Star Trek Beyond: The Franchise Reboot Continues Where A Fair Number Have Gone Before, But It’s Still Fun

Star Trek Beyond: The Franchise Reboot Continues Where A Fair Number Have Gone Before, But It’s Still Fun August 2, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Jan and I saw Star Trek Beyond Sunday. We both enjoyed it.

But, as we left the theater we found it hard to articulate just why. We agreed the special effects were too often over the top and threatened when they didn’t actually overwhelm the movie itself. Too much of a muchness, as my auntie used to say for such things. On the other hand perhaps all the explosions and such disguised a pretty thin story, something more akin to a television episode than what I would expect from a movie. Fun, but left me thinking it could have been something more.

David Rooney, writing for the Hollywood Reporter, calls this third installment in the Star Trek movie reboot, “While Beyond won’t unseat 1982’s thrilling The Wrath of Khan as the gold standard for Star Trek movies, it’s a highly entertaining entry guaranteed to give the franchise continuing life.” He expands. “One of the chief strengths of the reboot series remains its appealing young cast, who approach their iconic characters with respect while keeping their performances loose, enlivening their camaraderie with reciprocal warmth and understated humor.” I certainly agree the cast is great.

At Rotten Tomatoes Star Trek Beyond is a favorite with the reviewers, 83% of Rotten Tomatoes two hundred and ten professionals gave it the famous thumb’s up, and 84% of approaching 50,000 viewers gave their approval. Rotten Tomatoes “critics consensus” tells us “Star Trek Beyond continues the franchise’s post-reboot hot streak with an epic sci-fi adventure that honors the series’ sci-fi roots without skimping on the blockbuster action.” So, what we found a bit too much is celebrated by many. It’s always good to recall how at the end, all of us must judge such things for ourselves.

The script was written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg who doubled as Scotty. The film was directed by Justin Lin. The cast included Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, John Cho on Sulu, more about whom, later, Anton Yelchin as Chekov (and who tragically died this past month) Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and Idris Elba as the tortured villain Krall. Sophia Boutella’s Jaylah was a breakout. Also, I noticed Amazon founder, tech investor and gazillionare Jeff Bezos had a walk on. Fun work if you can get it, and continuing a tradition in the franchise, I believe, of various friends of friends getting small parts in the background.

While much of it was buried for us in the overwhelming action, there genuinely was an attempt to capture the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision. It is hard not to be aware of George Takei’s mixed feelings about making his character gay. It seems he, Mr Takei, appreciated the sentiment. But he wanted LGBTQ folk celebrated with the addition of a new character, feeling the honor should be going to Roddenberry rather to himself. With full respect to the wonderful Mr Takei, he’s wrong on this one. The little telegraphing scene of Sulu wearing a wedding ring, and later his meeting his family were sweet for many of us for many reasons.

There were numerous other small nods to the original and its spirit, and I did notice many of them as the story banged on its way.

Owen Gleiberman, chief film critic for Variety pretty much speaks my mind on this. “’Star Trek Beyond’ might have been more accurately entitled ‘Star Trek Contained.’ It’s got a very familiar, old-fangled, no-mystery structure, and that’s because it’s basically the ‘Star Trek’ version of an interplanetary action film, with a plot that doesn’t take you to many new frontiers. But there’s plenty of chance to hang out with a cast that audiences have — rightly — come to love.”

So, not a great film. And at least for an old fart a bit too much with the special effects, already. But, solid. And fun. And, on balance, satisfying enough.

Me, I admit I’m kind of hoping the next installment will take advantage of the great cast and the possibilities inherent in that universe.

In the meantime you could do worse on a Summer evening.

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