At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Star Trek Beyond

Dedicated to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin; Live Long and Prosper Gentlemen.

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action/ Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba/ Runtime: 122 minutes

I think it is safe to say movie goers that the rebooted Star Trek series truly has proven to be a fascinating franchise experiment. I say this because it is a general rule of thumb that for better or for worse the overwhelming love for the original television series and movies has been what has dictated that the blockbusters must remain eternally faithful to the original material. Yet while this is especially true in terms of character and story, the filmmakers were able to do the impossible and even went so far as to find a way to tell a brand new origin story for these beloved icons while simultaneously keeping all of the previous features and shows that came before it still in canon. Indeed while this has been a big part of both J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Star Trek into Darkness we now get to see Star Trek Beyond bringing back another one of the franchise’s notable traditions. A tradition I might add that takes the form of responding to a less-than-stellar in some aspects theatrical outing with a sequel that, thanks to a wonderful, character-rich and engaging script by co-star Simon Pegg and Doug Jung plus smart style and camera movement courtesy of Justin Lin’s direction, truly is a fun, intelligent and thrilling big screen adventure.

The plot is as follows: a few years after the events of Star Trek into Benedict Cumberbatch ehhh Darkness, Star Trek Beyond begins with Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the USS Enterprise deep into their famous five year mission of exploration in deep space. Yet while the crew has stayed active and managed to take part in a great deal of peacekeeping missions on a wide variety of new and different worlds, the more common monotony that life on a starship can bring truly has left Kirk questioning the path he has chosen with the Federation as well as his future period. Soon however Kirk finds himself appreciating what he has just a wee bit more when following a short stay at the newly built, and absolutely gorgeous I might add, Starfleet base Yorktown, the Enterprise crew finds itself called back into action in order to help a ship that has crash landed on a remote planet after trying to fly through a nebula. Unfortunately however the rescue mission soon finds itself devastatingly interrupted by an assault from a Federation-hating lizard-looking humanoid enemy named Krall (Idris Elba), who manages to orchestrate an attack with a swarm of thousands of small bee-like ships that literally manage to decimate the Enterprise through and through. Thus we see that in their various escape attempts from the Federation ship as it is being destroyed, Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) all wind up landing on the nearby planet in pairs with Scotty (Simon Pegg) landing on his own and subsequently befriending and teaming up with a local named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). Now in order to survive, the separated crew of the Enterprise finds itself faced with the dual task of not only finding each other and rescuing the crew members that Krall has kidnapped, but also they must stop Krall from constructing a weapon of mass destruction that could kill millions….(dun dun dun!!)

Now when compared to both of the previous 2 films, one finds that Star Trek Beyond truly is at its heart and core a much more scaled down adventure for our beloved crew. Yet to be quite honest with you, the McGuffin-centric plot really truly doesn’t lend itself to an array of big twists and turns so this just manages to serve to allow this film to primarily focus on the characters involved. It is with that knowledge in mind that I can say that honestly this is why the movie works as well as it does. This is because in deciding who to pair up amongst the stranded members of the Enterprise bridge, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung really truly have found some absolute awesome and quite excellent to be honest ways to showcase all the best aspects of the various personalities that make up the bridge with the duo of Bones and Spock unquestionably making for the most entertaining team-up. Yet at the same time the film also manages to treat us with such fantastic moments as Kirk acting like a real leader alongside the youthful Chekov, as well as Uhura and Sulu teaming up and working side-by-side as they find themselves as Krall’s captives.

Also another truly great thing about this film is that in many ways, Star Trek Beyond feels like an episode of the original series while at the same time truly furthers its connection to classic Star Trek. Indeed with everything from bottles of Saurian brandy to Shakespeare quotes being thrown in to the film at some point during the film’s runtime, it really does feel like this film is aiming to be a Greatest Hits Album. Yet when all is said and done this film’s absolute greatest charm really truly is not only how fresh the film is, but also how it feels. This is because as we see in the script the film really does manage to take beloved pieces of franchise history and lore and then manage to find a way to mold them and create something original. A brilliant maneuver which not only provides the opportunity for us as an audience to view classic elements in different lights, but it also opens the doors that have led to the creation of two tremendous supporting characters in Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah and Idris Elba’s Krall with the former destined to become a fan favorite and the latter while to be fair does require some time to evolve on screen and become interesting truly does by film’s end make for a terrific foil to our beloved Captain Kirk in more ways than one….

Now in taking the reins from J.J. Abrams, Justin Lin manages to succeed in crafting a Star Trek movie in his own unique way. This is because not only does he construct some truly mind-blowing action sequences, but Lin even manages to give us as an audience an entirely brand new way to look at the Enterprise. Indeed thanks to some stellar camera work and visual effects, the movie manages to create a truly great sense of geography within the classic spaceship (prior to its destruction of course). Yet while Lin’s success with big battles and explosions should hardly be a surprise to anyone given the man’s background with the Fast & Furious franchise, that still in no way prepares you for how jaw-dropping Star Trek Beyond’s biggest set pieces are as we get to witness Krall’s swarm of ships proving to be effectively terrifying in action. Indeed Lin manages to utilize them in absolutely amazing fashion courtesy of two absolutely breathtaking sequences in the first and third acts of the film with the latter having no doubt what will inevitably be considered with time one of the most fantastic music cues of the year.

All in all given that 2016 happened to be the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, it would have been an absolute travesty in every sense of the word if Star Trek Beyond was a disappointment. Thankfully however this is not to be the case as Star Trek Beyond instead proves itself to be an absolutely refreshing and immensely enjoyable sci-fi feature with a classic feel that finds itself vividly brought to life thanks to a funny, and engaging script, some truly thrilling direction, and one heck of a crew to truly and without a doubt go boldly with to where no man truly has gone before… On a scale of 1-5 I give Star Trek Beyond a 4 out of 5.