Entertainment

REVIEW

'Star Trek Beyond' review: Stellar sequel puts reboot series back on track

By Jim Slotek, Special to Postmedia Network

Entertainment Review

Star Trek Beyond

4 stars

  • Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella
  • Directed by: Justin Lin
  • Written by: Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
  • Duration: 122 minutes

Is it possible that, under the aegis of J.J. Abrams, the odd-numbers-bad/even-numbers-good rule of thumb for Star Trek movies has been reversed?

Technically the 13th Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond sees the universe of Kirk, Spock and Bones regain its footing and sense of fun (even amidst mayhem and casualties), courtesy of some talented filmmakers who are admitted Trek nerds.

With producer Abrams stepping back to direct a certain Star Wars movie, the helm was handed over to Justin Lin (late of the Fast and Furious action franchise).

And though the action-packed trailers might suggest he simply launched that manic vibe into space, Lin and scriptwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung made a clever plot move that gives Beyond the most breathing room for its characters in years.

The gimmick: put the crew in a situation where they have to abandon the Enterprise, and deal with each other and their predicament in small groups. You’ve got eternal antagonists Spock and McCoy (Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban) coming to a bickering understanding, you’ve got Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) proving himself to his father-figure Kirk (Chris Pine) by showing a previously unexplored knack for MacGyvering.

And you’ve got the feistiest Uhura (Zoe Saldana) yet, nose-to-nose as a captive of a vampiric alien villain named Krall (Idris Elba).

The other element in this newfound chemistry is Pegg, who added a plethora of laugh lines (the most since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), and keeps one foot in the original TV series with every exchange of dialogue.

Indeed, the very first “Captain’s log” in the film has Kirk describing the Enterprise’s 966th day in deep space (kudos if you know what that number references), and the feeling that every day has become, “episodic.”

There is a bored feeling to the crew, and, we discover, thoughts of moving on entertained by more than one beloved character.

Calm… meet storm. The Enterprise, on an ostensible mercy mission, is set upon by an unstoppable swarm of alien drones and, well… you’ve seen the trailers. But the dynamic of everybody on the bridge interacting mainly with Kirk is punted.

Exactly who Krall is, is a slow reveal. And given everything else that is done so well in this movie, ultimately a bit of a hard swallow. Still, if any hardcore Trekker is being honest, we’ve swallowed worse.

There are MacGuffins, there’s MacGyvering, there’s emotional investment (Sulu’s male partner and their daughter live on an imperiled space city).

And there’s the first new character in a long time worthy of continuing in the series (which appears to be the set-up). The warrior-ish Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) – whose name was actually inspired by Jennifer Lawrence – is matched up with Scotty (Pegg, who selfishly gives that tandem some of the best lines).

She’s a longtime fugitive from Krall who has jury-rigged a crashed Federation ship into her “home,” becoming a fan of onboard 20th Century hip-hop in the process.

I’m not sure if the spoiler police will lay charges, but I will reveal here that the Beastie Boys' Sabotage has a part to play in saving the universe.

Which makes perfect sense to me.

Star Trek Beyond opens Friday, July 22.

Twitter: @jimslotek

JSlotek@postmedia.com