Saturday, July 23, 2016

Enterprise crew shines in 'Star Trek Beyond'

"Star Trek Beyond" avoids the third-movie slump by, well, going beyond what we've seen in this version of "Trek."

Cynical fans and Trekkies may say that's only because J.J. Abrams is no longer directing, but pay no attention to them and their outlook. As it is said, haters are going to hate.

Another perspective may be that it takes a new director in charge to bring fresh blood to this still relatively new "Trek" universe. That could be true, but that does a severe disservice to Jeremy Lin, who has a great feel for Captain James T. Kirk, the U.S.S. Enterprise and her crew.

The transition from Abrams to Lin is seamless. I'd be more than happy to have Lin return to the director's chair.

One also could argue that it takes a fan who is a part of "Star Trek" to know how to handle the universe properly. That's the case for co-writer Simon Pegg.

You do have to give credit to Pegg for knowing how to write a screenplay that hits all the necessary points of a great "Trek" cinematic adventure without ever feeling like he has a checklist. "Beyond" delivers impressive special effects, great character moments, suitable humor, many how-will-they-get-out-of-this moments and appropriate, sentimental homages to the "Star Trek" legacy.

Part of that legacy are the many "hero shots" of the Enterprise in outer space and when she's docked.

Mild spoiler alert: As has become a tradition in all "Trek" films, the Enterprise gets trashed. But for the first time in this continuity, she gets completely destroyed. And since I've already given you somewhat of a spoiler, all I'll say, uh, beyond that is the Enterprise gets damaged in a way we've never seen in the previous movies. End spoiler

"Star Trek Beyond" is no ego piece for Pegg. He avoids the ego-traps in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" and a part of "Star Trek: Nemesis" respectively for William Shatner (the original Kirk) and Brent Spiner (Lt. Data). (Those two films are reviewed in the final part of the CCC series of "Trek" films retro reviews.) 

Pegg's Montgomery Scott features no greater in the story than the rest of the cast. In fact,"Beyond" is a story that explores the importance of unity.

Just as much as is the theme of "Star Trek Into Darkness," a theme in "Beyond" is the importance of each member of the Enterprise crew and making sure no one is left behind. Aside from maybe "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," I can't remember a "Trek" movie in which each and every member of the main crew plays such a vital role. ("The Undiscovered Country" is on CCC's list of the greatest films starring the original Enterprise crew.)

Sure, Chris Pine's Kirk is the one to have the final confrontation with the big baddie Krall (powerfully played by Idris Elba), but that's the way it's always been. And always will be.

In fact if I had to say one character who shines above the others it is Karl Urban's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy.

Ever since we saw McCoy in Urban's first scene in "Star Trek," the Southern doctor has been a bit of a cranky pants. And it was clear on that short shuttle trip that Kirk and McCoy would be fast friends.

So it's no surprise in "Beyond" that it's McCoy who masterfully knows the importance of quietly celebrating Kirk's birthday (at least initially!). McCoy knows what makes his friend truly tick as a successful starship captain — living and making decisions so that others may live.

Urban always has had a good handle on McCoy, but in "Beyond," he takes it to a new level.

The story is personally gratifying because I really dig seeing Urban have opportunities to make McCoy integral to this version of the Big Three.

McCoy and Spock are paired together in "Beyond" and it's a delight to see Urban play off Zachary Quinto time and time again.

The legacy of the late Leonard Nimoy and the original Spock is handled with great class and grace. Ambassador Spock's passing is a subplot of "Beyond" that forces Quinto's Spock to address his part in the Vulcan legacy.

Quinto subtly tears up when he shares the news of Ambassador Spock's passing with McCoy. Shortly following that is yet another of many great McCoy and Spock moments. The doctor thinks Spock is delirious from a severe injury when he starts to laugh over something McCoy says. Great stuff!

As I mentioned, the Enterprise crew members show they kick ass in their respective specialty areas. John Cho's Sulu is a brilliant pilot (he shines brightest in an exciting, literally grab-the edge-of-your-seat moment). Zoe Saldana's Lt. Uhura is kind, tough and assertive. Oh how we'll miss the recently deceased Anton Yelchin's always dependable and brilliant Chekov.

All that means is that Kirk and his crew collectively figure out how to save the day when the odds are stacked against them. That's what every incarnation of the Enterprise crew always has done. Spock puts it best: "We will find hope in the impossible."

Grade: A 

* * *

A word or so about losing Yelchin's likable Chekov in future movies. Our favorite Russian whiz kid can never be replaced.

That being said, Jaylah, the new protagonist the crew meets when they're stranded on a "strange new world," is a strong addition. She's not just a new friend of the crew; she's handy with technology, knows how to defend herself and has a strong, appealing personality.

I fully expect to see Jaylah become a member of the Enterprise in the inevitable fourth film.

Gotta like happy coincidences like that, as "Beyond" was written long before Yelchin's sudden and tragic death. It's extremely doubtful the likable Jaylah was written with the intention of her replacing Chekov, but it's possible the scene in which Kirk invites her to become part of Starfleet could have been added after Yelchin died.

I prefer to keep thinking of Sofia Boutella's strong performance as a happy coincidence that just might work out. Besides, there's nothing wrong with more of a female presence on the ship.

(BTW what happened to Dr. Carol Marcus from "Into Darkness"? Was she simply a one-and-done character?)

If she's in the next film, Jaylah will fit into this dynamic cast without ever feeling forced — and I bet she'll buck the system of wearing a Starfleet miniskirt.


  1. Actually I think Spock is delirious. I had my doubts but you can hear him make a small choking like sound near the end that he has made when in pain. You can see he is at this point barely conscious. His eyes are dropping. You can tell when he is looking away versus he can't keep his eyes open. And it isn't much later when they are beamed to the ship and he is in very very poor condition. He had been getting worse from early on.

    1. I disagree -- although I see where you're coming from. I think Spock is indeed laughing/chuckling. Considering he got emotional over talking about Ambassador Spock's passing, it's conceivable he could also laugh at McCoy. It's not a big laugh but keep this mind: Spock's eyes barely get wet when he cries. Now, his injury and being weakened could play into it, but I'm confident it's a legitimate laugh. Something to consider.

      Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback! SO awesome.

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  3. Pegg has said that he considered putting Dr. Marcus in the script, but did not want to add her simply for the sake of addition. He thought she'd be under-utilized, a disservice to the character, but that she still exists and could in the 4th film.

  4. Pegg has said that he considered putting Dr. Marcus in the script, but did not want to add her simply for the sake of addition. He thought she'd be under-utilized, a disservice to the character, but that she still exists and could in the 4th film.