Star Trek Beyond

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Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise, is bored. It’s the third year in his crew’s five-year mission to explore the universe—to boldly go where no one has gone before. Kirk reflects that “it can be a challenge to feel grounded, when the gravity is artificial” and “things have started to feel a little episodic.”
 
In short, Kirk suffers from a mid-mission crisis and has applied to abandon ship for a desk job as a vice admiral in Yorktown, an artificial planet on the outskirts of the known universe. At the same time, Commander Spock, his faithful second-in-command, is also ill at ease. The warm romance between Spock and Lieutenant Uhura has chilled for unknown reasons. The crew’s leadership is breaking apart at its very seams.
 
When offered the chance to save a ship stranded in a nebula—where asteroids bounce about and communication is impossible—Kirk jumps at the chance for adventure. Unfortunately, it is a trap, set by Krall, an evil alien who seeks an ancient artifact stowed on the Enterprise. Will the crew know how to work together to escape Krall’s clutches? Do sequels beget sequels?
 
As with the two previous Star Trek movies that round out the current reboot of both the original television series and the older movies, the pleasure in watching Beyond comes mainly from seeing familiar roles made fresh with a strong cast: Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Sadly, Yelchin died just before the film was released.
 
The actors work well together and trade good humored one-liners. Sofia Boutella also introduces an engaging new character, the independent Jaylah, who is sure to return in future films.
 
And it’s enjoyable to see how advances in digital imaging and special effects render space travel in greater detail. Director Justin Lin, best known for films such as Fast and Furious 6, also knows how to set up the various strands of an action spectacle.
 
Despite all the technical flair and competent acting, the film reminded me too much of the old TV series, with a rather bland set for Krall’s home base and a predictable prison-break plot line. Even Krall, played by the very able Idris Elba (The Wire), comes off as a flat comic book villain. 
 
The clumsiest part of the narrative occurs when the new Spock reflects on the death of the old Spock, the recently deceased Leonard Nimoy. Did I lose you there? Well, it all has to do with black holes, alternate timelines, and finding an excuse to change the characters’ lives while paying homage to the former cast.
 
In short, Star Trek Beyond is well-made adventure film that makes good use of strong cast.  Unfortunately, it travels in fairly well-charted territory, copying rather than breaking the Star Trek science fiction mold. (Paramount)

About the Author

Otto Selles teaches French at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and attends Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.

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