Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 7/24/16
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Simon Pegg
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim

Now THIS is the "Star Trek" sequel that I've been waiting for! After the disappointing and distasteful "Into Darkness" (2013), it's nice to get a straight forward actioner with a no-nonsense original story. After taking a short break at the Yorktown space station, the USS Enterprise is ambushed and destroyed while on a rescue mission in uncharted space. With most of the survivors captured by a cruel warrior named Krall (Idris Elba), Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) have to devise a way to rescue their friends and warn the Federation of Krall's impending attack. Fortunately, they find a derelict ship and get help from a fierce female warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

The returning cast is comfortable in their roles and it's nice to see the crew working together as an effective and proficient team. The Spock/McCoy dynamic gets a good amount of screen time which allows Quinto and Urban to really shine, and Scotty sees a fair amount of action (which isn't much of a surprise, since Simon Pegg wrote the story). Idris Elba makes a creepy and menacing adversary, although it's all a little too James Bond for my tastes. He's simply another mentally unstable megalomaniac who dreams of conquering the universe as a way to justify and avenge his past pain and sorrow. However, it's Sofia Boutella who steals the show as the resourceful and defiant Jaylah, and being a hot alien space chick certainly helps. She's mesmerizing to watch, and her fight scenes are beautifully executed. Her aggressive hand-to-hand showdown with Joe Taslim is arguably the highlight of the film.

The visual effects are superb (apart from Kirk's motorcycle run) and the film looks fantastic. Director Justin Lin infuses his kinetic style without going completely over the top, and the film is bristling with bold compositions and energetic tension. The strong music score nicely complements the action and incorporates the original themes in a satisfying way. The dialog is snappy and clever, and the writing is pretty solid for the most part. Unfortunately, the story stumbles in a few places and I wasn't overly fond of the Beastie Boys being responsible for saving the Federation. Kirk's overly convenient secret weapon is just a little too goofy and recalls memories of "Mars Attacks" (1996). However, it doesn't derail the action and is only a slight hurdle on the way to the film's exhausting climax. While the climax seemed to drag on a bit too long, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and was fully engaged throughout. I hope the series continues to maintain this level of camaraderie and excitement, and that the newly commissioned Enterprise-A will continue to fly for many years to come.