The Bock’s Office: ‘Star Trek Beyond’ — Warp speed toward fun
It’s been 50 years since William Shatner first uttered the immortal words “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” While there have been many changes to the world both good and bad in that time, it’s comforting to know that a movie such as “Star Trek Beyond” can tap into that sense of wonder and discovery.
If you go…
“Star Trek Beyond,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 122 minutes
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
The exploration of the farthest reaches of the universe can be exciting, but when you do it day in, day out for three years, even the final frontier can become dull. Such is the sentiment of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine), who has grown dissatisfied with his work through Starfleet and is ready for a change.
When the USS Enterprise docks for some rest and relaxation, Kirk’s ennui must wait as he and his crew are tasked with investigating a sector of space that may require a rescue mission.
When they search the area, an ambush is waiting for the people of the Enterprise, and the ship is all but destroyed in the ensuing melee, causing the crew to split up in a crash landing on a nearby planet.
With his resources limited, the one thing Kirk knows is the attack was the orchestration of a warlord named Krall (Idris Elba) who has plans not only for his new hostages but also the entire United Federation of Planets.
Pine’s portrayal of Kirk has been one of pure dynamism, and it’s quite a change to see this James T. so down in the space dumps as he contemplates his future in a midlife crisis that’s coming way too early. Still, there’s nothing like a colossal battle and certain death at the hands of an evil alien to snap you out of your funk.
Zachary Quinto’s Spock is likewise going through his own personal predicament amid the fracas, the levelheaded Vulcan experiencing an unwanted flood of emotions thanks to his own revelations about his race and identity, as well as a rough patch in his relationship with Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana).
Luckily for him, he’s got a shoulder to cry on in the form of Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), since we all know how well Bones gets along with the first officer — dammit, he’s a doctor not a grief counselor.
Simon Pegg, John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin all do what they do best as the rest of the big seven, Montgomery Scott, Hikaru Sulu and Pavel Chekov, with Scotty teaming up with a refugee (Sofia Boutella) on this new world who has a score to settle with Krall.
Every iteration of “Trek” has depended on the performance of actors playing its villains more than the crafting of them within the script, and Elba saves the movie despite a thinly-written role as the latest baddy, providing gravitas to a character that could easily be overplayed. With a personality as foreboding as the spines that grow out of his head, Krall is a twisted creature who thrives on conflict, exalting the glory of war and denouncing unity as a sickness and peace as a lie.
With JJ Abrams devoting his time to a different “Star” franchise, the job of director went to Justin Lin, and the guy behind more than half the “Fast and the Furious” films adapts admirably to a story set in the 2200s and engines that dwarf the high-octane stuff he’s used to handling.
Lin’s tactic of engaging the full multidimensional possibilities of starships may be disorienting to some, but it makes for a thrilling ride, as does the design of a new starbase known as Yorktown, a sleek, translucent hamster ball in space with looping, endless stretches of urban development, making you think of what the Death Star might have looked like if they tried to squeeze all of Manhattan into it and stretched it out along the edges.
Pegg and Doug Jung provide the screenplay, which builds on the previous escapades in a style befitting the original television series, celebrating its golden anniversary this year.
This feels like a two-part episode of Gene Roddenberry’s groundbreaking work in the best sense. Yes, there are some unavoidable plot devices, and it rarely deviates too far from the tried and true elements that have come before, yet it simultaneously charts its own course compared to Abrams’ movies, which, as quality as they were, demanded scrutiny for what they repeated as much as what they created.
While we’re 13 movies and five TV series in at this point, you wouldn’t know it by the freewheeling approach. There’s a great sense of humor at work, especially in a hilarious opening scene, combined with the kind of thoughtfulness that defines the saga as the premier science-fiction title of our time.
“Star Trek Beyond” falls short of being the ultimate example of the franchise’s capabilities, but with Lin at the helm, it’s popcorn entertainment that doesn’t disappoint. Also, let’s all take a moment to appreciate that a few centuries from now, the music of Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys will not only be referred to as “classical” but also play a part in the fate of the galaxy.
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