Friday, September 30, 2016

Nu-'Star Trek' Has a Solid, Fun Third Installment in 'Star Trek Beyond'

So that’s three out of three.  Nu-Star Trek accomplishes a solid, entertaining trilogy with Star Trek Beyond.  There were legitimate fears that this third film would prove to be bad.  J.J. Abrams, who helmed the first two films and set the vision and tone for the nu-Star Trek, gave up the director’s chair to Justin Lin (so that he could do Star Wars).  Now, Lin had proven his worth in making exciting movies with The Fast and the Furious franchise, but there was always a chance that the result of changing of hands might not be as smooth as desired.  It also didn’t help that the trailers for Star Trek Beyond were unimpressive, underwhelming messes.  Fortunately, it was simply another case of “bad trailers, good movie.”
Star Trek Beyond sees the crew of the USS Enterprise – mainly Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), commanding officer of the USS Enterprise; Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), first officer and science officer; Lieutenant Commander Leonard “Bones” McCoy, M.D. (Karl Urban), chief medical officer; Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), second officer and chief engineer; Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), communications officer; Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), third officer and helmsman; and Ensign Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin), the ship's main navigator – three years into their five-year mission of “exploring strange new world, seeking out new life and civilizations, and boldly going to where no man has gone before.”

After briefly resupplying at Starbase Yorktown, they are sent out for a rescue mission to a nearby uncharted nebula.  However, it takes a dire turn when they’re swarmed by an alien race led by the rancorous Krall (Idris Elba).  The ambush results to the USS Enterprise being torn apart and crashing to a nearby planet.  Marooned and separated from each other, the crew of the Enterprise, with the help of another stranded alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), must figure out how to survive, regroup, escape the planet, and stop Krall’s nefarious plot to destroy the Federation.
Star Trek Beyond is just my third favorite of the nu-Star Trek films (2011’s Into Darkness is still my favorite).  But it’s still a very good movie on its own.  It has a story that feels formulaic, yet executed in an enjoyable and competent manner that any forms of familiar plot points and tropes didn’t have a negative effect.  It has visually exciting action, a general sense of fun, an adventurous tone, amiable and organic amount of humor, and lots of heart.

As they were before, the cast is a delight.  Everyone in the nu-Enterprise ensemble has always been likable, and they have fantastic chemistry with each other.  You easily care about them, and love to see them interact with each other.  The most notable dynamic in the movie is between Bones and Spock, as the narrative allowed them to have ample time to feed off each other.  After having mostly Kirk and Bones or Kirk and Spock in the past movies, it’s refreshing that we get to have Bones and Spock this time.
It also has one of the best integrations of a song into a movie’s narrative ever.  The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” was already used in the first nu-Star Trek movie, but its presence in Beyond is much more fantastic.  Considering that one of the criticisms of the trailer was its seemingly random and unsuited use of the song, it was a great surprise that the manner the movie utilized it in its climax turned out being a perfect, fist-pumping highlight.

Overall, I love Star Trek Beyond.  Why? Simply because it’s extremely fun.   Though it may not resonate as much to old-school fans who may feel that Star Trek has been “dumbed down” by the nu-Star Trek, since the focus is more on action-packed spectacles rather than presenting a thoughtful and optimistic look of the future, which what the original Star Trek had been.  As for me, I also like the original, but I love how nu-Star Trek turned out to be.  By being what it is, it made itself distinct from the original Star Trek.  It made itself a fresh variant rather than a second-rate retread, which it would have been if it attempted replicating beat by beat the tone and characteristics of the original.
Apparently, Beyond is not going to be last one.  I read that some of the actors have already signed on for a fourth movie.  And according to the initial comments from J.J. Abrams (who still serves as producer for the franchise), Chris Hemsworth is going to return as James T. Kirk’s father, who had a brief scene at the start of Star Trek.  So it could likely be a time travel story.  Also, Abrams further announced that the character of Chekov – played by Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident earlier this year – would not be recast.  So it’s either the character is going to be CGIed in or be absent in the movie.  If it’s the latter, I’m very curious on how the script will handle it.

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