At the beginning of “Star Trek Beyond” James Tiberius Kirk’s (Chris Pine) life on board the U.S.S. Enterprise has become a grind. Sure Sulu (John Cho) is gay and Ambassador Spock is dead, but Kirk is three years into a five-year mission and he is, personally lost in space, trying to find meaning in his mission. “It can be hard to feel grounded when even gravity isn’t real.”
Director Justin Lin, taking over the rebooted series from J.J. Abrams, does his best to spice things up for the good captain. The director, best known for his “Fast & Furious” films, knows there is nothing like a wild alien attack to snap James T. out of his funk.
Because the movie is pretty much an all-out action flick I’m not going to waste a lot of words describing the plot. Put it this way, there’s an artefact, a piece of a deadly old weapon that an ill-tempered villain named Krall (Idris Elba) desperately wants. Why? “To save you from yourself!” Kirk and the Enterprise crew don’t want the wrinkle-faced alien saving them from anything, particularly when every word out of Krall’s mouth sounds like it was lifted from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” “Unity is not your strength,” he growls. “It is your weakness.” Couple that with the destruction of their beloved ship and they have more than enough reasons for Scotty (Simon Pegg) to jerry rig the warp drive, Bones (Karl Urban) to grumble and complain and Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) to excitedly push buttons on her colourful control board.
Lin knows how to stage high-octane sequences, so the film bursts into frenetic action scenes every few minutes. Chekov (the late, great Anton Yelchin) plots a course through the stars and BOOM! action ensues. Spock may be inured but that won’t stop him from being at the center of maelstrom after crazy maelstrom. Lin doesn’t seem to know what to do with the characters, but he sure knows how to entertain the eye with gravity defying actions scenes.
As a result “Star Trek Beyond” doesn’t feel so much like a “Star Trek” movie as it does a sci fi action adventure with some familiar characters. Everyone you expect is present and accounted for—and there’s even tributes to the first generation TV Trek crew—but they are reduced to cartoons, spouting jokey platitudes and techno gobbledygook. Lin can’t decided what’s more important, the science or the fiction.
For all the talk of fighting humanity’s battles, this is the least human “Star Trek” yet. Purists may resent the vaguely detailed characters but those simply looking to have their eyeballs dance around the screen to expertly staged space carnage will find much fast and furious action.