|The Enterprise under attack by a swarm of alien ships
Forget for a moment that the plot is full of holes big enough to pilot a starship through. Ignore for a second that the laws of even STAR TREK physics (and military protocol) are frequently violated. Try to remember that you have entered the cool, dark, magical place called a movie theater to have fun. Then sit back, munch your popcorn and enjoy the hell out of the best new TREK movie yet, STAR TREK BEYOND.
This third in the series of TREK films produced by J.J. Abrams is a nonstop thrill-ride, with some of the coolest special effects ever. A bored and uncertain Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is considering a career change during a provisioning stop on the fabulous new Yorktown space station. Seems he feels he’ll never live up to his father’s reputation in Starfleet. He even has the paperwork in for a desk job, but a rescue mission comes up first, requiring him to take the Enterprise out into uncharted space to pick up another ship’s crew stranded beyond a sensor-killing nebula.
The premise is nothing new, but the threat Kirk encounters in orbit around his destination planet is something else again. The ship is attacked by swarms of shield-penetrating fighters that strip the Enterprise of her skin and open her like a tin can. He and his crew are forced to separate the saucer and abandon ship in lifepods. On the planet below, small groups of the crew—Scotty (Simon Pegg) and a resourceful alien ally, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho), Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yeltsin)—face an implacable foe with a plan for revenge on the Federation.
Again, none of this is new, and, really, neither is any of the ensuing action to join forces again and 1) escape captivity on the planet and 2) stop the madman. But it is a lot of fun, with plenty of daredevil action, a believable and worthy villain (Idris Elba) with a reason for being, and a shipload of quotable quips between our characters. We aren’t surprised when our captain and crew win the day, and we aren’t surprised, either, when Kirk (and Spock, too, who has been having similar doubts) makes the right decision about his career.
This is a film that could be enjoyed completely without any reference to previous iterations of TREK. If you are not a fan, you might miss some things, but you would still have fun and like these characters for themselves. But if you are a fan of the original series, this film, in particular, pays conscious tribute to what had gone before. Spock is informed early in the film that Ambassador Spock (a character known as Spock Prime in the films) has died, and the death is cause for a deep examination of his life in Starfleet. He’s even shown going through Ambassador Spock’s personal effects, which include a photo of the familiar old Enterprise crew.
Sulu (John Cho) is shown meeting his male life partner and young daughter for shore leave on Yorktown, a tribute to gay actor George Takei, who played Sulu in TOS. And Kirk’s angst revolves around the celebration of his birthday (which happens to be the anniversary of his father’s death), much as it famously did in the best of the original TREK films, THE WRATH OF KHAN.
|The new Triad
Best of all, however, Abrams, his director (Justin Lin) and his writers (who included Simon Pegg, among others), have finally begun to get comfortable with what TOS fans refer to as the Triad—Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The relationship between these three characters is central to TREK; they are thesis, antithesis, synthesis; mind, body, spirit; id, ego, superego. That chemistry has to work or nothing works. And it’s not just the three of them together; it’s Kirk/Spock and Kirk/McCoy and Spock/McCoy. This film had scenes that explored each of those relationships. We’re not quite at TOS levels yet, but we’re getting there. (And, strangely enough, McCoy is the glue that holds this group together, not Kirk, as it was in TOS. I think that’s because Karl Urban most closely inhabits his character. He really is McCoy.)
So, yes, STB is a most definite GO. Just don’t expect more than an exciting visit with some familiar pals. It's too hot for deep thinking anyway. So relax into your seat and let the magic begin.