Definitely a better movie than the weak rehash plot of Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

It was with some trepidation that I went to see Star Trek Beyond, mostly due to my utter disappointment with the previous installment: Star Trek Into Darkness, which was exactly that . . . little more than a darker remake of The Wrath of Khan. But Beyond is a fulfilling departure from that previous installment. There are some weaknesses to mention, however.

George Lucas' need to create complex amazing visual effects in his StarWars episodes gave rise to Industrial Light and Magic, a marvelous CGI factory that perfected the process of displaying hundreds of spacecraft, weapons and random debris all flying around at once. It was all an eyeful and was usually shown in just the right amount of time for the audience to comprehend what was going on. When Lucas decided to hand over the reigns of the StarWars franchise to Disney, J.J. Abrams was chosen to direct 2015’s StarWars: The Force Awakens. He gave us a high-quality satisfying tribute, faithful to the StarWars tradition.

But, whereas Lucas gave us the chance to figure out what all the hundreds of objects flying around actually were, Beyond's Director Justin Lin has replaced hundreds of flying objects literally with millions, all being deployed at such a dizzying pace that we don't really even know what we are seeing until well into this story . . . and when you have millions of objects in motion with no explanation, you really should give the audience some idea -- not only what they are looking at --but give them a longer look at all this action rather than all this stopwatch editing.

One critic once described all the previous Jason Bourne movies looking like they were edited in a Cuisinart -- an apt observation, but in the Bourne movies-- it worked because you could keep track of what was happening. In Star Trek Beyond, this technique is fascinating and dazzling, but suffers from being all too abrupt and chaotic, and you're in for quite a wait to figure out what you're seeing. But in contrast, we are treated to the much more slowly displayed vision of Yorktown, a spectacular interstellar colony within an enormous bubble, similar to what we saw in Elysium.

And given some of the erratic flying and bumping into mountains, seen with both Beyond's Federation starship and Han Solo's Millenium Falcon, it is quite apparent to me that StarWars and Star Trek are rapidly becoming . . . or already have become, one merged franchise. I say this having thoroughly enjoyed both movies, and I wish to note that I was especially pleased with Beyond's screenplay -- the work of Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty.

Pegg, incidentally also stars in StarWars: The Force Awakens in case you didn't notice. Just another example of this Trek/Wars cross-pollenation.

And like StarWars: The Force Awakens, this new Star Trek installment has given us an exciting new heroine in the form of Jaylah, whose formidable hand-to-hand combat skill belies her blond pony tail and kabuki make-up demeanor. And we have a great villian, Krall, whose starfish complexion hides Idris Elba, a terrific actor who tenaciously battles his way all through this story to the inevitable fight with Kirk in the airlock.

All the other familiar characters are there. Chris Pine is maturing his take on Jim Kirk nicely. Zachary Quinto is more-than-ever a credible Spock, Karl Urban is Dr. McCoy, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. But we bid a sad farewell to Anton Yelchin, who has been Pavel Chekov in these last three movies, the Russia-born young actor who was crushed at his home gate by the faulty transmission on his Jeep Grand Cherokee, when it slipped out of Park and rolled into him, fatally pinning him against the gate post this last June.

Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)


-- Thomas Ormsby

see also my review of StarWars-The Force Awakens