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Review: Star Trek Beyond (Chris Bumbray's take)

Star Trek Beyond (Chris Bumbray's take)
07.22.2016
8 10
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PLOT: Towards the end of the third year in his five-year-mission, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself questioning his motivations for joining Starfleet and pondering life away from a starship captaincy. His ennui is interrupted by a distress call, which lands him and his beloved Enterprise crew in the crosshairs of the deadly Krall (Idris Elba) who seeks a legendary weapon that could help him wipe-out the Federation.

REVIEW: Trekkies were understandably anxious when it was announced geek icon J.J Abrams, now too busy with STAR WARS, would be handing over the reins of STAR TREK BEYOND to director Justin Lin, best known for his high-octane FAST & FURIOUS sequels. They need not have worried as despite a slight overabundance of action in the second half, this isn’t TREK FURIOUS, or FAST TREK, or anything like that at all, with this, the third installment of the new TREK saga being the closest in spirit to the original franchise so far.

star trek beyond anton yelchin chris pine

Starting-off in an uncommonly thoughtful mode, we find Kirk on a mission to broker peace with an alien race that has a comical payoff, and feels in-line with the kind of thing that would have happened to Kirk in TOS or Picard in TNG. The tv shows often took pains to show that life on the Enterprise wasn’t all life-and-death, and it’s nice to see that reflected here (although they don’t go too far – meaning no Spock jamming with space hippies on his lute). In fact, the first act is almost entirely devoted to the reality of what a day-to-day existence on a starship would be like, with crew members sleeping with each other (the late Anton Yelchin’s Chekov seems to be a particular stud), fighting (Spock and Uhura are on a break) or pining for the families they left behind (Sulu – in a nice moment – reunites with his husband and adopted daughter).

Like in THE WRATH OF KHAN, Kirk’s approaching birthday is what has him reconsidering life in Starfleet, with not even Karl Urban’s McCoy and some stolen booze (from Chekov) able to convince him the Enterprise is where he needs to be. In some ways, Kirk was marginalized in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, with Spock having been given the limelight. Here, Pine is front-and-center throughout, with him having the big arc, where he has to get over his own feelings of inadequacy to rescue his crew, all of whom are put in mortal danger by Idris Elba’s Krall.

star trek beyond simon pegg sofia Boutella

It’s interesting that after the ultra-ambitious INTO DARKNESS, which attempted to position STAR TREK as a mega-franchise, Paramount and Bad Robot have taken a step-back, letting Lin make a movie that feels like a legit Trek episode or film. It’s the relationships within the crew that takes precedent over action, as after the Enterprise is forced to crash-land on Krall’s planet, they’re spun-off into their own mini-stories, just like you’d see on the show.

Everyone here seems to benefit from more screen-time, making it clear that Simon Pegg, now doing double duty as Scotty and co- screenwriter, knows these characters better than anyone. Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) wind-up as Krall’s prisoners, while Kirk, Chekov and Scotty team-up with a kick-ass alien castaway (Sofia Boutella – in a part which seems destined to become a fan-favorite) in an effort to salvage an old Starfleet ship and rescue everyone. The coolest bit of business has to be the B-story, which finds McCoy and Spock (Zachary Quinto) stranded by themselves, with Bones trying to keep the mortally-wounded Spock alive. If anyone’s been under-utlized up to now, it’s McCoy, but here Urban’s in full-on DeForest Kelly-mode, with him and Quinto showing off some amazing chemistry as they lean-on each other to survive (with Spock particularly in-touch with his human side due to his predicament).

star trek beyond karl urban zachary quinto

Eventually, all the plot-threads pull together in classic Trek fashion, and the last third is as explosive as anything in the other two films – maybe too much so as the movie is actually better when it’s character-based. Nevertheless, the action beats are pretty good here, with Boutella getting a cool showdown with Joe Taslim’s Manas, and Kirk kicking around on a vintage (for the 23rd century) motorbike.

As the baddie, Idris Elba initially seems to be wasted under heavy make-up, but towards the end a surprising revelation makes his casting worthwhile and his Krall winds up being the best of the Abrams-era Trek villains. Running a lean two hours, Lin gives this Trek adventure a punchy pace, even during the more character based parts. He also contributes a significantly different look with DP Stephen F. Windon, meaning no lens flares and a darker color palate. Michael Giacchino is back as the composer, giving this continuity with the other two movies, with him reusing most of his major themes.

While I’d still give Abrams’s first STAR TREK the slight edge among these three movies on the merits of its pure fun-factor, Lin’s BEYOND really has put the franchise back on solid ground after INTO DARKNESS alienated fans. Hardcore Trekkies and more casual fans will no doubt have a great time with this one, and it’s nice to one again feel like this franchise is once again heading in a great direction under the guidance of people that care about both the saga and the fans.

Source: JoBlo.com

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