Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond is entertaining and predictable. Co-written by the excellent Simon Pegg, it grapples with heavy themes but is mostly memorable because of its clever dialogue. The acting is fine, with the cast members (RIP Anton Yelchin) demonstrating their excellent rapport; the soundtrack is appropriately epic and, later, hilariously well applied; and the visuals and makeup are terrific. Overall, this latest movie in the rebooted series is well worth a trip to the theater.

Plot summary: Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise encounter Krall, who believes that the Federation itself is “an act of war.”

When the movie begins, the Enterprise is three years into its five-year mission in deep space. The captain is restless and wonders at the futility of exploring something as endless as the universe. During a stop at Starbase Yorktown, Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) contemplate alternate paths. But along comes a scientist in distress, pleading for someone to rescue her team on their crash-landed ship. The Enterprise goes forth.

I won’t go into too much (more) spoiler-y detail, but I will point out three standout elements in Star Trek Beyond. First, the movie’s progression is thematically linked, with main themes being: 1) Who You Are, 2) the Unknown is Really Just Temporarily Hidden, and 3) Diversity and Unity is Strength. Each theme is introduced via voiceover or dialogue, sledgehammered repeatedly into our skulls, and then resolved by the ending credits.

Second, to the experienced moviegoer, this Star Trek is practically a paint-by-numbers story. Chekhov’s Guns abound. For example, when a certain type of vehicle appears, the audience knows it’s going to be used. When a piece of jewelry is mentioned, it will clearly be important later on. Et cetera. This predictability detracts only a little from the sheer spectacle of the Enterprise’s first meeting with Krall’s forces, and the tense adventures that follow.

Finally, the characters make the journey worth it. This is now the third outing for the actors playing the main crew members of the Enterprise, and in the film, they know each other so well that they can communicate solely through their eyebrows. This time around, the bromance angle is on the incorrigibly logical Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the perpetually gloomy Bones (√Čomer of Rohan), with a side order of mentor-student relationship for engineer Scottie (Pegg) and series newcomer Jayla (Sofia Boutella). Please note that Boutella played the utterly terrifying villainess in Kingsman, so she does fine work here as a very sympathetic young alien.

In this golden age of superhero movies, Star Trek Beyond’s finale can’t be considered flashy or emotionally gripping, but it contains the requisite green screen and bodies plummeting through space, so I’ll allow it.

Honestly, I think it might be time for a new Star Trek TV series, because then we would have time to get to know these reimagined characters, instead of seeing them every couple of years. But then I suppose it would never match the boldness of the original, which functioned as social commentary and often pushed the envelope, from what I understand from my darling husband’s fierce love of the series.

Anyway, this is a fairly family-friendly movie, in that the only blood ever seen is splotched attractively on Kirk’s face. Its non-human characters look great and aren’t annoying, and the banter is amusing to young and old alike. It’s like what X-Men Apocalypse could have been if Fox had hired Simon Pegg to co-write. Yes, I’m still bitter about that disaster. (sulks)

Bonus opinion: Shohreh Aghdashloo is the woman equivalent of Morgan Freeman and should henceforth narrate all movie trailers, audio books, and documentaries.

Bonus opinion 2: Zoe Saldana is very good at shouting! As we say in Tagalog, bigay na bigay! (She gives it her all!)

TL;DR: A solid entry in the franchise and a summer spectacle.


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