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"STAR TREK BEYOND"
(2016) (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: The crew of the Starship Enterprise must contend with the destruction of their ship by a villain who's intent on destroying a massive space city.
PLOT:
Three years into their five-year mission and the crew of the Starship Enterprise is suffering from the monotony of the long tour. Captain James T. Kirk (CHRIS PINE) has applied for a vice-admiral job, something he's yet to share with his First Officer Spock (ZACHARY QUINTO) who's been contemplating leaving Starfleet service in order to rebuild New Vulcan. He's also broken up with communications officer Nyota Uhura (ZOE SALDANA), something not lost on chief medical officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy (KARL URBAN) who still doesn't always understand the ways of his all-too-logical friend.

After attempting to deliver a peace offering -- comprised of part of a formerly feared weapon -- from one space species to another, Kirk has his crew stop at the massive starbase Yorktown for some R&R and to resupply their ship. While there, a small escape pod arrives with Kalara (LYDIA WILSON) who states her ship is damaged and her crew in danger in a far-off and uncharted nebula. With the Enterprise the only ship capable of navigating that part of space, Kirk has his crew -- that also includes helmsman Hikaru Sulu (JOHN CHO), chief engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (SIMON PEGG) and navigator Pavel Chekov (ANTON YELCHIN), among others -- to set off on a rescue mission.

Little do they know until it's too late that it's actually a trap set by military commander Krall (IDRIS ELBA) and his right-hand lieutenant, Manas (JOE TASLIM). Their swarm of small spacecraft attacks the Enterprise, eventually tearing her apart and causing everyone to abandon ship. While Krall captures some of them in hopes of getting his hands on the weapon Kirk earlier possessed, others escape to a nearby planet.

There, Scotty meets Jaylah (SOFIA BOUTELLA), a woman whose family Krall previously killed, and she's trying to fix up the ancient Starship USS Franklin that somehow crashed on the planet long ago. She agrees to help him find and rescue the other survivors if he can get that ship back in working order. From that point on, Kirk, Spock, and the others attempt to rescue their imprisoned fellow crewmembers, all while learning of Krall's nefarious and deadly intentions regarding the powerful weapon he now possesses.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Despite change being inevitable, most people hate it and will do anything in their power to prevent it. I completely understand that when it comes to aging, losing family members or friends, or losing one's job. And for things you can't control but still involve one's passion, I understand the frustration and dismay when one's beloved quarterback jumps ship and goes to another team, the lead singer of a band is replaced, or something that was once free now costs something.

Hollywood also hates change. That is, if it involves any potential downturn in what's an already proven moneymaker. Just look at how much Daniel Craig was offered (reportedly around $90 million) to appear in two more James Bond films. And fans feel the same way, whether it's those playing their beloved characters in front of the camera, or sometimes even when there's a change behind it.

Such is the case with the third installment of the rebooted "Star Trek" film franchise. The first two flicks -- the terrific restart in 2009 and the less successful but still okay "Into Darkness" from 2013 -- were helmed by J.J. Abrams. But in keeping with the NFL analogy, he's jumped teams over to the "Star Wars" world, with Justin Lin (best known for directing the third through sixth installments of "The Fast and the Furious" series) now taking his place to helm "Star Trek Beyond."

And speaking of change or, more accurately, the lack thereof, that's the jumping-off point for the story that's been penned by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. As we hear from a log update provided by Captain Kirk (a returning Chris Pine who's joined by all of the rest of the major players in reprising their roles from the past two films), things have gotten monotonous onboard the USS Enterprise that's now three years into its five-year mission.

Kirk has applied to be a vice-admiral, and Spock (Zachary Quinto) is contemplating leaving Starfleet service to help New Vulcan sprout and repopulate, something that hasn't sat that well with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), his girlfriend. None of which surprises McCoy (Karl Urban) who still doesn't understand his all-too-logical friend and has fun badgering him about that when not expressing his displeasure in other things, albeit in a folksy "Damn it, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a..." style.

As has been the case in the previous entries, that chemistry along with the other such combos among the main characters -- harkening back to the original 1960s era TV show and its subsequent movies -- is what makes them and thus the film endearing. It's like watching a bunch of old friends squabble when you know that deep down they truly love, care for and would do anything for each other.

That chemistry is still spot on and helps the transition between Abrams' previous directorial style and that of Lin who apparently seems to think he's making "The Fast and the Furious" in space. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the crew of the Enterprise gets their wish for a little change when a rescue mission turns out to be a trap engineered by a lure (Lydia Wilson) who's working for the lead villain (Idris Elba, mostly unrecognizable under lots of makeup, and inhabiting a villain who, unfortunately, just isn't that mesmerizing or thrilling to spend two hours with).

The subsequent attack on the Enterprise is something to behold, although one begins to wonder if the new series will keep on tapping into the old one. After doing Khan and now the destruction of the Enterprise and having the crew on a different ship, does that mean time travel and whales await us in installment number four?

Aside from that spectacular sequence, the rest of the action is okay and certainly easy enough to watch (particularly in regard to Sofia Boutella playing a survivor of a previous antagonist attack who's more than capable of holding her own), although the occasional frantic camerawork and editing make things hard to discern regarding what's really happening moment to moment. And overall, the pic has the visual look of an offering operating with a lower budget than its predecessors. It's decent, but lacks the wow factor that fueled the brilliant 2009 film.

Even so, and when viewed in the moment, it's an entertaining diversion featuring characters we like to watch, all of which helps distract one from the pic's various issues regarding a lackluster plot, villain or effects that look more in place in a TV series than a big summer movie. Whether viewers embrace this change is yet to be determined, but as a standalone pic, "Star Trek: Beyond" is good enough to rate as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed July 20, 2016 / Posted July 22, 2016


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