By Martha Nordstrom
From the very beginning (the original series), one has had to marvel at the engineering redundancy built into the Starship Enterprise. How else to explain a vessel that can be shaken, bumped, jostled and shattered with a geyser of sparks and flames roaring from the control panel and still maintain some modicum of structure? We learn, in the first 20 minutes of “Star Trek Beyond” just how much the can can be kicked without pulverizing or frying the fragile humanoids inside. But resilient they are, even if the poor ship — finally — isn’t.
This is the third episode in the latest cinematic iteration of “Star Trek” and number kazillion overall. Is there any cast of characters more firmly etched into our common vocabulary than the flight deck crew of the Enterprise? Clear-eyed Uhura (Zoe Saldana), crusty Bones (Karl Urban), resourceful Scotty (Simon Pegg) and, of course, Kirk and Spock (Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto), always working on their relationship. We, the audience, have such specific expectations and firm limits on how these characters are to be; what is and isn’t allowable. It is, perhaps, why the acting — at least for the stock cast — has to be so bad.
The plot is as follows: bad guy Krall (Idris Elba) does bad things and (spoiler alert) our team wins. Phew. There are a few grace notes. We catch a glimpse of the shenanigans of a bored and underemployed crew. Yup, about what you’d expect. We learn that Sulu has a husband and daughter. How sweet is that? Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a punk futuristic take on the brilliant-brat-bad-girl, is a charmer. The Beastie Boys (referred to as classical music) save the day.
Special effects? How’d you guess? The strange undulating contortions of the spacy space station Starbase Yorktown are fascinating, at times pleasing and, I suspect, can cause seasickness to those so prone. The swarm of drones, if they weren’t so damn nasty, would be an exaltation of larks.
All in all, it’s familiar territory — not daring to go where no man has gone before — and it’s fun. I’ll go see the next one.