BEYOND MEDIOCRE

STAR TREK BEYOND IS A HARMLESS PATCHWORK EFFORT THAT ISN’T HORRIBLE BUT SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN THE MOVIE TO CELEBRATE TREK’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

Director: Justin Lin

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sophia Boutella, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and Anton Yelchin

Rated: PG

Studio: Paramount

Running Time: 2 Hrs

There’s been a lot of attention focused on Star Trek recently. From the new series coming this January to the loss of Leonard Nimoy last year, to the tragic death of Anton Yeltsin a few months ago to the fact that 2016 is the franchise’s fiftieth birthday, Star Trek’s been on a lot of minds. You would this would be a perfect opportunity to release another strong entry in Trek’s lengthy and celebrated movie series. Not only to celebrate Trek’s long list of successes but to honour the memory of its recently departed family members as well.

Unfortunately, Star Trek Beyond is not that movie.

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NO FRESH TREK

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS IS AN EXCELLENT BLEND OF SCIENCE FICTION AND ACTION FLICK, BUT USES AN OLD STORY INSTEAD OF ANYTHING NEW

Director:  J.J. Abrams

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Starring:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberpatch, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, Peter Weller and Bruce Greenwood.

Rated: PG

Length: 132 minutes

When Paramount Studios rebooted the Star Trek franchise in 2009 with the simply titled Star Trek, it was to free the science fiction franchise from over half a century of storytelling baggage.  Between William Shatner adventures as Captain James Tyberius Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the classic Trek series on CBS back in the sixties, until the last episode of the prequel series Enterprise starring Scot Bakula as Captain Johnathan Archer aired in 2005, Gene Roddenbery’s “wagon train to the stars” built a massive mythology that spanned ten motion pictures, five TV shows (combining for 28 seasons), and countless novels, comic books and fan conventions over five plus decades.  And while Star Trek has often been referred to as a billion dollar franchise, the problem this presented Paramount (and more importantly, the writers hired to tell stories), was that Trek’s mythos had become a veritable kraken that strangled any new ideas before they could be told.  Enter director J.J. Abrams and his time travelling relaunch in 2009, a movie that allowed stories to be told with the classic characters in their prime, unencumbered by the claustrophobic Trek dogma.

It’s a little disappointing then to see them retreat to a classic Trek story that’s already been used in both the original series and a previous movie instead of exploring that newfound freedom.

At the risk of leaking spoilers, the primary villain of Into Darkness is a genetically enhanced war criminal exiled from Earth three centuries, he and his genocidal followers cryogenically frozen while their ship wanders the stars.  Played efficiently by Benedict Cumberpatch, this new Khan begins a one man wave of terror against both Starfleet and the Federation, prompting the powers that be to send the Enterprise after him.  But Captain Kirk and the crew soon find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, half truths and misdirection.

Abrams applies a handful of new twists to the Khan tale and he injects plenty of emotional turmoil into the story.  While everyone is quick to recognize James Kirk’s (Chris Pine) potential, the womanizing captain drives his superiors crazy.  And driving Kirk crazy is his first officer and best friend Spock (Zachary Quinto), whose obsession with logic is a perfect compliment to Kirk’s instinctive first style of command even while the two grate on each other.  Abrams also ratchets up the romantic tension between Spock and the passionate and strong willed Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and he expands the character of Scotty (played brilliantly by Simon Pegg), allowing plenty of humanity and laughs in the middle of the crazy technology and action.

And speaking of the action, the scenes in Into Darkness are by far the best any Trek movie has seen.  Abrams uses all the FX technology at his disposal to give this chapter the epic feel that many Star Trek fans have craved but have never really gotten.  The fist fights in this one definitely take a back seat to the duelling starships.  And there’s plenty of duelling starships.

Into Darkness has a number of other things going for it.  The movie goes deeper into the relatively young relationship between Kirk and Spock, it gives more screen time to Dr. “Bones” McCoy (played with the perfect amount of sandpaper by Karl Urban) and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura isn’t your father’s Uhura (the Enterprise’s communications officer is quite at home among the movie’s top characters and she’s no damsel in distress) It also gives Spoke an opportunity to go a little cowboy himself, a refreshing change on his sometime sombre demeanour.  But my big disappointment with Into Darkness remains that they recycled an old story and an old villain after spending so much time and effort to free the franchise from the past, to give it some creative carte blanche.

Don’t get me wrong; if you’re a Star Trek fan, an action movie fan or an action fan, go see Into Darkness.  See it in IMAX or 3D (or both) if you can to fully appreciate the brilliant effects and action scenes.  It’s definitely worth the price of admission to se it on the big screen while you can.  Just don’t expect a new story.

Shayne Kempton

NO FRESH TREK STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS IS