Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) has taken over the directing reins from JJ Abrams, but the key Enterprise crew from the first two films is back. They include Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), both of whom have lost some of their enthusiasm for the star fleet, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Dr “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (Simon Pegg).
Also on board are new crew member Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) and the cruel alien villain Krall (Idris Elba), although he lacks the power and screen presence of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan from Star Trek Into the Darkness.
The start of the film is slow, with a great deal of exposition. But when new Lin brings out his A-game, the momentum and entertainment level gains pace.
Lin’s action sequences, set in space and on-planet, provide a stunning backdrop for exciting, well-choreographed scenes. Excellent visual effects drive the Star Trek trend of tense battles raging across ships and cities of a magnificent scale.
The change in direction is noticeable in the small details. Gone are the trademark lens flares of JJ Abrams, who directed Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek (2009), and the isolating silence of space is largely replaced by explosions and the drone of ship engines.
The dynamics between the characters rely on previous films. Spock and Uhura’s relationship takes two steps back, and that great comradery between Kirk and Spock is replaced by a new bromance between Spock and McCoy, which often seems forced (the humour here seems, at times, to be reaching for a Guardians of the Galaxy style).
The film itself is strangely dark – visually, not thematically – with the 3D effects dulling the colours and blurring the focus of fast-moving scenes.
Star Trek Beyond does not go where no Star Trek film has gone before, yet the action is solid and the story enjoyable. The on-world setting that sees the crew split into groups is an interesting shift, and Sulu’s homosexuality is a nice nod to the original actor, George Takei.
Fittingly, this film is dedicated to the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, who has appeared as Master Spock in the current series but died during pre-production last year, and 27-year-old Anton Yelchin, who mastered his reprisal as Pavel Chekov but was killed in a freak accident after filming.
The good news for Trekkies is that there will be more missions to come, with Paramount Pictures this week announcing plans for a fourth instalment which will focus on Pine’s Kirk crossing paths with the father he never met – a role that will be played by Australian Chris Hemsworth, who appeared as George Kirk in Star Trek.
This series appears set to continue to live long and prosper.