“Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin never lets the momentum slacken in “Star Trek Beyond” (***1/2 OUT OF ****) despite the formulaic Simon Pegg & Doug Jung screenplay that delivers a lot of the right stuff during its warp-drive running time of two hours and two minutes. A multitude of melodramatic moments with surprises and suspense galore ensue as Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise triumph over tragedy. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, and the late Anton Yelchin must have had fun making the 13th “Star Trek” saga because they work so well together that it doesn’t matter what they’re doing. Basically, the “Beyond” in the title refers to the uncharted territory that our indestructible heroes and heroine must negotiate before they can vanquish a megalomaniacal villain and preserve the status quo. Mind you, I didn’t fear that Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov would die and that their wicked adversaries would perish. What I liked about “Star Trek Beyond” was the way everybody in the crew contributed to the ultimate success of their mission. None of the main cast were neglected or given the short shrift. One long-standing character has been altered significantly for no apparent reason. Mr. Sulu has been converted into a gay character. Nevertheless, producer J.J. Abrams has made the change with enough subtlety that most spectators may not notice it. Aside from generating controversy on the Internet about Mr. Sulu’s sexual proclivities, the rest of the Enterprise crew remains essentially the same, and you care as much about them as what occurs around them. Similarly, the giddy action unfolding in “Star Trek Beyond” was sufficient to race your pulse, whiten your knuckles, and get caught up in this spectacular epic. Cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, production designer Tom Sanders and make-up designer Joel Harlow all deserve kudos for their outstanding work. Two settings—the Nebula and the Yorktown space colony—looked sensational by any science fiction movie’s standards. As villains rate, the reptile-faced Krall provides more than enough obstacles with which Kirk and his crew must contend, and Krall’s unhinged plan to wreak havoc is sufficiently audacious. Nevertheless, Krall isn’t half as memorable as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan in director J.J. Abrams’ superior sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Three years into the Enterprise’s five year mission, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine of “Unstoppable”) complains that “things have started to feel a little episodic.” When an action-oriented character utters these words, they should cross themselves immediately and hold their tongues. No sooner has the Enterprise docked at the remarkable new star base christened Yorktown to gather provisions than Kirk winds up eating those fateful words. Three important events occur before chaos assails the Enterprise. First, Spock and Uhura break up. Second, Mr. Sulu comes out as gay. Third, Kirk submits an application for promotion to Vice Admiral, and he recommends Mr. Spock replace him as the Enterprise’s captain. Complications take place when an escape pod lands at Yorktown. Its alien passenger, Kalara (Lydia Wilson of “About Time”), reports that her ship has crashed on the distant planet Altamid in the Nebula. The Nebula resembles a vast, impenetrable field of asteroids that constitutes a titanic barrier between Yorktown and Altamid. Commodore Paris (Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo of “House of Sand and Fog”) accommodates Kalara and mounts a distress mission to rescue Kalara’s stranded crew. Kirk takes the helm and the Enterprise plunges into the Nebula, with Kalara–looking like she has a starfish wrapped around her head for a wig–aboard to show them the way. Predictably, Kalara turns into one treacherous dame as our heroes discover soon after a swarm of alien spacecraft reminiscent of those Earth faced in “Independence Day: Resurgence” ambush them. Surprisingly enough, Krall and his legions cripple the Enterprise in record time. Typically, the Enterprise is destroyed in the last half hour of most “Star Trek” movies. The doomed starship topples from space, and the crew find themselves separated after the crash. Scotty encounters a resourceful Amazon named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella of “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) who knows a thing or two about survival. Boutella’s face is made up to resemble a Kabuki mask and her appearance evoked memories of Darth Maul in the “Star Wars” prequels. Jaylah has been hiding out on Altamid, and her chief adversary is Krall. She teams up with Scotty, Kirk, and Bones, while the rest of the crew wind up in Krall’s hands. Krall wants an artifact stashed aboard the Enterprise so he can perpetuate an apocalypse. He has no qualms about who he has to liquidate if he isn’t given that artifact. Uhura watches in horror as Krall murders a helpless Enterprise crew member who poses no threat to him.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts