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‘Star Trek Beyond’ never goes too far out

You can stop laughing at the Beastie Boys now – if you ever did, that is. Their song “Sabotage” saves the universe in the wittiest moment of “Star Trek Beyond.”

I won’t tell you how “Sabotage” holds the universe together but when Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Paul” and “Hot Fuzz”) is one of the authors of a screenplay, it’s a good guess there will be some high end hacking around. Pegg also plays master engineer Scottie in the series of recent “Star Trek” prequels. It’s pretty good, all in all.

Don’t tell that to the serious Trekkers on the Internet though, because they’ve been waiting a long time for this post-teen “Star Trek” reboot series to go away – forever.

Why? It’s simple: If you ever took “Star Trek” seriously, you know that these movies really don’t. And that, in this particular one, is precisely what’s entertaining about it, for good or for ill.

It’s the 13th “Star Trek” to hit the American megaplex; the third in the reboot starring Chris Pine as young Kirk, Zachary Quinto as young Spock and Anton Yelchin as Chekhov.

Unlucky 13 for Yelchin, as it turned out. The movie is dedicated to him because he was killed in late June in a freak automobile accident at his home. He was a wonderful actor, under other auspices than this series produced by J.J. Abrams.

The movie is dedicated to the late Leonard Nimoy too, another attempt to curry favor with the most ardent Trekkers. In still another, there is a tiny passing moment in the film that indicates that Sulu – originally played by famous Internet sage George Takei – is half of a gay couple with a child. The movie’s creators have said it’s a tribute to Takei who has, since the original series, become beloved online. In typical fashion for Takei, he has reported that he wasn’t fond of those liberties of the new movie’s “tribute.”

I like the film because it reminded me of a back-to-back bunch of movie serials from the ’30’s and ’40’s. Which, if you think about it, couldn’t possibly be more apt. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was intended to be that kind of movie and this one accidentally is. Those movie theater serials were the forerunners of TV dramatic series. And Gene Roddenberry’s original series was a kind of creative and thoughtful descendent of them.

What true Trekkers love about the originals and the Next Generations is that they were adventures in ideas (however simple), and not ideas of adventure. They were enough ahead of their time that Nichelle Nichols has reported that no less than Martin Luther King talked her into staying on as Lt. Uhura when she was thinking of taking a cab.

The affair between Uhura and Spock in these prequels is among the many wrinkles that orthodox Trekkers frown upon in the post-grad reboot.

This thing looks like a TV show episode to which many millions in special FX and CGI have been added. The makeup is wild, which, as in the original series, often presents viewers with a veritable Latex Festival.

In this one, one of the new characters – played by a smouldering Algerian beauty named Sofia Boutella – is a spunky misfit cast adrift on a distant planet by a bad guy named Krall (no relation to Diana, however entertaining a name that is for a villain.)

I don’t want to spoil Krall for you by telling you too much more, but it puts some nice pungency into the resume of a much-respectd film and TV actor. It isn’t easy giving any kind of performance at all underneath all that rubber applied to your face.

It all works nicely, though, in a grade or two up from ancient movie serial style. Kirk and his bunch are sent out to rescue some imprisoned space travelers but wind up losing the Enterprise in a barrage of swarming marauders launched by the evil Krall. If all that weren’t enough to put Krall high on the list of “Trek” bad guys, there is his unfortunate need to kill human beings just to suck up enough of their energy to survive.

If all that still weren’t enough, he is given to dropping so many aphorisms about the superiority of war and soldiering to peace and cooperation that he’d be at home at an American political convention.

As we all know, Kirk and his bunch are on the side of riding outer space motorcycles, supporting each other no matter what and ensuring a universe that operates on love and understanding.

That requires a lot of fighting and killing, of course, but it’s all of the most enlightened and well-intentioned kind.

This is the 50th anniversary of Roddenberry’s invention of “Star Trek.” This movie could have been so much more solemn and weighty and self-serious than it is. It cost a lot of money but not so much that you sit in your theater seat thinking “Gee that must have cost a lot of money.”

Not only is no one in this cast a major star, there are brief moments when one or two of the performances are outright bad.

It just didn’t need to be great when being friendly and fun more than sufficed.

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

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