In taking over directing duties from JJ Abrams, Fast & Furious regular Justin Lin brings a lightness of touch and a genuine sense of fun to the new Star Trek movie that was traded for hefty emotional moments and forced melodrama in 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness. This bouncy, lighthearted tone is the secret weapon of Star Trek Beyond…it’s what separates the new film from this year’s mostly grim and cynical summer blockbusters starring those angst-filled superheroes.
As it turns out, angst and particularly restlessness is slowly creeping up on the crew of the Starship Enterprise who’re now three years into their five-year mission exploring deep space. A new adventure is exactly what they need, and they get it when head out on a search and rescue mission to an alien planet during which the Enterprise is attacked by an evil villain determined to bring the Federation to its knees.
It’s a simple enough plot that doesn’t offer too many surprises, but in honoring the 50-year legacy of Star Trek, the film strikes just the right balance between seriousness and cheesiness. The bickering between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Bones (Karl Urban) delivers plenty laughs, and Kirk (Chris Pine) still manages to think his way out of seemingly impossible scenarios. Simon Pegg, who’s co-written the screenplay, beefs up his own role as the scrappy tech-wiz Scotty, and the crew finds an unexpected ally in the form of a stripe-faced alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who’s nursing a grudge against the nemesis they must vanquish.
Which brings us to Krall, the film’s lizard-faced bad guy, played by Idris Elba buried under layers of prosthetics. Unfortunately Krall comes off as a standard issue villain who spouts bumper-sticker dialogue and hatches the usual doomsday plans. He’s the weak link in an otherwise enjoyable film that benefits considerably from Lin’s skill at staging fast-paced and big-spectacle action scenes. A sequence late into the film, in a gravity-defying starbase is particularly thrilling.
Ultimately, Star Trek Beyond is an entertaining adventure peppered with funny moments, and steeped in nostalgia. A tribute to the late Leonard Nemoy is genuinely moving, and plot holes aside this tale of comradeship feels old-fashioned in a good way.
I’m going with three out of five. It doesn’t go boldly where few have gone before, but you’ll be happy to take this journey.