New ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Above & ‘Beyond’

New-Star-Trek-Boldly-Goes-Above-Beyond
(Paramount)

“Star Trek Beyond”

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris
Elba

Directed by Justin Lin

(Rating: 4 stars out of 5)

Ever
since the first “Star Trek” feature film opened in 1979, the release pattern featuring
the original series crew fell into a bizarre rhythm where the even-numbered
installments (“The Wrath of Khan,” “The Voyage Home” and “The Undiscovered
Country”) were good or great, while the odd-numbered films (“The Motion
Picture,” “The Search for Spock” and “The Final Frontier”) were so-so or just
plain bad.

Up to
this point, the rebooted series produced by Bad Robot bucked the trend with
films that weren’t just great “Star Trek” movies; they were great movies,
period. They were “Trek” films for everyone,
and first of these, 2009’s refreshingly vibrant (and simply-titled) “Star
Trek,” established an alternate timeline and an all-new cast that pulled off
the unenviable task of playing Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the rest of the
icons of the U.S.S. Enterprise. And
while diehard fans had issues with the Khan element of 2013’s “Star Trek Into
Darkness,” it still worked as an exciting action movie that grossed $467
million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing “Trek” movie to date.

Now comes
the third installment of the reboot series (and the 13th “Trek” movie overall), “Star Trek Beyond,” which is being released to mark the
occasion of “Star Trek’s” 50th anniversary. Not only does “Beyond” continue the perfect
batting average of the reboot series, but it also feels more like a “Star Trek” movie than its predecessors, thanks to a story that serves as something of a
throwback to the original series. It
also goes above and (dare I say it?) beyond with plenty of action, heart, humor
and excitement, making it stand on its own terms as an entertaining movie for
everyone, not just diehard Trekkers.  To
put it simply, “Star Trek Beyond” is a total blast.

Chris-Pine-attends-the-UK-Premiere-of-Paramount-Pictures-Star-Trek-Beyond-at-the-Empire-Leicester-Square-on-July-12-2016-in-London
(Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Where
most of the action during the first two films took place on Earth (or, at
least, close to it), the story for “Beyond” takes place almost three years into
the famous five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise (or 966 days to be
exact, a number that should ring a bell for fans). Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is feeling
discouraged by the burden of command, while his loyal First Officer Mr. Spock (Zachary
Quinto) is having second thoughts about staying with Starfleet. But when the gallant crew of the Enterprise
is taken prisoner by Krall (Idris Elba, in a menacing performance), a hostile
alien who holds a massive grudge against the United Federation of Planets, Kirk
and Spock must team up with a strong-willed alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella,
in a scene-stealing turn) in an effort to save their captured shipmates.

The tone
and excitement level of “Star Trek Beyond” is notable right off the bat, thanks
to the presence of Justin Lin, who takes over the directing chores from J.J. Abrams (he directed the previous two films and serves as a producer here). After helming four back-to-back installments
of the “Fast and Furious” franchise (including 2011’s “Fast Five,” the best
film in that series), Lin injects “Beyond” with a palpable level of energy while
also keeping the film firmly rooted in “Trek” lore. He’s clearly a fan, as are co-screenwriters
Simon Pegg (who also co-stars as Scotty) and Doug Jung. Admittedly, there are times when the over-plotted
story becomes a little too hard to follow, and battle fatigue does set in as
the film progresses, but when the true motive of the villain is revealed, “Beyond” goes from being a fun action movie to a great “Star Trek” movie, and one that’s
the closest of the reboots to capturing the spirit of the original series.

WATCH: Chris Pine Explains How He Got A Black Eye While Filming ‘Star Trek Beyond’ 

And there
are other light touches to the classic show. 
When the main bridge crew is separated, different character dynamics are
explored that were not seen before in the previous installments.  The conflict between the logical Mr. Spock
and the emotional Dr. McCoy provided for some of the best moments of classic
episodes like “Bread and Circuses” and “The Tholian Web,” so teaming them up
makes “Beyond” feel refreshingly old-fashioned. (McCoy also gets a much bigger piece of the action this time around, and
Karl Urban is definitely up to the task.) The same goes for Kirk and Chekov. Kirk was something of a father figure to Chekov in episodes like “Who
Mourns for Adonais” and “The Spectre of the Gun,” so it’s great to see actors
Chris Pine and Anton Yelchin apply that dynamic here.

As for
Yelchin himself, “Beyond” acknowledges his untimely passing in a subtle way
while also being dedicated to him. The
film also pays tribute to Leonard Nimoy in two ways; first with a plot point
involving the elder Spock from the prime universe, and again during the closing
credits.

As with
its predecessors, the biggest strength in “Beyond” lies with the vibrant and
irresistible chemistry between its cast members. They’re clearly in a groove after three films
together, and that warmth is infectious. And there’s more to come, as producer J.J. Abrams has already confirmed
that a fourth “Trek” reboot film will bring together James T. Kirk and his late
father George Kirk, who was played in the first ten minutes of the 2009 feature by
Chris Hemsworth (so presumably, it’s a time travel story…or maybe a
Mirror-universe story?). It’s an
exciting concept, and at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore if it’s an
even-numbered film or an odd-numbered film, because “Star Trek” is bound to
boldly go for the next 50 years…and beyond.

— Scott Mantz 

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