyed it.  That’s partly because I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan and the franchise always gets a pass.  Into Darkness had many more flaws than this one but I still bought the DVD.  But also because the new crew of the Enterprise is exceptionally well cast, or rather re-cast.  Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is consistently interesting.  He’s evolving.  The beginning of this film shows him worn down by the responsibility of his position and the drudgery of routine to the point where he applies for a desk job.  He’s on the verge of totally suppressing the wild child we saw in the first film.  It’s interesting to see him resolve this internal conflict.

Zachery Quinto is probably the only person other than Leonard Nimoy who could play Spock.  He has the mannerisms and the character almost perfectly.  I think they are making him too emotional, but that’s just something the geek in me is going to grumble about while I enjoy the movie.

And finally, finally they have given Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy something to do.  His performance is exemplary in this and he has all the funny lines.  His banter with Spock is reminiscent of the show.

Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty and wrote the screenplay along with Doug Jung, also has a lot of good moments.  And he is even beginning to resemble James Doohan.  Scotty was always good for some comic relief in the series and Pegg has continued that.

Idris Elba is incapable of giving a bad performance, even when playing a stock bad guy with comic book motivations.  I liked newcomer Jaylah, played by Sophie Boutella, a black and white striped alien and a tough survivor.  At the end it looked like they were setting her up to replace Chekov, since J.J. Abrams has already said they probably won’t replace Anton Yelchin, who died in a tragic accident.  I don’t think that’s a bad move.

Star Trek Beyond is a summer action film.  It’s a good one but it really doesn’t aspire to anything more than that.  But I hope that one day they return to more thoughtful and daring stories.

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