I first started watching Star Trek in the fall of 1966 on what was our family’s only TV – a 19-inch black and white Zenith that sat on a metal rolling cart in the living room of our two bedroom apartment. (It wouldn’t be until at least 1970 that we first got a color set even though NBC was running shows in color way before ‘66.) I was eight years old during Star Trek’s first season and that my parents tolerated my fascination with this show that aired after my bedtime is something which I’m most grateful for all these years later. As a kid and then a teenager the thing I wanted most to do in this world was to pivot at warp factor two and bring all photon torpedoes to bear. So, you could call me a lifetime Trek fan.
For the uninitiated, Star Trek is the story of the Starship Enterprise, a giant battleship in space on a peaceful five year mission to explore the galaxy and go where “no one has ever gone before.” Getting to the outer limits of space is made possible by traveling beyond the speed of light at “warp speed.” At the helm of the Enterprise is Captain James T. Kirk, an all-American boy from Iowa. William (“Priceline Negotiator”) Shatner originated the role of Kirk 50 years ago and played the character both in the series and a slew of movies from 1979 to 1994. Kirk’s main sidekick is an alien officer from the planet Vulcan named Mr. Spock, played from 1964 (in the very first pilot) until his recent death by Leonard Nimoy.
In 2009 due to the graying and gradual demise of many key cast members (and also to remake the epic for a new generation) Paramount Pictures relaunched and rebooted the original Star Trek crew with a whole new cast playing the old familiar characters. Star Trek from 2009 was a huge gamble – could the original Trek characters be replaced by new actors like the Superman, Batman and Spiderman franchises? The answer at both the box office and from fans was a resounding yes.
Which brings us to the newly released Star Trek Beyond. This is the third film in the new generation of the original reprise and it’s pretty safe to say it’s the best of the three so far. (Not that the first two were anything less than very good). Directed by “Fast & Furious” Justin Lin, Beyond moves at breakneck speed and at a breathless pace but doesn’t feel exhausting or overdone. The special effects are outstandingly creative and majestically executed so that not only are they awe-inspiring but 90 percent of them have plausibility as being technologically possible – which was one of the key effects hallmarks of the original series from the ‘60s.
Starting with the 2009 reboot, producer J.J. Abrams assembled a terrific ensemble cast. Nearly everyone in the crew clicks together and feels like the children or the clones of the original cast. Chris Pine as Kirk does an amazing job playing a 1967 William Shatner while at the same time bringing a millennial sensibility to the role, a tough combination to pull off. Zachary Quinto nails Nimoy’s Mr. Spock and truly outstanding in his cloning is Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. You’d think they injected him with the late DeForest Kelly’s DNA. Beyond in addition to nonstop action also features full-out Trek humor with the Spock-McCoy banter as spot-on as if it were Nimoy and Kelly on the old Desilu sets in ’68.
The supporting cast of Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana and Uhura and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov all hit the bullseye as well. Pegg was also the principal writer of the film. Idris Elba as the villain du jour (Krall) is sufficiently mad and menacing and truly a delight is Sofia Boutella as a stranded woman warrior and Kirk ally, Jaylah.
Without being a spoiler, Beyond features a lot of derring-do, suspense and danger for the Enterprise crew but knowing full well that a sequel must certainly be in the offing, you know the galaxy and the Federation will be saved, evil will be eradicated and hope restored with a bright future for humanity, but you’ll have a great time watching the heroes from Star Fleet bring it all home.
Beyond is probably one of the three best Star Trek movies produced since 1979 and if you like Trek, science fiction or action films, this is very much well worth the price of a theater admission and absolutely should be seen either in 3-D or on a really big screen.