Movie Review - 'Star Trek Beyond'

Movie Review - 'Star Trek Beyond'

A quick polling of my pals outside the theater at the conclusion of this latest Star Trek installment revealed that the winner and still champion is the 1982 “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.” It’s hard to beat Ricardo Montalban spewing, “… I spit my last breath at thee.” But that was then and this is now, and one of the best things this franchise has going for it is the reboot that gave Trekkes a whole new — and yes, younger — cast to enjoy.

This third feature follows a disappointing second try that just never achieved liftoff despite the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. But the USS Enterprise and crew seem to have made a course correction with “Beyond,” and director Justin Lin puts them through their paces in grand style.

As this begins, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his Vulcan first mate Spock (Zachary Quinto) are at crossroads in their personal lives. A milestone birthday and sad news from home has each of them rethinking their Federation careers. But before real contemplation can set in, a rescue mission to a distant planet with an unstable nebula is assigned to the Enterprise.

A crash landing ensues when the ship is taken over by an unidentified group and an emergency evacuation is forced on the crew. Behind all the mayhem is Krull (Idris Elba), a lizard-looking freak with superhuman strength who wants to blow up the Federation’s space colony, Yorktown.

His weapon of mass destruction has to be one of the most original: thousands of bee-like droids that rip through solid objects and leave a path of death and decay in their swarming wake. And he’s about to unleash millions of them on Yorktown unless Kirk can find his crash-landed crewmates and stop him.

What has always set the Star Trek movies apart from other franchises is the humor and character development that is the hallmark of each installment. It’s present in this movie, and fans will not be disappointed by the banter, introspection and admiration these character share with one another as they work to solve yet another reality-based version of the infamous Federation Academy Kobayashi Maru.

Pine and Quinto are so perfectly cast in the roles made famous by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who died this past year and is poignantly honored at the end of the movie. Likewise young Anton Yelchin, the new Chekov, who died tragically just before this film opened.

Also returning is Simon Pegg (who also shares a writing credit) as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, the Enterprise’s engineer; Karl Urban as the cantankerous Dr. “Bones” McCoy; and Zoe Saldana as Lt. Uhura. And just when you think these stories can’t reveal any more back stories for the characters, we learn in a very casual “no biggie” way that Sulu (John Cho) is gay when his partner and young daughter greet him as the Enterprise docks on Yorktown.

Director Justin Lin, best known for “Fast and Furious,” adds a bit of both to the proceedings, and sometimes the action sequences are so frantic it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. That said, there are some great stunts, but oddly the CGI of deep space doesn’t look like it’s had an update since, well, the days of Khan.

Going into the last stretch of the summer, it’s clear this has been a dismal movie season. Animated features like “Finding Dory” and “The Secret Life of Pets” have done well. At the top of the superhero charts was “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Beyond” is poised to make a strong showing, as well as the “Ghostbusters” re-boot that opened last weekend. But there isn’t much more to brag about.

What’s missing are some of the smaller niche movies that can be a cooling balm against the bang and clang of the glut of adventure movies. There have been two – count them, two – worth mentioning: Whit Stillman’s “Love and Friendship” and the new Woody Allen feature, “Cafe Society” a delightful story set in the heyday of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Read about it right here next week.