Star Trek Beyond review: Does it deliver on the hype?

A Spocktacular slice of cinema.

Chris Pine as Captain Kirk in Star Trek Beyond
Enterprise Captain Chris Pine as Captain Kirk in Star Trek Beyond. Image Picture Paramount

Star Trek Beyond
122 minutes (12A)
★★★★☆

Beaming in for the series’ 50th anniversary, Star Trek Beyond has a lot riding on it.

The long-running sci-fi series was running out of steam before JJ Abrams weaved his magic reboot wand in 2009 and re-energised the franchise. Gone were the glacial-paced morality plays and ageing cast, in came cutting-edge visual effects, epic space dog fights and a younger cast to play iconic heroes.

Now, with the third film in the rebooted run, Abrams has left the director’s chair and it’s down to Fast & Furious helmer Justin Lin and Scotty himself Simon Pegg (on scriptwriting duties with Doug Jung) to come up with a big film for Trek’s 50th.

Star Trek Beyond Zoe Saldana John Cho
Trekking Zoe Saldana and John Cho in Star Trek Beyond. Image Picture Paramount

They deliver the goods, giving Trek fans a fun, action-packed thrill-ride that never loses sight of what made the 60s series great. Sure, new-look Trek might not be as philosophically probing as Gene Roddenberry’s original creation, but that was TV – film offers a different set of widescreen demands. This maintains all the entertainment value and inter-crew relationships that fans of old Trek know and love.

“A fun, action-packed thrill-ride that never loses sight of what made the 60s series great.”

In Beyond, the USS Enterprise is midway through its five-year mission when Kirk (Chris Pine) begins to experience a crisis of purpose. Birthday drinks with Bones (Karl Urban) cleverly mirrors a similar scene in Wrath of Khan, and make Kirk question if life in space is for him.

This turns out to be the calm before a significant storm. An alien attack shreds the Enterprise to pieces, scattering the crew across on an uncharted planet and putting them face-to-face with Idris Elba’s villain Krall.

The battle for survival sees them encounter Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah and have to defend a giant outer space Federation city from Krall’s bloodlust. Just as the shaky recycling of Khan ended up scuppering Star Trek Into Darkness, Beyond’s villain ends up being one of its weak points.

Sofia Boutella in Star Trek Beyond
Jaylah Sofia Boutella in Star Trek Beyond. Image Picture Paramount

The film keeps Krall’s motivations under wraps for the bulk of his screen time, meaning you never quite know why he’s going ballistic against Kirk and co. The pace drags a little as the separated crew attempt to reunite post-Enterprise destruction, but the cast – including a returning Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, John Cho and the late Anton Yelchin – are so in the skin of their characters they always make for compelling viewing.

Pegg gets some good scenes with Jaylah, while the no-nonsense Bones and highly-logical Spock are a fine oddball double-act. Everyone’s stronger together than they are apart, though – and the Enterprise-crew-as-family theme is what really makes Beyond tick.

It also manages to honour the series’ past with a touching tribute to original Spock Leonard Nimoy, who passed away while this latest movie was in production. Quinto’s Spock crossed over with the Nimoy version in the 2009 reboot, and they handle his send-off brilliantly here. There’s even room – at last – for a little William Shatner cameo (well, sort of).

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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