Star Trek: Beyond Explores the Wild West But What’s Next?

29 Jul

timthumbBy Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Half-way through the five-year mission of exploring the fringes of Federation space, the crew of the USS Enterprise are starting to plan for their future when it will be over. Some have settled in to a comfortable life, finding relationships with fellow crew-mates, and others are just wanting it to be over. Before the end of the first act, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) mentions he’s looking to continue his career elsewhere, and still has a few daddy issues to mull over. Spock (Zachary Quinto) has his own share of problems and the rest of the crew are considering their options.

As for what happens next, a stop for supplies at a space station in the shape of a hexagonal orb is more like a new beginning. As options are weighed, one last mission is requested at a nebula that has not been fully explored. Here, shades of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is hinted at. Instead of a wormhole for wayfarers to go through, the expanse of space is filled with a different hazard — aliens not encountered before.

Justin Lin inserts his trademark style into the world of Star Trek. As wonderful as Simon Pegg and Doug Jung is to pay homage to some of the classical roots (including the films), complete with the prerequisite Spock and McCoy frenemy style relationship, the latter half is modernized with high stakes action and a little return to form, like I was watching a classic episode again. Justice has to be decided by who is holding the biggest gun. There’s some frontier justice going on and a mystery that Scotty stumbles upon. A lost Starship from over a hundred years ago surfaces …

From the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture to The Voyage Home, I was thrilled to watch the emotional journey the original crew went through. Kirk was never sure about returning to command, but when Kahn surfaced again, he lost his best friend and they had to travel back in time to save the Earth. Although the films lost its flavour in the next series of films, and a bit of the magic that made up what this franchise is about was recreated when Picard and Kirk met; here, the story for Jim continued. Star Trek, as we generally know it, is more about the crew than just one individual. In the rebooted series, producers J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof worked with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman to recall some of that leading man’s charm. While we get a new version of James Tiberius Kirk, he has problems to face. He’s forced to work hard to move away from the shadow of what his father, George Kirk, represents.

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Captain Christopher Pike sees a world of possibilities for George’s son in the first film, and although he got his command by fluke, his journey has hit a curious point with this third film, Beyond. Perhaps the story is needing him to look past the doldrums of that everyday life as a Starfleet captain. There’s an enjoyable tale to be found in this revitalized series when I decided to specifically look at Jim Kirk’s journey. While Spock’s is equally poignant since he shared time with the Prime Universe version, the resolution and completion felt too abrupt. Hopefully more can be developed with later films, or Spock gets his own movie.

Although this new Star Trek is built up through layers of committee meetings to develop a franchise, there are moments of introspection that I enjoyed witnessing from the leading stars. Although I wanted more from the supporting characters, sadly, that requires a television series to work on than a film. The only thing the movie series has not done is to transcend beyond the material set in the series bible. When the producers decided to call this latest cinematic entry, Beyond, I had thoughts of Wesley Crusher returning as the Traveler (from The Next Generation). Since this is a rebooted series with acknowledgement that the Prime universe does exist — and Spock crossed parallel realities — to see Wil Wheaton return to the canon would make for an interesting theatrical continuation. That would throw meaning to the subtitle Beyond because he literally has travelled between dimensions and realms of thought. Shouldn’t that be what this film explored? Aside from the trailer, I have managed to avoid much of the talk and tease of what was to come in this film.

This film had some substance, but in the end, I thought it offered nothing new to rave about to fellow Trekkies. I prefer my introspective films and for this Millennial Trek, it’s more about how to save the day for the umpteenth time. And when can we finally stop blowing up the Enterprise?

3 Stars out of 5

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