In “Star Trek Beyond,” the third entry in the newly rebooted franchise, the young crew of the Starship Enterprise enters uncharted space to rescue a missing ship. What they find is something unexpected — an ancient and powerful force.
It’s called fun.
That’s been missing from this summer’s blockbusters, which have been filled with angry Avengers, exhausted X-Men and other super-serious superheroes. The “Star Trek” franchise fell into that trap with its last installment, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (2013), which went heavy on pathos. You’ll find little of that here. Relying mostly on its fine cast, time-tested characters and flashy action sequences from director Justin Lin (the “Fast and Furious” franchise), this new “Star Trek” feels like a souped-up version of the old show, and it’s thoroughly satisfying.
The film opens with a classic setup: Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is bored, Spock (Zachary Quinto) has split with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and Bones (Karl Urban, the franchise’s secret weapon) feels this once-tight crew drifting apart. A new death-defying adventure is exactly what they need, and they’ll get it when they crash-land on the planet Altamid. There, they encounter a hulking new villain, Krall (Idris Elba), who spouts the usual Nietzschean theories — “Without struggle, you’ll never know what you truly are” — to justify his usual doomsday plans.
That story is neither original nor profound, and perhaps for both reasons, it works. Everything we came to see, we get: The coolheaded Spock bickers with the irascible Bones; scrappy Scotty (Simon Pegg) stumbles upon a striped-faced Amazon alien, Jaylah (an intriguing Sofia Boutella); and Kirk thinks his way out of impossible scrapes (some more plausible than others). There are also moments of poignancy, some of which come whenever Anton Yelchin, who died in a fluke accident last month, appears as the loyal Pavel Chekov.
The film’s one surprise — already spoiled on the internet — is that Sulu (John Cho) is revealed to be gay. That move has caused some controversy, but everybody should just relax. There’s a husband, an affectionate hug and that’s all. You can probably handle it.
“Star Trek Beyond” fails a few plausibility tests even within its 23rd-century setting, but not enough to gripe about. It’s old-fashioned entertainment in a slick new package that should satisfy “Trek” fans of any era.