The “Fast And The Furious In Space” jokes began almost as soon as Justin Lin was announced as the director of Star Trek Beyond. It also didn’t help that the first trailer featured Chris Pine’s Captain James T. Kirk on a motorcycle accompanied by a heavy rock track, which hardly alleviated those Fast Furious/Final Frontier fears.
Fortunately, Star Trek Beyond manages to go, er, beyond those expectations – it’s arguably the most fun of the three movies set in the alternate (and newly named) Kelvin Timeline that began with J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek in 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness.
The film starts with the crew of the USS Enterprise now into the third year of their five year deep space journey into the unknown, and feeling the effects of the long mission.
A jaded Kirk finds himself questioning his own motivations for continuing as captain of the Enterprise. Spock (Zachary Quinto) finds out about the death of the older, universe Spock (a touching tribute to the death of actor Leonard Nimoy) and after contemplating his mortality and role in the revival of the Vulcan species, decides to break up with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew – including Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) – have their own problems and ways of coping, except for engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg) who seems perfectly happy.
Oh, and Dr McCoy aka Bones (Karl Urban), who complains about everything anyway.
Enter a mysterious villain called Krall (Idris Elba) who lures the Enterprise into a trap in order to get to some alien “doodad” (as Bones calls it) that is part of a bio-weapon he intends to use to destroy Starfleet’s shiny new space colony, Yorktown.
Of course, Kirk and his crew are hardly going to just let him have his way, especially after Krall (no relation to the Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall) completely destroys their ship in pursuit of the doodad (yes, it’s got some other name that starts with A, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a doodad, plain and simple).
With the help of another stranded alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), they have to get their crew back and stop Krall from executing his plan.
After the lacklustre Into Darkness (which was pretty much just a rehash of The Wrath Of Kahn), Lin injects some much needed fun and sense of adventure of the 2009 Star Trek back into the franchise, with the action fast and furious, as expected.
Even though the plot is flimsy and there are far too many holes in it, the sheer pace of the movie, as well as the excellent ensemble cast manage to paper over the cracks sufficiently enough that you don’t really notice those flaws until you think about it much later.
There’s also plenty of wry comedy moments, mostly from Bones and Scotty (the script was co-written by Pegg, after all) which is a welcome relief after the needlessly dark and somewhat humourless Into Darkness.
While Lin excels at the action set-pieces (the attack on the Enterprise in the first half of the movie is just exhilarating stuff), he stumbles somewhat when it comes to fleshing out the characters.
Kirk and Spock’s personal problems are brushed off way too easily, while the rest of the characters seem to be there merely to make up the numbers.
That said, it’s hard not to get a lump in the throat whenever Yelchin appears on screen, as he manages to standout even in his limited role. This makes the actor’s death from a freak car accident in June even sadder.
This year being the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, it seems somewhat appropriate that Star Trek Beyond would be the showpiece of the anniversary celebrations.
Loud, action-packed, and relentless, it may be a far cry from the original series that debut way back in 1966, but it does prove that the franchise at least has a place in this age of the modern summer blockbuster.
Star Trek Beyond
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella