Thursday, July 21, 2016

An Alternate Reality #13: I saw Star Trek Beyond...

The classic crew is back, but with the new-phase actors, in "Star Trek Beyond": a Simon Pegg and Doug Yung scripted alternate-reality installment, directed by "Fast and Furious" maestro, Justin Lin and produced by masterful emulator, J.J. Abrams.

Back to the stars are Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy; Zoe Salanda as Nyota Uhura; Pegg as Montgomery Scott; John Cho as Hikaru Sulu; and the late Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov.

The new offering goes as follows: The Enterprise is attacked by mysterious, swarming crafts after answering a distress call. Lizard-like entities board the ship in search of a mysterious artifact, causing Kirk and crew to crash-land on a new world. There the dictatorial, energy-sucking saurian named Krall (Idris Elba) demands receipt of the object, while Kirk and crew are split up, trying to make sense of it all. They eventually rejoin, gaining an ally in the form of sexy black/white-striped Jaylah (Sophia Boutella), who's skilled at fighting, despises Krall and just so happens to know the whereabouts of an old starship.

There's plenty of hide-and-seek throughout, but the story is best classified as one of who-will-win-and-how. Also, for all of its skirmishes and lightning-fast chases, "Beyond" is predominately a planet-based adventure, where the main characters take turns stepping into the spotlight to push the plot along. The formula helps mount the suspense, as we wonder when the artifact will be revealed and what secret it holds. 

Pegg/Yung's script makes this chapter separate (in a sense) from its already established, refashioned history. In other words, we don't have anything akin to the destruction of Vulcan here, or a twisting on the "Space Seed"/"Wrath of Khan" story line. This is a stand-alone entry by design, designated to a new, franchise stretch, which only those-in-the-know will recognize, though a few nods to the original cast can't be denied. Nonetheless, if slipped into the ongoing, classic "Trek" amateur-series structure, this one would work without much modification.

I guess that's a good thing, but the question remains whether "Beyond" unequivocally captures the Roddenberry spirit. After all, some say the previous, two films are more action-oriented ("Star Wars" geared, that is) than philosophically bent, the way we normally think of "Trek".

One can debate the matter till the cows come home, but in some ways, "Beyond" captures the best of both worlds, with gritty zest and an interesting concept, which features old an new characters to appeal to old and new fans. Does its set-up make a sociological statement the way it should? Not really, but I suppose that all depends on how the content strikes one. That it steps away from its prior alternate-reality chapters seems to work to its advantage, and my hunch is, such will please those who aren't keen on the previous "Mirror Mirror" variations. 

Whether audiences get used to the new design (to the point where it no longer matters) is yet to be seen, but if "Beyond" falters, there's no need to fret. "Trek" isn't perishing anytime soon. If this incarnation doesn't blaze the trail farther, than there are others on the horizon that will. 

1 comment:

  1. Saw "Trek Beyond" a second time yesterday with my dad. My dad really enjoyed it, and I liked the movie even more on the second view. I was able to appreciate even more so how nice and concise things were handled in the plot and the strength of the character interactions: the latter so important to this particular mythology.

    This is definitely the best of the alternate-universe "Trek" movies, and for its luster and spunk, the best space adventure since "Guardians of the Galaxy". Hope to do another view real soon.