Star Trek Beyond beats the curse of the odd numbered Trek films with a stick.
With plenty of the kind of pace you expect from director Justin Lin, the film wins praise for the way he integrates the character moments into the action.
Star Trek Beyond opens with Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) completely blowing a diplomatic mission and having to fend off a horde of nasty-looking but corgi-sized aliens before the Enterprise makes a resupply stop at space station Yorktown, at the edge of the Federation of Planets.
We see some private moments for various crew members, including a look at Sulu’s family; a moment of deep sadness for Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and some pensive moments for Kirk, first with Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, and shortly thereafter, his first officer. Both are considering leaving Starfleet: Kirk because he’s realised that he’s a year older than his father got to be; Spock, because the death of Ambassador Spock has him thinking he should move to New Vulcan and help his people re-establish their civilization.
When a lone alien in an unknown kind of vessel comes aboard, she tells a tale of a ship damaged ship crashing on a planet deep into a nearby, super-dense nebula. The Enterprise heads off on a rescue mission.
It is, of course, a trap – a trap that leaves the Enterprise crew on a mostly uninhabited planet, captives of a lizard-like misanthrope called Krall (Idris Elba). He attacked and destroyed the Enterprise to claim a ‘doodad’ that we saw during Kirk’s utter failure as a diplomat, earlier. Turns out it’s part of an Ultimate Bio-Weapon and Krall plans to destroy the Federation with it.
It has plenty of action, but STB is driven by its characters: Kirk’s growing belief that he doesn’t deserve to be where he is; Spock’s desire to help his people overcome the adversity of having to start over on a new planet; the comfortably uncomfortable relationship between Kirk, Spock and Bones, and so forth.
The introduction of a new character, Jaylah (Sophia Boutella), gives Scotty (Simon Pegg) someone to bounce technical bafflegab off (and perhaps more), and gives the enterprise crew both an incredibly capable ally and a way to get off the planet.
Elba seems to being a ball chewing the scenery as Krall – he makes Khan (the new iteration) seem like a bad-tempered child by comparison. You will not see his big twist coming (let’s just say that he’s not Gorn and leave it at that).
At a hair over two hours (including closing credits), Star Trek Beyond is the shortest of the three films with the new iteration of the classic crew. Thanks to Lin’s knack for mixing character moments into the film as both quiet moments and part of the action sequences, STB comes the closest of the three films to capturing that elusive je ne sais quoi that existed in the original series.
As you might expect, the effects and 3D are also first-rate – the IMAX presentation is worth the money in a way that very few summer blockbusters are.
Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script really nails the feel of vintage Trek without necessarily copying – and the twist with the film’s ‘villain’ is an extremely good one (it feels very Gene Roddenberry).
For my money (and you’d better believe I’m seeing it again!), Star Trek Beyond is the best of the new series.
P.S. Lt. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is a bad@$$!
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