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Star Trek Beyond




Star Trek Beyond (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

07/28/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



In the middle of a five-year mission, Capt. James T. Kirk isn’t so sure he enjoys the final frontier in Star Trek Beyond, a really solid episode of, like, the most expensive TV show ever. 

You know how the BBC’s Sherlock does something like three episodes every two years except this year, when they did one? This rebooted Star Trek franchise is starting to feel like that. Which I mean in a good way!
Kirk (Chris Pine) is still out there, boldly going, on board the Enterprise with his core crew — Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin, RIP) — and the usual bunch of redshirts. But for Kirk, space has started to feel a little less exciting and an upcoming birthday that makes him one year older than his father when he died has Kirk reevaluating his life. He’s considering leaving the ship for a position at a United Federation of Planets outpost. 
Spock is also wrestling with big-picture questions. As one of the few Vulcans (or, in his case, half-Vulcans) left in the universe, Spock wonders if he has some sort of obligation to put more of his efforts toward protecting and preserving his culture. To that end, he has broken up with Uhura, thinking, as Bones later puts it, perhaps he should choose someone with whom he can make little Vulcans. And he is considering taking up Ambassador Spock’s work on New Vulcan, a mission that becomes more important when he learns of his older, alternate-timeline’s self’s death (the late Leonard Nimoy is seen in a photo).
It is in this state of flux for Kirk and Spock that the Enterprise docks at Yorktown, a newly created Federation outpost. Here the crew disembarks for a bit of R and R — and we get to see the think-piece-spawning shots of Sulu greeting his husband and daughter. (Side note: For a franchise that’s never been too interested in the domestic lives of future humans and other Federation citizens, the scenes of Sulu and his family were really nice. They, along with scenes of young crew members hooking up and breaking up, add an element of humanity that Star Trek could use more of.)
The crew doesn’t get much rest, however, before an unknown ship shows up with only one occupant. She tells Starfleet that her ship was attacked and her crew taken near a planet on the other side of a rock-filled nebula. Naturally, the Enterprise is the only ship that is capable of making the trip and attempting a rescue. 
Pretty quickly, the rescue goes all wrong and the crew ends up separated on an alien planet where they must work to save each other and, as events unfold, perhaps Federation lives elsewhere from a villain named Krall (Idris Elba, who basically plays him as “Shere Khan ... in spaaaaace”). The team-ups leave Spock and Bones together, Sulu and Uhura are with the bulk of the (surviving) crew, Kirk finds Chekov and Scotty makes a new friend in Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), another strandee on the planet who has eked out an existence in part due to a find that provides her not only with a good hide-out but also some lovely “classical” music in the form of Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys. 
Early in the movie, Kirk complains that he has started to find all this intergalactic peace-making on a ship where one day runs into the next episodic. To which I say, yes, this movie feels very episodic. But, yay! to that. The continuing adventures of the Enterprise crew are what I signed up for and if what you love about the Star Trek universe is space adventure with an occasional thinky bit, Beyond has that.
“We change, we have to. Or we spend the rest of our lives fighting the same battles.” Kirk says this to Krall and I think it sums up the movie’s thinky bits. As Spock and Kirk consider what direction to take their lives, they are wrestling with change — changes to what they do, changes to their thinking about why they do it. 
On a meta level, the franchise is also undergoing change — the losses of Yelchin (though this happened after the movie was made) and of Nimoy, who is not only a beloved member of the original crew but also a bridge between those movies and this reboot series. And, if you really want to go deep, that statement, especially when you consider the context of when it’s spoken, is actually an interesting bit of commentary on the current political situation, that an old way of thinking doesn’t work in a newer, more complex society. 
Or maybe it isn’t a commentary on anything and if you see a movie during a two-week political convention bingefest you just see political commentary everywhere, like the seeming omnipresence of donuts when you’re on a diet.
So you get your storytelling depth, or at least enough of it to give some emotional heft to really cool space battles. And this movie has one really grand, amusingly scored climactic space battle that I’d love to watch again just on its own. It also has a really terrifying, actually rather heartstring-tugging space battle and then, in between the two, several action sequences that are just fun. 
Star Trek Beyond isn’t the blow-your-socks-off awesomeness of the first movie in this reboot series but it is extremely skilled at how it uses its characters, crafts a solid story with well-choreographed stretches of action (plus a dash of humor) and uses all of our favorite characters enough so that nobody really feels forgotten. B+ 
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence. Directed by Justin Lin with a screenplay by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung, Star Trek Beyond is two hours long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

 






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