Justin Lin’s STAR TREK BEYOND is a breeze, a fixture of popcorn entertainment that actually delivers. This is the third flick in the STAR TREK reboot series that began in 2009 and the 13th outing in the film franchise overall. It’s often so lightweight that it feels like it could float. The screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung is akin to an episode of the television series and that’s a good thing, as adventure is the rightful focal point and the possibilities of the galaxy remain true. While there are “flaws” to be found in the final analysis, it’s almost impossible to shake this movie’s tenacious sense of fun.
The plot opens as the USS Enterprise has been in service for years and Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is tired of the endlessness of space. He’s considering a change when he’s dispatched on a rescue mission to find a stranded ship. Things go wrong for the Enterprise and the heinous Krall (Idris Elba) makes his presence known. He captures most of the crew of the Enterprise, while some of the others crash-land on the planet Altamid. Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban) piece together a plan, while chief engineer Scott (Pegg) meets a scavenger (Sofia Boutella) and tries to get a relic on the move.
The bread and butter of STAR TREK BEYOND is the action. Lin is adept at pushing objects through space – literally – and this picture is a feast for the eyes and ears. Stephen F. Windon captures the action with ebullient cinematography, whirling the camera this way and that and even packing in a few oblique angles. The best sequences involve massive space assaults, with Krall’s horde ripping into the Enterprise like lethal insects. A later scene lets the good guys fight back to the beneficial sounds of the Beastie Boys. It probably shouldn’t work, but it damn well does.
With so many blockbusters sinking into glum territory, the invigorating pace of STAR TREK BEYOND is praiseworthy. While Lin’s jaunt doesn’t have much by way of character development or thematic depth, it gets by on balance. There is a dash of interesting material involving Spock’s future, but this dovetails with Kirk’s difficulties and wraps up easily. For the most part, STAR TREK BEYOND introduces characters swiftly and without fluff. Even Jaylah’s a succinct treat, reinforced by a slick performance and some propitious comedy. So while you could argue Lin’s movie lacks heft, less is definitely more in this brisk space frolic.