~Written In Loving Memory of Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin~
**Not even an escape pod’s worth of spoilers**
If memory serves, despite reaching that advanced age known as the 30s, I believe that Star Trek was the first true science fiction television show to which I was ever exposed. Or rather, Star Trek: Voyager was, because I’m definitely not old enough to remember watching the original Star Trek the first time around. I freely admit I had a crush on Chakotay and thought Captain Janeway was awesome. And then I decided to move backward in time and watched Star Trek: The Next Generation where the phrase “Make it so” became a part of my vocabulary and the entire cast of that version were each amazing in their own way. I’ve even been known to pick up a few episodes of the originals. Enough to add “Live long and prosper” with the appropriate Vulcan salute to my repertoire.
Warp ahead a few light-years and we find ourselves watching Star Trek Beyond. The latest movie to grace the frankly massive Star Trek franchise. As at the time of this writing it is barely a week in theaters, I will do my best to keep spoilers down to a minimum.
The plot is more or less straightforward and follows just about every Star Trek plot. Someone gets stranded, someone gets abducted, life-altering space battles happen, and someone shows up in the nick of time to save the universe from certain destruction. (I’m pretty sure I just described all three of the most recent Star Trek movies, huh…) It’s all there. If you know anything about Star Trek, you can probably accurately guess which happened to who or who did what. If you did, give yourself a shiny new communicator badge.
Everyone is back to reprise their various roles. Chris Pine does seem a bit jaded in this particular version, but it could also just be spot-on characterization as he is making some difficult choices in this movie. Spock does the unthinkable for a Vulcan, which must have made Zachary Quinto’s day (and I’ll just let you ponder on what he could have possibly done). As for Bones, I was pleased to see that Karl Urban did indeed return, alive and kicking, as the cantankerous Leonard McCoy and he gets in some great zingers this time around. The one new addition to the crew is Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella, who is relative newcomer but seems to have a had a string of decent movies in the last two years. Her character is an odd mixture of hilarious, lethal, and child-like, which definitely made her a welcome addition.
There is always a bad guy in the Star Trek world. From Borg, to the Continuum, to Khan, there is always someone sinister lurking in the background. In this case, it is Krall. He’s a reptilian madman bent on destroying the Federation (what else is new?) and is played by Idris Elba. That name has cropped up more than once in my posts as he seems to excel at playing the villain. Again, as with the Jungle Book, the only thing recognizable about him is his voice, but oh, what a voice. He’s like the evil version of Morgan Freeman. He has a fair bit of screen time and audiences will enjoy learning about this particular villain’s background.
While it is standard Star Trek fare, there are a few interesting themes to note. Several of the battles seem to take overwhelming odds to new heights and I can’t help but wonder what prompted Simon Pegg to take that particular route. Did I forget to mention that? Our own beloved Montgomery Scott, aka Simon Pegg is actually one of the writers of this particular version and I must say, I approve. You can definitely see his fingerprints on several key moments in the movie. But anyway. Yes, the prevailing theme is insurmountable odds, which is normal, but the sheer scope of the odds is what makes this movie interesting. Almost a twisted David versus Goliath in reverse. Usually Kirk and his crew are battling one villain and maybe a handful of ships. For those of you who like space movies, I ask you to think back to Ender’s Game or Independence Day and you might have a better idea of the odds.
As a director, Justin Lin did a fantastic job at making sure all of his actors got adequate screen time and pulling everything together. While JJ Abrams was a producer on the movie (and I assume helped consult) it was very much Lin’s movie. And now that I think back on it, I can see where there is a bit more of a Fast & Furious edge to it than in previous incarnations. It’s a bit more gritty and a little more solid feeling than some of JJ Abrams work has been in the past.
Which brings us to the overall visuals of the movie. As noted above this was NOT directed by JJ Abrams which means that his trademark lens flare is not quite as obvious as it has been in the past, which some will consider a good thing. As a significant portion of the movie takes place on the ground, rather than the sky, there’s less sweeping views of interstellar space than one would assume with a space movie and when they are in space, the views are generally obscured by a swirling mass of death. However, the sets are well designed. The mountainous regions on the Earth-like planet are actually gorgeous. The crafts are ingenious and as usual, the ample use of prosthetics and CGI mean there is always a diverse population to look at. The space station is suitably advanced, though oddly reminds me of the spaceport in Treasure Planet. Or one of those maze spinning balls. The visuals are not overwhelming but neither do they work against the movie. They do what well designed visuals should do, immerse the viewer without overwhelming their senses enough that the plot becomes lost.
All in all, this movie was a solid, well-constructed addition to round out a trilogy. It seemed to wrap everything up. While the loss of Leonard Nimoy was anticipated, though still a heartbreaking event, the series could have continued on without him. However, with the unexpected loss of Anton Yelchin (Chekov), a truly unfortunate and sad development, who knows where the series will wind up. It’s hard to imagine another actor playing the bright, enthusiastic Ensign Chekov, but I’m sure someone will step up to the plate. It seems that the Enterprise might fly again, if IMDB is to believed as Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban all have an “untitled Star Trek sequel” credited to their name. In selfish fashion, I hope it’s true because these three are making Star Trek real again for an entire new generation of Trekkies.
Live Long and Prosper!
Adults: Trekkies rejoice, it’s another smash! Definitely worth a go in the theaters. It’s got some pretty spectacular (and familiar) music to it! Though come to think of it, this might be the first time Spock has not uttered his iconic phrase or given the vulcan salute. Huh. Bummer.
Children: Nothing too scary for little eyes and lots of bright shiny things to look at! And explosions. Kids like those, right? A good movie to take all but the littlest of littles to see.
As always, please make sure the small ones (and adults) behave themselves in the theater so that all can enjoy the show!