Director Justin Lin's main claim to fame is being the guy who helped turn the Fast and Furious series from a tired, gearhead B-movie franchise into a knowingly cartoonish, wildly profitable action fantasy. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to discover that he slows things down in Beyond. In Abrams’ two Trek films, even the ostensibly “quiet” moments moved with a kind of breathlessness, the camera whip-panning and caroming down hallways and highways and across space — almost as if the director wanted to exorcise the calm, downright stagy earnestness of the original series. (In his first Star Trek, this worked marvelously; in the second, all the screaming and running and jumping started to get tedious.)
This time, especially early on, the story lets the characters reflect on things like duty,
Kirk’s feeling restless; now a year older than his father was when he died (which also happens to be Kirk’s birthday — see the first movie), the captain wants to leave space exploration and become a vice admiral. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is still mourning the loss of his planet Vulcan (again, see the first movie) and is faced with his own mortality when he learns of the death of his much older, alternate-reality self, Ambassador Spock (if this confuses you, don’t even ask ... but yeah, see the first movie). Their melancholic reveries are interrupted by the arrival of an alien claiming to be a survivor from a science mission trapped deep inside an asteroid-filled nebula.
So, off the crew goes on its rescue mission ... and I’m not giving anything away by saying that it all turns out to be a trap. And I’m not giving too much away by saying that the film’s first act ends with a heartbreaker, as a terrifying swarm of tiny, claw-like spaceships destroy the Enterprise. That's not exactly new territory for Star Trek — or blockbusters as a whole, whose creators in recent years have proven nauseatingly obsessed with stakes-raising. But there’s still something genuinely moving about watching that beloved old ship sliced and diced — and much of its crew sucked out into space. These harrowing moments also pay off those earlier, oddly indulgent slo-mo shots of the crew.
Most of the surviving crew is then imprisoned by a mysterious alien named Krall (played by Idris Elba, hidden under layers of makeup that would make Oscar Isaac’s purple pharaoh of doom in X-Men: Apocalypse tsk). The planet they’re on is woodsy and craggy and sometimes even kind of fake-looking — which I’ll choose to interpret as an homage to the original series’ cheap sets and not a failure of production design or special-effects work.
The rest of the film follows Kirk, Spock and others’ attempts to save their colleagues, get off this deadly planet and foil Krall's dastardly plan. Said struggle also involves a beautiful, rogue, hip hop–loving alien named
I’m not sure there's anything particularly original about any of this, but Lin thrives on making clichés breathe again; he proved with his Fast & Furious films that he knows how to convince audiences of the sincerity of pre-packaged Hollywood sentiment. (This time, I was half-expecting Kirk to start talking about his “