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MOVIE REVIEW

Star Trek: Beyond
Dir: Justin Lin
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, and Idris Elba
Monte’s Rating
3.50 out of 5.00


Star Trek: Beyond

MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS ~7/27/16

“Space, the final frontier”. Gene Roddenberry’s contribution to science fiction in the form of “Star Trek” made a cultural impact that has spawned numerous television shows, film adaptations, conventions, and undoubtedly some of the most loyal fans of any genre property. The “Star Trek” film franchise has been fairly consistent since the first installment, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, in 1979, the longest break between films being the seven year gap between 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis” and the rebooted J.J. Abrams helmed “Star Trek” in 2009. The new films, which have taken liberties in restructuring the established world of “Star Trek”, have been met with a mixed bag of emotions from purists and tourists of the franchise, many claiming that qualities, such as tone of the narrative and look of the film, don’t resemble the films or television shows that have come before it. Still, there is an excitement that comes along with the rebooted films. J.J. Abrams crafted the first two entries with high energy and flair, both lens and style, and the results were fun popcorn films that transcended other rebooted properties. “Star Trek: Beyond” continues the expedition of the Starship Enterprise and crew with a new director, Justin Lin, who last helmed 2013’s “Fast and Furious 6”, taking the franchise in a somewhat new direction.

In this installment, the crew are in their third year of a five-year expedition in deep space, exploring new worlds for new life and new civilizations. Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are contemplating their futures and whether or not their position on the Enterprise is where they should be. Kirk is celebrating a birthday, bringing about memories of his family; Spock finds out that Ambassador Spock (played by the late Leonard Nimoy) has died, and this forces Spock to think about his Vulcan people.

Before any decisions can be made by the two, the Enterprise stops for maintenance at a massive space station. While there, a distress call is made from an incoming ship asking for help, and the Enterprise is tasked with providing assistance. Blindsided, the Enterprise is attacked by a ruthless alien named Krall (Idris Alba in extensive makeup) and his swarming army. 

This is where the story gets interesting. Up to this point, you can feel new hands at work, especially in the design, but everything is still functioning similarly to the films done by Abrams. However, once Krall attacks and the crew of the Enterprise is separated, fleeing to Krall’s planet, the structure changes. Instead of this functioning as a Kirk and Spock film, “Beyond” gets the rest of the crew involved in the action. Kirk teams with Chekov, played by the gone-too-soon, talented Anton Yelchin, to hunt Krall. Spock and Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) argue amusingly with one another while trying to find the remainder of the team. Scotty (Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the script here) joins forces with a new character named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who is also looking for revenge against Krall. Even Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) are given time to escape and evade while being imprisoned. This character dynamic is reminiscent of the original television show but so is the story in some regards. Instead of trying to compose a new origin story or absurdly interconnect past stories, “Beyond” simplifies everything and focuses instead on the well-established characters telling what may be described as a high-budget television episode. There is even a moment early in the film when Kirk describes the journey as “episodic” – nice touch, writers.

The cast has created a distinct chemistry in this new franchise and Lin exploits it as much as possible, a very smart move. In particular, seeing Dr. McCoy and Spock banter back and forth was especially entertaining. Unfortunately, not everything works as smoothly as the characters. The photography is many times a mess of chaotic movements that becomes a distraction, some of the late narrative choices feel pointlessly forced, and a few of the special effects setups in regards to the 3-D presentation are poorly composed.

It’s hard to maintain and transform the film elements enough to keep things interesting three films into a new franchise. While “Star Trek: Beyond” doesn’t always operate as smoothly or energetically as the two films before it, the decision to incorporate influences from the past and focus on the exceptional characters established keeps the franchise boldly rolling.