Fast & Furious director Justin Lin takes over for J.J. Abrams (still a producer) in the new Star Trek universe and returns the franchise to its sci-fi adventure roots in the Gene Rodenberry mould. Star Trek Beyond is a rousing and episodic story of teamwork and pure escapist fun with a familiar message of hope and optimism.
The Starship Enterprise crew is fully assembled and charming as ever with Chris Pine firmly in charge as the now well-worn and slightly listless Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as the more human Commander Spock, Karl Urban as a dryly humorous Bones, and Zoë Saldana as an assertive Uhura rounding out the core group. Lin's talent for joining franchises well into their life and balancing ensemble casts while juggling effective character moments with dazzling visuals and action is very apparent.
Simon Pegg, who does double duty as co-writer with Doug Jung, is spry as ever balancing the comedy and drama well. John Cho as Hulu gets a nice, subtle emotional arc with his own moments of heroism and valour while Anton Yelchin has a nice sendoff and performance as Chekov. However, it's Idris Elba portraying a formidable (if formulaic) villain in Krall, a ruthless alien military commander, with a mysterious background that captivates the film. In contrast, Sofia Boutella also shines as the tough alien Jaylah who is the film's core with her physical performance aiding the stranding Starfleet crew.
The new characters ground the film's sense of exploration and discovery of new worlds as Pegg and Jung's economical script wastes little time or effort in getting across the themes and character motivations through the straightforward plot. It's refreshingly void of the angst and dark uncertainty of the previous films while still echoing the original's sense of duty and family.
Beyond is a hopeful, optimistic, and endlessly joyous celebration of our future humanity. Lin builds up the team Abrams originally assembled and injects it with some much needed energy and lightness. It's a wholly enjoyable film true to its Star Trek lineage while being a satisfying action adventure as well.
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