Arriving slap-bang in the middle of what may be the least inspiring blockbuster season in recent memory, and following months of murmurings of a deeply troubled production, anticipation for Star Trek Beyond has been muted to say the least. Happily, however, this threequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 franchise reboot soars above formulaic dreck like Independence Day: Resurgence to claim a place alongside Captain America: Civil War as one of the year’s more competent crowd-pleasers.
Playing out like an extended episode of the original 1960s TV show, with an added dash of post-modern irony and a heap of costly pyrotechnics, this streamlined romp sees Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and crew stranded on a picturesque alien planet following a surprise attack by lizard-like overlord Krall (Idris Elba). Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious 3-6) proves a steady pair of directorial hands, spinning a simple but satisfying yarn that zips along amiably, and steadily builds towards a tense climactic showdown.
It wobbles in places – attempts at zingy banter often fall a little flat, and the elaborate set piece that sets things in motion is overlong and unmemorable. Elba, meanwhile, fails to bring depth and plausibility to Krall’s McGuffin-led quest to bring about intergalactic chaos. It’s also light on truly audacious flourishes, aside from a deliberately jarring use of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” during a key final-act sequence. But as far as multiplex fodder goes, this is a clear cut above most of this summer’s dubious offerings.
Star Trek Beyond | Justin Lin (USA 2016) with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto. Opens in NYC July 22.