Now that this latest iteration of the Star Trek film series has reached its third entry, the creative forces behind it are free to just let Beyond be a two-hour episode upon itself. In other words, JJ Abrams was quite successful directing the first two features in 2009 and 2013 and establishing a new cast playing iconic roles. By part III, those objectives have already been met and Abrams leaves his successor Justin Lin the opportunity to make this one an action packed sci-fi spectacle. We also have the hallmarks of the 50-year-old franchise that include celebrating the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew and injecting well-placed humor.
In a way, Star Trek Beyond reminded me of the previous 007 pic, Spectre. How so? Spectre arrived three movies after Daniel Craig had put his stamp on another half century old institution. By the time part 4 rolled around, I was ready for something that needn’t burden itself with continually reshaping itself. Spectre didn’t and was mostly successful. Beyond doesn’t either and is even more satisfying.
We begin in year 3 of the USS Enterprise’s five-year voyage that they embarked on at the conclusion of Star Trek Into Darkness. Not all is well. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, grown and confident in the role) is struggling with the endless journey. Trusty Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having girl troubles with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and mourning the reveal that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has passed. This, of course, holds special meaning to the audience due to Nimoy’s passing in between pics.
Everything perks up for the crew when the ship is invaded by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless extraterrestrial tracking a relic that Kirk has in his possession. This attack leaves the crew splintered for a decent portion of the running time, allowing many of the members their moments to shine. That includes Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who both continue to provide sturdy comic relief. Sofia Boutella is a fine addition as an alien who joins Team Enterprise. Both Saldana and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are a bit more relegated to the sideline in terms of the overall story (tragically, Yelchin died just a month before the film’s release). John Cho’s Sulu is given a previously not revealed character development. And when it comes to the main villain, Elba is quite menacing and effective.
Without having to set up anything new, Beyond gets right to the fun stuff and doesn’t let up. Lin is no stranger to elaborate action sequences, having helmed four Fast and Furious flicks. Yet enough time is set aside to explore the strong bonds of the team. It’s about family… to borrow a theme that Fast and Furious characters endlessly beat into our skulls. So while this might be the simplest of the trio of new Star Trek’s we’ve witnessed, it also manages to be the most purely entertaining.
***1/2 (out of four)