Better than Into Darkness but not quite as good as the one before that would summarise my verdict on Star Trek Beyond. Of course, here I am speaking of the rebooted Trek universe post JJ Abrams’s ingenious timeline resetting reboot, not of the Shatner epics of yesteryear. For the record, Wrath of Khan is still the best Star Trek film.
What we have here however is a fun, whizz-bang space adventure that feels more like an extended episode of the original TV series. This is no bad thing, as there does seem to be a determined, back-to-basics vibe. The plot opens with both Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) having a self-questioning phase three years into the Enterprise’s five year mission. Both are considering leaving Starfleet, but have not yet had the courage to inform the other of their doubts. All of this goes on hold as they dock at an impressively designed, no-up-or-down-in-space star base to be given a rescue assignment in an uncharted area of space. This leads to a confrontation with new villain Krall (Idris Elba), and the crew stranded on a planet in various separate factions, most memorably with Spock and Dr McCoy (Karl Urban) bantering in a way that frequently raises chuckles.
There’s plenty of action too, though the plot feels a little muddled at times. Frankly Idris Elba is rather wasted since Krall’s villainy seems a little Tab-A-fits-into-Slot-B. Elsewhere the leads are good, particularly Urban and Quinto, and although the rest of returning cast don’t get much of a look in (give or take Simon Pegg’s Scotty), it’s always fun to see the likes of Zoe Saldana, John Cho and (sadly) the late Anton Yelchin as Uhuru, Sulu and Chekov respectively. Sofia Boutella is quite fun too, as Jaylah, an alien who helps Kirk and co in their plight.
Director Justin Lin (best known for his work on Fast and Furious movies) is a steady hand at the helm. Visual effects are good, especially in the afore-mentioned star base sequences, and there’s even a curious message about unity that will feel either timely or propagandistic, depending on your views on Brexit. It’s certainly not destined for classic status, but Star Trek Beyond is a solidly entertaining movie with plenty for the eye and ear. Fans could do a lot worse.