Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Star Trek Beyond


Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence

The best action movies start with the story and build the action scenes around it.  The lame ones start with the action scenes and use the story to fill in the blanks.  The "Star Trek" reboot and its sequel, "Star Trek into Darkness" were a lot of fun because J.J. Abrams remembered that.  He left the series in the directing capacity (but stayed on as a producer) to work on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," leaving director Justin Lin to take his place.  Lin broke out with the highly regarded indie flick "Better Luck Tomorrow," but then turned his attention to "Fast and the Furious" franchise.

"Star Trek Beyond" is a disappointment.  That doesn't mean it's a bad movie, because it's not.  It does what it sets out to do: provide a thrilling two hours with some old friends.  But compared to the first two installments, it's a bit of a letdown.  While the action is thrilling and the performances are top-notch, there's so much action that there's little room for a plot.  In fact, there are times when it seems more like a trailer than a real movie.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is about mid-way through her 5 year voyage.  They're running low on supplies and everyone is getting a bit stir-crazy, so they make a pit-stop at Yorktown, a Federation base.  There, they get a distress call from an escape pod.  Her ship was severely crippled in a violent nebula and she needs help.  The Enterprise goes to the rescue, but it's a trap.  They're attacked by a swarm of individual ships that destroy the Enterprise and leave the surviving crew stranded.  Now, with the help of fellow survivor named Jaylah (Boutella) to rescue the crew and prevent a villain named Krall from using an insidious weapon to wreak havoc in the galaxy.

The returning cast members slide easily back into their roles.  The newcomers to the cast, Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba, are fine, but underwritten.  The scene-stealer is Shoreh Aghdashloo (as she is wont to do), but she's only on screen for two scenes.

I wish that Justin Lin had more faith in the cast and the story.  Not to mention the audience.  He's going for a world audience here, which is fine.  But he fails to realize that the excitement comes not from special effects (not always) but from getting involved in the story.  Razzle-dazzle doesn't mean much if you don't care about the plot.  Lin tries every trick in the book to reach every single person on Earth, and his attempts to do so are obvious (it seems that every few minutes he rotates the camera 360 degrees for no apparent reason).

If I seem less than enthusiastic, rest assured that I enjoyed myself enough to recommend the film.  It could have been a lot better, but considering the crap that's been released so far this year, anything that is marginally enjoyable should be considered a ringing endorsement.  "Star Trek Beyond" is considerably above that level.

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