Friday, July 29, 2016

Movie: Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond is the third Star Trek movie in the series reboot featuring the well chosen cast of Chris Pine as Captain James Tiberious Kirk, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura, John Cho as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov and Simon Pegg as Engineer Montgomery Scott. This time around the crew is directed by Justin Lin of Fast and Furious 6 fame and the villain facing off against Kirk is Idris Elba who plays Krall.

The movie opens with Captain Kirk on a diplomatic peace mission offers an artifact on behalf of one alien species to another. When the mission fails, Kirk admits in his captain's log that halfway through his five year mission he is tired. Commander Spock is seen placing the artifact, the Abronath, into the ship's archives. The Enterprise arrives at Starbase Yorktown for resupply and shore leave. Kirk speaks with Commodore Paris about his application for Vice Admiral and recommends Commander Spock for the captaincy of the Enterprise. While at Yorktown, a survivor of a ship arrives at the base. The alien, Kalara tells the base that her ship is stranded on a planet called Altamid, just past the nearby nebula and asks the Federation to rescue them. Kirk volunteers the Enterprise for the mission and the crew reassembles and leaves immediately.

However, once through the nebula and approaching the planet, the Enterprise is violently attacked  and quickly overwhelmed by a huge swarm of ships unlike anything they have ever seen before.  The small ships are like spikes which embed themselves into the hull of the Enterprise, releasing the aliens who begin slaughtering the crew. One of those aliens is Krall, who it is revealed is searching for the Abronath.

The ship loses its nacelles and when Scotty reconnects the impulse engines, attempts to limp toward the nebula. However, Krall orders his ships to cut the ship from the engines. As Kirk and the crew battle the aliens Kalara is revealed to have tricked the Federation so as to save her own crew who are also trapped by Krall. In a fight for the Abronath with Krall, Kirk manages to hide the artifact in a shuttle as the saucer section spirals towards the planets surface. The crew of the Enterprise are captured by Krall's men including Lieutenant Uhura and Sulu but Kirk, Chekov and Scotty escape in a pods, while Dr. McCoy and Spock crash land in one of the alien ships.

On the surface of the planet, all of the bridge crew struggle to reunite; Spock is badly injured and is treated by McCoy, Scotty stumbles upon another alien, Jaylah who saves him from Krall's men and Kirk, Chekov and Kalara begin looking for the saucer section of the Enterprise, and Uhura and Sulu try to figure out what Krall is up to.

Jaylah tells Scotty that her ship was taken by Krall and her crew has been taken one by one never to return. She escaped with the help of her father and lives by scavenging on Altamid. She takes Scotty to her "home" which turns out to be the USS Franklin, a Federation ship gone missing over a hundred years ago. Jaylah has rigged a cloaking device that has allowed the ship to be hidden while she tries to repair it. She agrees to help Scotty find his crew mates if he will help her repair the Franklin. At this point Kirk, Chekov and Kalara locate the Enterprise saucer and crawl through the wreckage. Kirk hopes to use the saucer to locate his missing crew, but is attacked by Kalara. Activating the boosters, Kirk cause the saucer to flip, killing Kalara but allowing him and Chekov to narrowly escape.

Meanwhile at the Franklin, one of Jaylah's traps is set off and she and Scotty go to investigate and discover it is Kirk and Chekov. They are released and taken back to the Franklin where Scotty fills them in and Kirk orders Scotty to continue with the repairs. McCoy and Spock, who is still weak from his wound, are located by Krall's men but are saved by Scotty who beams them both aboard the Franklin. Reunited with most of his bridge crew, Kirk decides that they must raid Krall's camp and save the Enterprise crew. Convincing Jaylah to help them, they begin to devise a plan to rescue the crew. What Kirk doesn't yet know is that Krall's plans are much bigger than just capturing the Enterprise.


