Star Trek is back with yet another big-screen reboot sequel and, since the darker Star Trek Into Darkness promised a return to the brighter tone of the old TV series in the next instalment, Star Trek Beyond had its work cut out, especially following its much-criticised first teaser trailer.
The good news is that this is very easily the "Trekkiest" of all the reboot movies and, like a few of the old Star Trek movies, it feels like an extended episode of The Original Series... in a good way. Packed with lots of loving references from Spock's trademark eyebrow raise to Kirk always ripping his shirt and McCoy being thrown into situations he's not too keen on, this manages to be a fun homage without feeling like fan-fiction. With Justin Lin replacing J.J. Abrams as director, you can certainly expect more action, a LOT more action in fact, as this movie makes Into Darkness look like a business meeting. You've got the Enterprise being torn to shreds by space bees, Kirk getting attacked by tiny alien rhinos, thrilling gravity-defying chases agogo, battles scored by The Beastie Boys, the list goes on. If you're looking for an entertaining sci-fi blockbuster then you're in safe hands.
All the things that worked in the previous two films work here including the majority of the new cast, the excellent score and the slick visuals. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is given a genuinely moving subplot that pays a heartfelt tribute to Leonard Nimoy plus you see him paired up with Bones (Karl Urban) which is always fun, Kirk (Chris Pine) is meanwhile having to deal with a blood-thirsty new villain (played by Idris Elba) hell-bent on destroying everything to do with The Federation and Scotty (Simon Pegg) meets a tough alien gal looking to escape the planet she's on. Story-wise, it all works in broad strokes but looking at the plot closely exposes it as pretty clichéd and predictable: the whole thing about the bad guy wanting a macguffin to use as a doomsday machine is played out at this point, Kirk and Spock thinking about leaving the Enterprise for good obviously goes nowhere and the politics are pretty much absent from this instalment altogether.
What didn't really work in the first two movies, sadly doesn't work here either. The annoying Spock/Uhura romance is initially sidelined but it does force its way back, Simon Pegg's Scotty is still way too cartoonish, as is his sidekick, John Cho's Sulu is much too grumpy once again and the third act wraps up far too comfortably. I should point out that the humour throughout the movie mostly falls flat, which is a shame because there was plenty of potential here for laughs. On the plus side, Elba's villain is an interesting new antagonist (even if he is no Khan), Sofia Boutella's alien girl Jaylah is not yet another Kirk conquest and is, in fact, a really strong, smart character, which is refreshing, the film does have a lot of fun with its boldest moments even if they might alienate more traditional Trek fans and the whole thing is a worthy send-off to both Nimoy and Anton Yelchin.
Star Trek Beyond is one of the most entertaining blockbusters you'll watch this Summer as it brings us plenty of cool space action, loveable characters and it puts the Enterprise through more ordeals than ever. It's the lightest of the new trilogy in tone but also, it should be said, in brains so don't expect to leave the cinema pondering the film's deep ideas or anything like that.