By Jim Tortolano
In the battle between booms and bros, booms usually win, at least in the minds of filmmakers. These days, special effects with tons of explosions and destruction seem to point the way toward big box office, with a lot less attention paid to relationships between characters, especially among comrades and friends.
“Star Trek Beyond” is a case in point. It’s heavy on the noise and the light show, but the best parts of it involve the interactions between the people in the story. Perhaps I’ve come to the point where special effects mayhem has lost its ability to thrill. That could be true, but I can’t help but think that a good story with appealing characters has to – pardon the expression – trump the CGI.
In this third film in the reboot of the “Star Trek” series, both Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are mulling a change in their lives. Before they can take that any further, there’s an emergency distress call that the U.S.S. Enterprise must answer.
Disaster befalls the ship as it sails into an uncharted nebula and it crash-lands on an unknown planet, which just happens to have an earthlike environment (imagine that!). Without giving away too many plot points, let’s just say that a powerful ancient artifact is the subject of much violent controversy and considerable punching and shooting surrounds it.
Of course, the computer-generated images are gorgeous, but the part that holds your attention is the relationships between characters. Especially fun to watch is the byplay between Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), a sort of mutual needling society that humanizes the space opera.
Idris Elba portrays a believable Krall, the chief villain, who has a surprising background. These days, a lot of bad guys don’t seem to have much of a reason to be evil; this one does, sort of.
Direction by Justin Lin in taut and steady; the pace is fine. The script by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg (who also plays Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott) is a big heavy on the pyrotechnics, but the crisp dialogue keeps the whole project airborne, or starborne.
“Star Trek Beyond” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence.