“Star Trek Beyond” had something to prove this summer. In a year when the big box office stories focus on how sequels are both critical and financial flops, “Star Trek” had to show it wasn’t another pure cash grab and had a reason for existing. While it’s not the best new movie this summer, the new “Star Trek” film is a damn good time and clearly had effort put into it. Does it have the depth of other summer blockbusters like “Captain America Civil War” or “Finding Dory”? No, not really. But, ultimately that doesn’t matter here.
“Star Trek Beyond” starts with the Enterprise and its crew being sent to rescue a stranded crew, but they’re then attacked by Krall (Idris Elba, “Luther”), who wants to steal an artifact that’s onboard. He and his crew proceed to destroy the ship during the attack. The crew then ends up scattered across the planet, meeting new friends in their attempts to get off the planet and stopping Krall from destroying a major Star Fleet base.
The film’s biggest redeeming quality is how purely watchable it was. Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”, who co-wrote the screenplay with Doug Jung and played the character Scotty) brought his sensibility to the script, peppering many of the characters' interactions with witty jokes. At its best, the banter sang off the screen, causing raucous laughter. The talented cast embraced these moments, especially Pegg, Karl Urban’s (“Almost Human”) Bones and Zachary Quinto’s (“The Slap”) Spock. These moments allowed the movie to relax, creating a fast and loose feeling that carries it from beginning to end.
It helps that the franchise brought in a visually talented director in Justin Lin (“Furious 7”) to replace J.J. Abrams (who was busy making this little “Star Wars” film). The film’s action scenes crackled with excitement. As the camera swooped around the fighting, Lin made us feel a certain excitement, just like he did so well in the “Fast and Furious” movies he directed. This is especially true in Kall’s attack of the Enterprise. This sequence went on for multiple minutes, and were some of the most exciting moments in the movie.
Despite the movie being a goof watch, it wasn’t without its problems. The film didn’t really attempt to add much depth to the characters, something the first film did so well with the relationship between Spock and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”). Elba did what he could with the villain role, but the character doesn’t get any background until the film’s third act, and the twists felt like half-hearted attempts at creating a character instead of a caricature.
Still, it’s easy to overlook how hard it is to make a competent summer blockbuster. This moviegoing season has been filled with efforts where the filmmakers clearly didn’t care. That makes “Star Trek” a refreshing breath of fresh air with its banter and incredible action scenes.