It is hard to believe it has been 50 years since we first climbed aboard the Enterprise, but the cult NBC series Star Trek launched in 1966. Who knew that a half-century later we’d still be transfixed by Capt. Kirk, Spock and all the rest of them as the latest in the current film series hits screens Friday. J.J. Abrams relegated himself just to producing duties for Star Trek Beyond as he was off relaunching that other space saga, so directing reins have been turned over to Justin Lin, best known for his work on the Fast & Furious franchise. His influence shows. This is the most action oriented Trek of them all. There’s lots of it.
I am not sure this Star Trek for shorter attention spans will please die-hard fans as much as your average Joe Popcorn, who is out looking for carnage. But thankfully, due to co-star Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script, the humor and philosophical spin that has marked the best of these films as well as its various TV incarnations survives intact, even if the emphasis is more effects-driven with less food for thought. And as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch) it still is worthwhile, especially in this film’s second half, getting better after a confusing beginning with too much setup. There’s also a great alien villain on board this time, the war-happy Krall played to the hilt by Idris Elba. It seems Krall is dead-set on retrieving the vintage “death machine,” which is in the hands of Kirk and crew of the Enterprise, which is travelling in Year 3 of the five-year mission into deep space. After Krall attacks the spaceship, the crew becomes stranded on what is basically an uninhabitable desert planet called Altamid. There they inadvertently are divided into various pairings, each having their own adventures while trying to figure out how to get back in business and back together as a team.
There’s also an existential crisis for Kirk (Chris Pine), who seems locked in routine and laments the fact that he is getting older than his father lived to be, as well as some deep pondering by Spock (Zachary Quinto), who has not yet told the captain but is planning to return to his Vulcan kind in a take-charge kind of gig. Pegg’s Scotty has a good thing going with new character Jaylah, who sports a black-and-white-striped rock star look. She’s nicely played by Sofia Boutella. Much of Kirk’s scenes on the planet are with Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin), and their easy and amusing camaraderie makes you lament the actor’s untimely passing even more. The film is dedicated to not only Yelchin but also the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, who died since the last installment of the Star Trek movie series. Of course there are welcome appearances by regulars Karl Urban (Bones), Zoe Saldana (Uhura) and Jon Cho as Sulu, who is very subtly revealed as gay in a highly publicized aspect of this edition. George Takei, the original Sulu, has publicly objected to this development for the character he first played, even though he is openly gay himself. It’s no big deal but seems a little contrived at this point.
Elba makes an excellent adversary, and the big final battle is a highlight of the movie. In addition to Abrams, producers are Roberto Orci, Lindsey Weber and Lin. They don’t have to worry too much about maintaining the box office clout of the series. The fourth edition of the franchise was just announced today in advance of the movie’s Friday opening through Paramount, which made the film with their partnership with Skydance.
Do you plan to see Star Trek Beyond? Let us know what you think.