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Above and 'Beyond'

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Third 'Star Trek' film a solid franchise offering

The reinvention of a beloved pop culture property is never going to be easy. Finding the proper balance between loyalty to preexisting fans and finding ways to welcome new ones has proven to be the downfall of numerous films in recent years.

'Star Trek' is no different. While many people saw the 2009 eponymous film and 2013's 'Into Darkness' both courtesy of J.J. Abrams the truth is that many hardcore fans of the Gene Roddenberry original found fault (particularly in the second film).

Still, there are millions to be made from a sci-fi franchise with a built-in audience, so we are here again for round three and 'Star Trek Beyond.' Abrams has left the director's chair he had to go off and deal with that other iconic pop culture sci-fi touchstone with 'Star' in the title and handed the reins over to Justin Lin, best known for his kind-of-brilliant big dumb double-down on the 'Fast and Furious' franchise. Seemingly an odd choice, it actually worked out rather well; while the hardcore Trekkers might still take issue, they're likely to enjoy it more than the previous installment. And for those who are simply fans of sci-fi action, wellthey're in for a treat.

The crew of the Enterprise is back at it. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, 'The Finest Hours') is questioning whether his heart is still in space exploration. Spock (Zachary Quinto, 'Hitman: Agent 47') is dealing with the dual blow of breaking up with Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana, 'Nina') and the death of previous-timeline Spock. Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban, 'The Loft'), Scotty (Simon Pegg, 'Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation'), Sulu (John Cho, 'Get a Job'), Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin, 'Green Room') the gang's all here.

During a supply layover at the Federation space station Yorktown, a disabled spaceship appears. Its pilot asks for assistance to rescue her compatriots, lost and stranded on a planet deep within the clouds of an uncharted nebula. The Enterprise is the only vessel equipped for such a rescue mission, so Kirk and the crew get underway.

But it's a trap.

A swarm of attack ships led by a maniacal alien soldier named Krall (Idris Elba, 'The Jungle Book') takes out the Enterprise, tearing the ship apart and forcing the entire crew to abandon ship. Most are immediately taken prisoner, but a few avoid capture. Kirk and Chekov are together, as are McCoy and Spock. Scotty, meanwhile, winds up in the company of Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, 'Kingsman: The Secret Service'), an alien warrior seeking to escape the clutches of Krall and his forces.

These few free crew members must find a way to overcome Krall's forces and prevent him from putting his plan into motion a plan that could very well result in not only their demise, but the end of the very Federation itself.

This movie works. It works because it tries very hard to capture the spirit of the original 'Star Trek' vision within the structure of a contemporary action film. It isn't 100 percent successful, but it does a fairly good job of wedding an affection for the source material with a blockbuster action aesthetic. A lot of that is due to the behind-the-camera combo; Pegg (whose credentials both nerdy and comedic are pristine) and Doug Jung have co-written a screenplay that combines relationship dynamics, clever banter, fanboy winks and big set pieces, while director Lin has proven an ability to make fun, kinetically engaging films with much less in terms of quality scripting.

And of course, there's the cast.

The Trek affection definitely carries over to the front of the camera as well. That sense of camaraderie, fun and respect permeates the entire film. Pine remains an exceptional Kirk, though we saw a bit less of the witty daredevil this time around. Quinto is even better, finding surprising levels of nuance in the largely affectless Spock. Urban absolutely crushes his portrayal of McCoy he might be my personal favorite of the bunch.

Saldana's Uhura continues to be a great character, though she's a touch underutilized in this installment. Cho as Sulu is delightful (the kind-of-ridiculous 'controversy' surrounding the character's sexuality notwithstanding), as is Yelchin. Pegg's Scotty has been a consistent highlight throughout the series; Boutella is solid as the alien Jaylah. Meanwhile, Idris Elba lends his standard Idris Elba gravitas to the proceedings he's excellent and gives great villain as always.

The 'Star Trek' films are never going to be all things to all people, but 'Star Trek Beyond' gets a lot closer than people might have expected. It's big, bold sci-fi with humor and heart the best kind of summer blockbuster.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 19:42

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