Susan Granger’s review of “Star Trek: Beyond” (Paramount Pictures)
‘Back in the 1960s, I became an avid fan of Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi TV series, which not only boldly explored new worlds but also set forth challenging concepts, tackling relevant social issues with philosophical ingenuity and inventive diplomacy.
Yes, the sets were tacky but provocative ideas and redemptive life-lessons flourished.
Several movie franchises continued in that vein but, under the stewardship of J.J. Abrams, character complexity has become secondary to continual conflict and spectacle, sacrificing much of the emotional satisfaction.
There’s Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), along with Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) and Pavel Chekhov (the late Anton Yelchin, who tragically died at age 27).
They’re all on-board as this installment begins in the enormous Yorktown Spaceport. Three years into their five-year tour, they embark on a rescue mission that leads them through a dangerous, uncharted nebula.
After the Enterprise is disabled by an evil enemy, reptilian megalomaniac Krall (Idris Elba), the crew is stranded on the alien planet Altamid, where they’re befriended by Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a vengeful, rebel warrior who has taken up residence inside a shipwrecked, century-old Federation vessel.
It’s generically scripted by Simon Pegg (who plays chief engineer Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott) and Don Jung and formulaically directed by noise-and-action obsessed Justin Lin (“Fast & Furious”).
Unfortunately, the narrative quest for a powerful artifact is diluted by far too many frantic skirmishes, quick edits and vertiginous CGI battles, including one in which multiple Kirks ride multiple motorcycles.
Thankfully, ever-logical Spock and grumpy, acerbic Bones still banter so actors Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban deliver much-needed comedy relief, along with the timely use of the Beastie Boys’ song “Sabotage.” Plus there’s a fleeting moment of nostalgia, a glimpse of the seven original Starfleet crew.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Star Trek: Beyond” is an explosive, shoot ‘em up 7. Although there’s too much hardware and too little heart on this voyage, the franchise should “Live long and prosper.”