Star Trek Beyond – Review (*** 1/2)

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If by a margin the weakest of the three post-reboot Star Trek movies to date, the latest offering, this time from the pen of Simon Pegg and directed by The Fast and the Furious’ terrifically talented Justin Lin, is nevertheless an exhilarating and entertaining albeit safe-playing Hollywood entertainment.

Three years into their five-year mission, the crew of the USS Enterprise finds themselves facing off against a brutal alien commander, Krall (Idris Elba), who has a bone to pick with Starfleet, while Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and co. will need to team up with alien scavenger Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) in order to bring him down.

It’s fair to say that Star Trek Beyond is one of the more conventionally down-the-line tentpole sequels to hit screens this summer, but it also plays well within this ballpark, with Pegg essentially writing what feels like a feature-length episode of the original series, which is certainly more than can be said for the prior two movies.

Yes, most of it does feel exceptionally familiar, which is why it mostly falls to the terrific cast to spit-shine the material, with their outstanding banter ensuring that the film ends up showing a greater concern for character rather than incident. Elba’s villain in fact feels like an afterthought for the most part, while Boutella’s sidekick is the easy show-stealer, her commanding presence and lightness of touch potentially, hopefully making her a staple character for future films.

Still, the set-pieces are also a major highlight, shot through with the expected panache by Lin, even if he’s not quite as comfortable with space warfare as his predecessor, J.J. Abrams. Abrams’ absence does however result in a film less keen to homage what came before, as were vocal complaints about both Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; there aren’t any lazy plot rehashes from prior movies here, and the nods to the series’ iconography are both brief and tasteful (particularly to Leonard Nimoy, who of course passed away during pre-production).

It most likely won’t knock your socks off, but from the astounding make-up work to the highly entertaining performances and briskly paced sci-fi planet-hopping, it’s a potent, entertaining offering and sees the franchise continue on firm footing. And yes, Anton Yelchin fans, the late actor does get a more substantial role this time, even if his presence does imbue the film with an undeniable, unavoidable air of melancholy.

*** 1/2

Star Trek Beyond is in cinemas now

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