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Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond - Old and new characters, a new plot and a wild, enjoyable ride.

Whenever I see a new Star Trek episode, I have to go back and refresh myself on the chronicle. There was the original 1960ís TV show, the film series based on the original show, the later ďNext GenerationĒ shows and the movies based on the next generation. Now, weíre in the so-called reboot series that goes back to the original TV characters, at a time before the first show. Given J J Abramsí involvement in the production, one is reminded of the often confusing chronology of Lost, but I guess the entire decades long sequence was confusing before Abramsí involvement. It was directed by Justin Lin, who did several Fast and Furious movies, written by Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Doug Jung, with credit to Gene Roddenberry for creating the characters and the Star Trek ďuniverseĒ.

Things begin innocently enough, with the Enterprise checking into Starbase Yorktown for R&R, during their ď5 year missionĒ. That respite only lasts a few minutes, however, and the rest of the movie is end-to-end action, fast and furious so to speak. When the Enterprise is sent on a rescue mission into a chaotic nebula, it is suddenly attacked by a huge swarm of insect-like vessels that swarm it, take little bites and quickly destroy the ship, leaving remnants of its crew (especially the stars that we all know and love) stranded on the planet Altamid. Why the attack? Well, apparently the attack was initiated by a highly aggressive alien, Krall (Idris Ebla), a humanoid lizard who urgently desires a mysterious artifact retrieved by Captain Kirk on another recent voyage. Krallís temperament makes Romulans and Klingons look like pacifists. At this point, the rest of the plot centers around re-uniting and rescuing the valiant crew so they can go back home. Based on the facts of the future that we, the omniscient viewers, already know, Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Sulu and Scotty have a future in episodes we have already seen. Even J J Abramsís loose take on the rules of time flow make us expect that most of the main characters are going to survive. Thereís a new character who seems to have a role in the main cast, Jaylah (Sophia Boutella), stranded on the planet and living in an old, crashed starship.

The cast of Beyond includes the now familiar faces of Chris Pine as the young James Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as the ever grouchy Bones McCoy, Zoe Suldana as Urhura, Simon Pegg as the ever cheerful Scotty, John Cho as Sulu and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov. The movie includes RIPís for Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and an ďoutingĒ for Sulu. None of the acting is especially noteworthy, but in the context of a movie that is nearly completely action oriented beginning at minute 5, thatís not surprising. All of the cast members do a decent job of recreating their characters and Sophia Boutellaís Jaylah looks like a character that might have a future in another movie. The characters have their familiar relationships with each other; verbal snipes between Spock and Bones and urgent attempts at mechanical repairs by Scotty punctuate the action and provide a little bit of comic relief.

The effects in the Beyond are quite remarkable. I didnít see it in 3D, but the 2D digital projection I saw left little to be desired in regard to image quality. Things move quickly in Beyond, so you never get to focus very much on one scene, but the believability and detail of the action are truly excellent. It isnít Shakespeare, but itís sci-fi action thatís right at the current state of the art. Nothing drags in the two hour run time. Fast and furious definitely defines Linís direction.

Where does this stand in the Star Trek universe? I liked it. Itís not as philosophical and preachy as the Next Generation series. Thereís plenty of action but, at the same time, the movie does continue in the long tradition of advancing a more positive future. When it all began the original TV series was notable for its early minimal attempts at cast diversity. Network executives made Roddenberry fight for every cast member that didnít look like suburban USA as they saw it in 1965, but in the Star Trek universe of the current series none of that looks remarkable. Itís just the way things are and characters that donít look like each other are not exceptional. Thereís not a lot of depth in the story, dialog is mainly action oriented, so donít expect to need a lot of erudite sci-fi analysis or theorizing about gravity, time lines or whatever. Let the story geeks worry about all of the character details, time lines and dubious science and just go along for the ride. Itís a fun movie that lives up to the franchise.