The thirteenth Star Trek movie adventure pleasingly and emphatically returns the latest reboot and its replacement cast to the vibe and spirit of the classic TV series. Writers Simon Pegg (Scotty himself) and Doug Jung (who plays Sulu’s husband in a much-discussed but subtle gay revelation) send a fanboy love letter to the Gene Roddenberry universe, marrying intense space action with well-placed, character-driven humour and charming philosophical musings.
Regaining the drive and thrust lost in 2013 dud Star Trek into Darkness, director Justin Lin delivers some of the most thrilling sights in the entire Trek canon, with the nostalgia and nous needed to satisfy the hardcore aficionado along with the casual admirer. The former contingent might well place this cavalcade of dizzying aerial action and eye-popping special effects – underpinned by a sleek cast who are increasingly comfortable with their interpersonal character dynamics and droll interplay – alongside 1984’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, previously the fans’ benchmark for cutting directly to the heart of what made Roddenberry’s brainchild tick.
After a prologue paying deliberate tribute to the beloved 1967 TV episode The Trouble with Tribbles, a bogus distress call sends the USS Enterprise through uncharted territory to the planet Altamid. Attacked by a swarm of spacecraft in the surrounding unstable nebula, the starship crash-lands and the crew are dispersed on the inhospitable planet. This is part of a masterplan by warmongering ruler Krall (Idris Elba) to get his hands on an ancient artefact, hidden in the Enterprise.
Krall’s motives are hazy at best, confusing at worst: Elba is ill-served here by a character that leaves too many questions unanswered.
But this is a minor quibble. Star Trek Beyond is a genuine fantasy delight with a vivid sense of adventure that satisfies the inner Trekker and the outer space geek, while paying moving tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy – and Anton Yelchin is also honoured in the closing credits. Meanwhile, Lin invigorates Star Trek clichés by recalibrating them in full-blown, hyper-action terms. The gladiatorial space battles are the best the entire series has to offer, as Lin goes for extravagant, epic blitzkriegs that still allow smaller moments of intimate comradeship to breathe. It’s all superbly enhanced by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent score.
A superior addition to a beloved series that shows no sign whatsoever of the Final Frontier ever becoming truly final, Star Trek Beyond is summer blockbuster perfection.