4.5 / 5
Episode three in a franchise can be a killer – always assuming there’s enough mileage in it after number two. So the fact that Paramount has already announced there’ll be a Star Trek 4, including the return of Chris Hemsworth as Kirk’s dad, tells you exactly how the studio feels about the latest outing for the Starship Enterprise.
And they’re not wrong.
This third adventure for Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew finds them still on their first five year mission. A stop-over at a Federation planet is cut short when Kirk agrees to help the crew of a wrecked ship but on that rescue mission the Enterprise comes under a sustained and vicious attack from Krall (Idris Elba) and his seemingly infinite swarm of kamikaze craft. As it crashes on a barren planet, it looks like the end for the most famous ship of The Federation’s fleet. Now all Kirk has to do is rescue his crew, get them off the planet and put a stop to Krall. Piece of cake!
Star Trek Beyond doesn’t just face the mixed blessing of being the third in the franchise. Director J.J. Abrams was at the helm for the first two but he’s handed over the chair to Taiwanese director Justin Lin. So it looked like even more of a voyage into the unknown than usual. Except that Lin has made no less than four of the Fast And Furious series and has the possibility of a Bourne movie to look forward to. Not quite the unexpected choice he might initially appear, then.
It’s not long before the action gets going, although it’s not completely relentless. You do have the chance of a breather, and you’ll need it. Because when it kicks off, it’s at full throttle, breathtaking and genuinely exciting. You know in your heart of hearts that Kirk and his crew will always make it in the end but this time there are moments when you seriously start to have doubts.
But it’s not all about action and visual spectacle – and the occasional low-tech punch up. Because this is an emotional Star Trek. That’s partly down to the loss of both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, but there’s also tributes in the direction of the original TV series, with Zachary Quinto’s Spock discovering a photograph of the crew from the 60s show – Shatner, Nimoy, Takei, Kelly et al. And if you watched that original, or the films that came after it, the sight of the dear old Enterprise being ripped to shreds and lying stricken on a barren planet is unexpectedly moving. One of the main characters has, after all, been mortally wounded.
It’s all counterbalanced by some typically Star Trek humour. Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote the script, plays up the comedy to the hilt as Scotty, but this time round more is made of the outwardly fractious relationship between Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban). McCoy has the lion’s share of the best lines and somehow the two always end up having to work together, regardless of whether they want to or not. The two actors work it beautifully. I’ve always thought Quinto was perfectly cast for Spock, but I wasn’t so sure about Urban. Here, however, he’s at last grown into the part and really makes it his own.
If you’re not a Trekkie, it won’t prevent you from enjoying one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters. One or two aspects may go over your head, but you’ll still enjoy two hours of pure cinematic entertainment. It is, quite simply, a blast.