Fans of the Star Trek franchise certainly won't be disappointed with Star Trek Beyond, an intense film with plenty of action, explosions and the usual camaraderie between the crew of the Enterprise. The visual effects were especially stunning in this movie, fortunately overshadowing a mediocre plot. The deadly beauty of the nebula and the detail of the Starbase Yorktown - an artificial home created in space are just some examples of the beautiful special effects in the movie. Especially wonderful are the different camera shots of the starbase, showing it in incredible detail from every angle.  Director Justin Lin is noted for his action sequences and he delivers in Star Trek Beyond. The devastating and fatal attack on the Enterprise was vividly portrayed as Krall's attack ships overwhelmed the starship much in the way bees swarm. The intensity and the horror of the attack in the coldness of space is shown as Krall's ships swirl around the Enterprise, embedding themselves into its hull or slicing through sections to chop the ship apart.

There are lots of references to previous Star Trek movies including one of movie's posters which has a similar layout to that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture released in 1979. The music used to disrupt Krall's drone attack on the Yorktown starbase, Beastie Boy's Sabotage, is also the same song used in the 2009 Star Trek movie when a young James Tiberius Kirk crashes up his father's sports car. There are other throwbacks too - the picture of the 1989 cast of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier which Spock finds among Ambassador Spock's possessions is a tribute to the three deceased members(DeForest Kelly, Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan) of the original TV series and set of movies.

The movie Star Trek Beyond was not without its problems though. One aspect of the story in Star Trek Beyond that was disappointing is the revelation that Krall is actually a human rather than part of a new alien race that Starfleet might have to learn to deal with. Instead he is a rogue pre-Federation captain named Balthazar Edison whose ship, the USS Franklin, crashed on the planet a hundred years ago after being transported there via a worm hole. At that time the planet had already been abandoned by the original aliens who left their technology behind including dormant drones. Using the alien race's technology, Krall gradually morphed into something different, needing to obtain his energy from living beings. But when he is forced to flee on the starbase, he suddenly (and not fully explained) regains his human appearance. Krall is simply another angry villain out to seek vengeance against Starfleet. It would be refreshing to see the next Star Trek movie feature a more diverse alien cast (there were fifty new aliens shown throughout Star Trek Beyond) and an original villain who forces the Federation members to work together to overcome.  Krall's connection as a human and as the captain of the Franklin is unoriginal and led to minor inconsistencies in the storyline. For example, Jaylah has rigged a cloaking device that hides the Franklin from Krall on Altamid, but Krall as former captain of the Franklin would have known where his ship was located and likely would have suspected something was up if it suddenly disappeared.

Science fiction movies often try to portray futuristic concepts in a way that is faithful to the laws of nature. For example The Martian did a good job demonstrating how man might survive on Mars and how the technology to do so might work. However,  Star Trek Beyond sometimes fails in this regard. For example, the portrayal of the nebula, while very beautiful was inaccurate. Nebulae are clouds of gases - hydrogen, helium and ionized gases as well as dust in space. Yet in Star Trek Beyond the nebula near Starbase Yorktown is shown has having huge chunks of rock which collide with one another - definitely not what we have observed about nebulae but definitely creating a suspenseful atmosphere in the film.  In contrast, the portrayal of warp travel aboard the Enterprise was very well done - we see shots of the ship in a sort of bubble as it travels faster than the speed of light and within the ship, the view outside the window is that of blurred stars as one might expect traveling so fast.

In the Star Trek universe it sometimes feels as if the characters have forgotten the technology they have at hand in order to create a more exciting finale. For example, the Starbase Yorktown was located near the nebula which had never been explored. For such a huge base, so far out into deep space, it seems incomprehensible that this would be the situation. It also seems puzzling that there are so few starships at the starbase. When Krall is attempting to poison the starbase and is in the main glass tower, why did neither the crew of the starbase nor the Franklin attempt to beam him out of the tower and into space?

Despite the mediocre plot, Star Trek Beyond is an exciting movie and will definitely appeal to trekkies of all ages. Especially appealing was the new character Jaylah whom I hope appears in any future movies. As a resourceful, strong female character she adds new possibilities to the series, in light of the news that with the unexpected death of Anton Yelchin, the character Chekov will not return. Look forward to a fourth film sometime in the future as most major cast members have been signed.

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