Monday, July 25, 2016

Looking at Movies (First Run) - Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Before anyone gets the crazy notion that there could be many more Star Trek movies to come with this cast, both Zachary Quinto (Spock) and Karl Urban (Bones) have indicated that this may be it for them. Quinto indicated that he might be interested in a fourth movie, but that would be it. The reason I find this sad and significant is that it looks like this rebooted series finally got a Star Trek movie right, and now it may be one of the last ones. The first movie was good, but the second one was a disaster. I am not surprised that removing J.J. Abrams from the director's chair has resulted in the best movie of the trilogy.

Star Trek Beyond is everything a Star Trek movie needs to be. It is fast-paced, it is confrontational, and it leans heavily on the idea that your crew is your family. As my esteemed colleague Craig Bacon pointed out after the movie was over, this is a movie that felt like a Star Trek story and not just a Spock or Kirk story. Everyone got extremely involved in this adventure, and the end result was a lot of fun to watch on the screen.

Since this was already revealed in one of the trailers it is ok for me to say it here; I really hate it when directors blow up the Enterprise. To me, making a movie without the Enterprise is like trying to make a Batman movie without the Batmobile. You cannot, and should not, do it. But as we all saw in the previews, the Enterprise is obliterated in this movie and we are forced to go through the entire story without one of the most iconic pieces of the franchise.

But there was some good that came from the destruction of the Enterprise. Because there was no high-tech ship to lean on, the cast was put into a position where they became the core of the story. This is what set up the story as what Craig called an "ensemble movie," and it couldn't have happened that way without destroying the Enterprise. Why? Because on the Enterprise, all attention is focused on Kirk and Spock. When the crew is cast into a strange jungle on an unknown planet, suddenly everyone matters almost equally.

While Justin Lin showed that he has a better command of what Star Trek means than J.J. Abrams, there were still nagging little details that Lin allowed to linger. There were a ton of tributes to the original cast throughout Beyond, and that is fine since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the original television series. But Lin took liberties with certain aspects of the original series that even bothered the original cast members. For example, it was revealed in Beyond that Sulu is gay in this Star Trek universe. It is an obvious tribute to George Takei, but even Takei angrily pointed out that the character of Sulu is not gay. This idea that the new "realigned" universe can bend and twist Roddenberry's original foundation seems like a student taking liberties with the master's work.

The other problem I have is Chris Pine's version of Captain Kirk. At this point, I have to assume it is Pine doing it this way because this is a different director than the first two movies but with the same results. I am not going to give anything away, but the wishy-washy constitution Pine gives to the normally iron-clad Kirk is aggravating to me. Kirk was scared in the second movie, but Captain Kirk never gets scared. If he does, he would certainly never admit it. In this movie, Pine's Kirk makes a decision after only five years in space that Shatner's Kirk would never make. I'm just not settled on how Pine interprets Kirk, and that has been my stance since I saw the first film in this series.

Despite the liberties that Lin and the actors take with some of the more iconic Star Trek elements, this movie still plays very well. It is a good story, the effects are decent, and the action is done just right. Idris Elba plays a very convincing villain, and the final battle is spectacular. The movie is filled with those last-second rescues and out-of-nowhere problem solutions that we are used to with Star Trek. As a Star Trek movie, this one can stand up against any of them.

This movie does lean heavily on special effects, so seeing it on the big screen has its advantages. Much of the action is pretty dark, which makes it a tough drive-in movie to watch until the night really settles in. But all in all, this is a fun night at the movies.

Rating: 3 out of 5

George N Root III is a drive-in junkie and Star Trek fanatic. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com

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