The film sees the core crew marooned across a wide swathe of one of those unknown alien planets the old USS Enterprise used to happen across pretty much every Sunday evening at around 7.30pm.
Your archetypal lizard-skinned and deranged bad-guy – nicely turned in by Idris Elba under a couple of kilos of face-putty and sporting a disconcertingly occasional Glaswegian bouncer’s patois – has mayhem on his mind and only the combined forces of our crew of disparate oddballs can stop him.
The lesson here – as it always was – is that nothing but honesty, inter-racial harmony and a few timely one-liners can save the galaxy. But the fact that Beyond follows that timeless kaupapa to the letter was enough to have me practically up and cheering in my seat.
Much as we admire the magic that JJ Abrams conjured up in bringing this mummy and daddy of all the sci-fi franchises back from the brink of travesty, it is still many shades of fabulous to see that the process of re-invention is now complete and that the series – if Beyond is any indicator – can finally get on with the excellent business of just being a fun movie, without any post-modern navel-gazing or too much philosophising required.
Director Lin proved many times over with the Fast and Furious films that he knows his way around a punch up and understands better than most how to propel large, fast objects across the screen in all sorts of fascinating and inventive ways. Here, with the biggest toy box of all to play with, he shows a real film-maker’s restraint in holding back his set pieces until the emotional groundwork has been properly laid. But when Lin does push the button marked “CGI mayhem”, the screen practically explodes.
We’re not an easy bunch to impress these days, us big screen blockbuster-goers. We’ve seen spaceships bashing into planets a thousand times and it’s going to take something a bit special to impress us now. But Lin absolutely delivers.
Note to Hollywood. Sack Zack Snyder from whatever he’s working on and get Justin Lin in to do it instead.
In the leads, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban and company are all as fine as they have ever been. While the final appearance of Anton Yelchin as Chekov is a sad reminder of what a rare and irreplaceable talent Yelchin truly was.
New players Elba and Sofia Boutella slot in seamlessly. With Elba making for an even better protagonist than did Benedict Cumberbatch’s slightly directionless and under-powered reading of Khan in Darkness.
I hope, I truly do, that Star Trek Beyond marks a return to a real golden age of big-screen cinema, with Star Wars and now Star Trek now both seemingly back on track and delivering exactly what we hope for. Way-hey!