New ‘Star Trek’ a little too familiar

After its impressive “Star Trek” reboot and entertaining sequel, Paramount Pictures faces the inevit
From left, Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella, Anton Yelchin and Simon Pegg in a scene from "Star Trek Beyond." (Paramount)
From left, Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella, Anton Yelchin and Simon Pegg in a scene from "Star Trek Beyond." (Paramount)

After its impressive “Star Trek” reboot and entertaining sequel, Paramount Pictures faces the inevitable moment when a longtime meal ticket begins to deliver leftovers.

“Star Trek Beyond” is not a stale rehash equal to the studio’s painful “Terminator: Genisys.” But it is another case of an aging franchise running short of good individual films, even when it pursues an alternate timeline.

It’s not wholly bereft of creativity. Credit to all involved for giving the early scenes a wry sense of humor. Co-writer and co-star Simon (“Scotty“) Pegg has been a devoted Trekker for decades, and his light touch balances camp humor and character friendships with moments of emotional punch here, just as he did in “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”

‘Star Trek Beyond’


STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella


RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

As the film opens, Capt. James T. Kirk amusingly fumbles a peace treaty with a tribunal of very annoying aliens, narrates details of crew coitus on the USS Enterprise, and reveals that after so much time in space, he is uncertain of his five-year mission.

Pegg also understands that certain elements should not be avoided. The unexpected chat in the ship’s saloon between Kirk (Chris Pine) and ever-grouchy Dr. Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) digs into personal details that usually go unspoken in the series. And there’s a lot of pleasure in seeing those two actors play verbal pingpong. The prologue is a roundabout way of establishing an interesting new perspective on familiar material. Precisely because we didn’t see that coming, it pays off.

Nonetheless, the film industry’s increasingly dominant international market doesn’t turn out for a good story, but for relentless action that’s bigger, louder and smash-happier than anything seen before. It is triggered here by the arrival of xenomorphs who are hijacking the crews from interstellar ships. They are plotting a blitzkrieg against the headquarters of the peace-loving United Federation of Planets for incredibly strange reasons I cannot explain. This time, the attack is delivered not from a Death Star but a near-infinite sandstorm of tiny attack jets that the Enterprise crew calls “the bees.”

Check your brain at the door; you won’t need it for the next two hours. Hang on to your earplugs, however.

The subterfuge behind the attacks is echoed by a lissome new alien woman who becomes our heroes’ ally (Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, which sounds a lot like Jennifer Lawrence.) A resourceful tough cookie, she uses sci-fi smokescreens to conceal her whereabouts on the planet of the bad aliens. There’s a similar contradictory feeling to the screenplay, co-written by Doug Jung, a mystery box secretly packed with material we saw in this universe not so long ago.

If you liked seeing Kirk race a motorcycle in 2009’s “Star Trek,” you’ll see lots more here. Remember him rolling over the corridor walls, floors and ceilings as the Enterprise wildly power-dived in 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness”? Here, every member of the cast joins him, slip-sliding in repeated tailspins. Recall how that film’s anonymous villain hid his surprising true identity, ultimately revealed as a Starfleet officer who went rogue, then lived in space unobserved for centuries with a really big revenge-y grudge? Would you like another serving?

You can tell that J.J. Abrams, who helmed the first two films, isn’t involved here. His signature lens flares are nowhere to be seen. This entry belongs to director Justin Lin, who has steered the highly illogical “Fast & Furious” series into ever higher success. He is solid with action set pieces, and this film has a million of them. Lin’s work is wildly ambitious visually, often to the point of overkill.

Mostly, though, I felt the quicksand pull of being sucked into plot holes. At one point, one of the crew members is put into heart-stopping peril with absolutely no way out. A couple of scenes later, he just strolls back into the action, chipper as can be. Throughout the film, we see thousands of red-shirts wiped off the Enterprise’s decks, yet we know none of them and at the finale cocktail party, none of them gets a toast beyond a mere “Here’s to absent friends.” It seems like the final frontier might actually be thinking about the bleak destruction that the film has just served us.

Categories: Entertainment

Leave a Reply