Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Star Trek Goes "Beyond" 50 Years

Since this month marks the 50th anniversary of premiere of the original Star Trek, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the series, and take a look at the latest big screen adventure of the Enterprise crew, Star Trek: Beyond. I first saw the first TV incarnation of Trek when it late in its original run & then when it entered syndication in the 70s. Like many others, I was entranced by the intelligence, charm and humor of the series, and the solid chemistry among the cast. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there were space battles, fistfights, aliens both friendly & hostile, and those beautiful women for the stalwart Captain Kirk to romance.  But through it all, creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a unified future where people of all races & creeds get along, and band together to explore new worlds, touched a chord with me, and a legion of fans. That philosophy has remained a significant part of most of the subsequent television series, movies & spinoffs (books, comics, etc.) throughout the years. I've continued to be a fan, and have continued to enjoy Trek in its many incarnations over the years.

Star Trek: Beyond is the third chapter in the rebooted film series begun in 2009 by producer/director J.J. Abrams. This time out, he turns the director’s chair over to Justin Lin, best known for helming several entries in the Fast & Furious franchise. It’s several years into the Enterprise’s mission, and Captain Kirk & the crew are a bit bored. The thrill of exploring strange new worlds has lost its charm for them, and everyone’s a bit…edgy. Kirk (Chris Pine) is thinking of accepting a promotion and taking a desk job, and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is considering leaving Starfleet, and changing his career path as well. But while the ship is docked at a starbase, a distress call is received by an alien woman who says her ship was attacked & her crew was taken hostage. She begs Starfleet for assistance and who's assigned to help her? The stalwart crew of the Enterprise.

Our crew races off to investigate, but of course, it’s a trap! An alien named Krall attacks & cripples the Enterprise, and our heroes are forced to evacuate & head to a nearby planet. Once there, our crew is separated into smaller groups who must figure out what Krall is up to & find a way to escape. Lin keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace and there are quite a few callbacks to the original series (both visual & in dialogue) for fans. It’s a well-mounted, exciting film, but Krall’s ultimate plan & origin (though very classic Trek in nature) is revealed a bit too late in the film to register the proper impact. But the cast is excellent, and there are some great moments in the movie, especially in the bickering banter and love-hate friendship between Quinto’s Spock & Karl Urban’s Dr. McCoy. The on again, off again romance between Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock is also explored, and Scotty (once again played by Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the script) gets a few choice moments.

If you’re a Trek fan, you’ll find much to enjoy here: Star Trek: Beyond is entertaining & exciting. Director Lin provides some pulse-pounding action set pieces, including a rescue sequence that lets Chris Pine's Kirk ride a vintage motorcycle. Idris Elba is effectively villainous as Krall, and Sofia Boutella is excellent as an alien warrior who assists the crew. The only thing that’s a bit lacking is the sense of wonder & philosophical elements that permeated many of the original series best episodes. Still, after 50 years the Trek saga shows no signs of ending, as Pine and the rest of the "Abrams-verse" crew are signed for more sequels, and a new TV series, Star Trek: Discovery, premieres on CBS next year. The film is currently finishing its run in theaters, but a streaming & home video release date should be announced in the near future. Here’s a link to the trailer for Star Trek: Beyond:

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