‘Star Trek Beyond’: A Nice Anniversary Present from Paramount

For the 50th anniversary, Paramount Pictures made a very special date night for its Star Trek fans. There was a walk on the beach, fireworks (literal and figurative), and a poignant parting. In between all that, there was also a movie, “Star Trek Beyond,” making its red carpet premiere at San Diego Comic-Con on Wednesday, preview night, under the stars, south (behind) the San Diego Convention Center on the Marina Park where about 3,000 fans sat cheered and teared.

Getting the tickets weren’t easy, Some attendees received tickets from a fan event at the Los Angeles-based Paramount Pictures, where attendees were the first audiences to see the new trailer for “Star Trek Beyond” and also witnessed the renaming of a road outside Stage 31 “Leonard Nimoy Way. Others got in line earlier in the day for the remaining tickets, given away through a lottery beginning at noon.

Then one walked along the bay, with the gentle breeze cooling the heat of the summer day. This was a line where the wait wasn’t hot and sweaty and hopeless. This line was filled with both dread and hope. The stars, introduced by a surprise emcee–Conan O’Brien. Director Justin Lin told the audience about his childhood family bonding over “Star Trek: The Original Series” re-runs.  J.J. Abrams asked for a moment of silence for the late Anton Yelchin.

Paramount treated us to Subway sandwich dinner, gave us an LED bracelet, paid for the San Diego Orchestra to play music as fireworks popped and fizzled against the evening sky. “Star Trek Beyond” seat cushions in white and blue were handed out.

My husband is a die-hard “Star Trek: The Original Series” fan. He has seen the two previous movies of the re-boot: “Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek into Darkness” (2013). As Asian Americans, we both were dismayed that Benedict Cumberbatch played Khan Noonien Singh. Ricardo Montablán was Mexican and not Asian, however, 1967, when the “Space Seed” aired was a different time and a different socio-political climate. There seemed to be just three categories: White, Black and Other Ethnic. White could play almost any color with the “right” kind of makeup.

“Star Trek Beyond” doesn’t suffer from that kind of casting controversy. Like the “Wrath of Khan,” Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is wrestling with age. His birthday is approaching. Lt. Commander Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) chides Kirk his birthday as they relax, drinking some hard liquor, some pilfered from Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

In “Wrath of Khan,” Kirk’s age was symbolized by the antique glasses that McCoy gives him. He relishes adventure, but adventures seem to be leaving him behind. In “Star Trek Beyond,” after a humorous failed attempt at diplomacy, Kirk wonders if he wouldn’t be happier tied down someplace like a densely-populated starbase Yorktown where, after three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission, the USS Enterprise is docking to resupply. He’s applied for a Vice Admiral position on the starbase.

Spock (Zachary Quinto) has ended his relationship with Lt. Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana). The reason, which isn’t immediately revealed, relates to his other self, Spock Prime (the late Leonard Nimoy). Nimoy doesn’t appear in this movie which was filmed after his death, but his Spock haunts this movie until the very end. Spock Prime, for those who aren’t familiar, is Spock from another dimension who, due to circumstance that it took another movie to explain, has become trapped in this other reality. He is Ambassador Spock and has given advice to the Spock of this world. Spock receives word that Ambassador Spock is dead and receives some of the ambassador’s effects.

While at Yorktown, they receive a rescue mission. An escape pod has been discovered with a survivor, Kalara (Lydia Wilson) who tells a horrific tale and plead for assistance to save her crew.  The Enterprise goes into the nebula which cuts off their communication with the Federation and upon approaching the planet, they are attacked by starships that swarm like bees, manned mostly by drone soldiers under the control of a scaly, cold-hearted creature named Krall (Idris Elba). Krall is part salt monster woman and vampire. He needs humans to remain alive, draining the life from them and temporarily losing his scaliness more quickly than any hand cream commercial can claim.

Kalara has betrayed the crew of the Enterprise and yet Kirk teams with her as he and Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) try to find a way to escape. The Enterprise has been completely torn apart.

Spock and McCoy reach the planet in an alien spaceship, but Spock is severely wounded.

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) meets aliens, but is rescued by another alien, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

One might complain that the Asian guy, Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), third officer and helmsman has such a small part. He’s the leader of the surviving captured crew members along with Uhura but it’s Uhura who gets to do some fighting, even in her impractical short red dress and long hair.

The Enterprise’s enemy is Krall (Idris Elba), a leader who knows a surprising amount about Kirk, the Enterprise and the Federation. He is mysteriously embittered toward the Federation. If he were a political figure or a general, we’d call him a war hawk. He sees the Federation as too lovey-dovey.

In the end, a lot of people will die, but not Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov or Jaylah. Kirk will come to terms with his birthday with more than a wish for “perfect eyesight and a full head of hair.” Still this movie is very much about mourning. It is dedicated  “In loving memory of Leonard Nimoy” and “For Anton,” whose role will not be re-cast. Yelchin died before editing on the movie was completed and there’s a poignant moment at the end that was a reaction to his death.

This movie while still often overblown with CGI effects, favoring action over substance and logic, manages to capture the humorous relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy in a manner that both respects TOS and further develops it. My husband rated it as the best of the three reboot movies. I laughed and was charmed by Paramount Pictures date campaign to win my heart. This film might be a move in the right direction, bringing back TOS fans while still satisfying the reboot series fans. After 50 years, the honeymoon may be over, but the relationship looks like it is heading in the right direction (And then there’s that Axanar problem, alas.).

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