The Enterprise stays on Course with Star Trek Beyond

There is a lot of great stuff in Star Trek Beyond, unfortunately, all that great stuff doesn’t quite add up to a great movie, just a pretty good one. The same could be said of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) the other two films of the Star Trek reboot now-trilogy; pretty good, bordering on really good is par for the course.

Beyond finds the stalwart crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise three years into their five year mission. Tedium has begun to take its toll upon Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), forcing him to consider whether he might be happier in a different post. Spock (Zachary Quinto) too is feeling some anxiety about his future, wondering if he might be of better service if he were to leave Starfleet, and romantic partner Uhura (Zoe Saldana), to aid in replenishing the galaxy’s Vulcan population devastated in the events of the first film. Unity is the ostensible theme of Star Trek Beyond, the question of whether one is stronger surrounded by friends upon which to rely, or as an individual with unencumbered autonomy. The latter is exemplified by the film villain, Krull (Idris Elba), an iron-fisted despot who is at the head of a horde of drones and who has an axe to grind with The Federation.

Director Justin Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Dustin Jung would have done well to heed their own lessons regarding unity and togetherness. The greatest strength of this Star Trek films is the chemistry of the cast, and in Beyond the crew spends too much time apart, split up into groups of two or three by one circumstance or another. This may be the point, to illustrate how the team are better together than apart, but that point would be better made if the separation was counterbalanced by scenes illustrating how Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) have honed their teamwork over the course of three years together. On the plus-side, the splitting up of the crew does afford some time for the dynamite comedy team of Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Karl Urban’s Leonard “Bones” McCoy to share a scene or two; some of the movie’s best stuff.

The developing of themes is largely sacrificed to the film’s myriad action sequences. That’s not all bad. Director Lin, who oversaw the renaissance of the Fast & Furious franchise, is, perhaps, Hollywood’s premier purveyor of deliriously fun action and while Beyond never quite reaches the heights of, say, Fast 5, the action really sings. The sequence featuring the much-anticipated use of The Beastie Boys’ classic “Sabotage,” is especially apt to make one bounce in his-or-her seat with an almost embarrassing giddiness.

Lin and the writers would have done well to take some cues from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, still the best Star Trek film), and not just the obvious touchstones as Into Darkness did. Wrath of Khan is, while still a crackerjack sci-fi action movie, a meditation on aging, with its iconic heroes considering what to do with themselves as their respective careers wind down. Beyond hints at this type of angst; Kirk and Spock are both wondering if their chosen paths are the correct ones, considering a change before too much time has passed, but the film seems to be afraid that the audience would be bored with a deeper dive into the characters’ psyche’s. It’s too bad; Pine, Quinto, Saldana, Cho, Pegg, Yelchin, and Urban are a fine ensemble (perhaps the finest yet assembled for a Star Trek film, sorry purists), it would be nice if the series would let them breathe a little more, give them more room to work with and just let them exist in the rich world that has been created for them. This rebooted Star Trek executes action and adventure with incredible verve, now it just needs a little more soul.

Star Trek Beyond (Paramount)
Director: Justin Lin
Screenwriter: Simon Pegg and Doug Jung
Cinematographer: Stephen F. Windon
Editor: Greg, D’Auria, Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto, Steven Sprung
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba
English/PG-13/120 min.

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