Star Trek Beyond film review: boldly going further?

Does Star Trek Beyond soar into the cosmos or crash-land?

Left to right: Anton Yelchin plays Chekov, Chris Pine plays Kirk and John Cho plays Sulu in Star Trek Beyond from Paramount Pictures, Skydance, Bad Robot, Sneaky Shark and Perfect Storm Entertainment

When the first posters for Star Trek Beyond started popping up on the internet, we were pleasantly surprised. In contrast to Into Darkness’ gritty, modernised promotional material, Beyond kept the emphasis on colour, adventure and fun. They were almost like a throwback to The Original Series. Thankfully, this feeling also shines through in the actual film. It’s big, fun, emotional and action-packed – just as it should be.

It sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s obvious that Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script has come from a place of love. It’s unclear whether this will be the last film in the rebooted series – a fourth is currently listed for 2019, though we await further news after recent events – but we wouldn’t be disappointed if it was.

There’s just something about it – particularly during the third act – that feels so final, like a grandparent inviting their loved ones to their deathbed to crack out the photo albums and reminisce about the good old days. Thankfully, it’s not as morbid as that. It takes real care when paying tribute to the expanded Star Trek universe, but it’s neither subtle nor too sentimental; it’s just right.

If there was something missing from the first two films that made them feel a little un-Star Trek-ish – between all the original sound effects and character names – it was the fact that characters that weren’t Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) or Scotty (Pegg) didn’t seem to have much personality. That wasn’t down to the cast, though; it was more to do with the fact that none of them appeared to have much screen time when they weren’t pressing buttons and flipping switches for Kirk on the Bridge.

Fortunately, Star Trek Beyond takes care of that. Sulu (John Cho) steps up his game as Lieutenant, Bones (Karl Urban) gets even sassier, and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) never fails to find someone to flirt with. Even the smallest instances of humour and compassion go a long way in transforming them from almost blank slates into fully realised action characters.

However, there’s also a disappointing lack of Uhura. She’s present for most of the film, but rarely does anything other than pine after Spock and look worried. It’s difficult to tell whether her uncharacteristic passivity is the result of Saldana’s hectic schedule or if Uhura just passed Pegg and Jung by, but either way it’s a real shame.

A new adventure happily leads to new partnerships, the best easily being Spock and Bones, who get lumped together by accident when the crew is forced to abandon ship. The result of the combination of Spock’s deadpan, logical approach to life and Bones’ irritable, wisecracking personality is exactly what you’d expect. It’s fun, entertaining and extremely welcome.

Likewise, Kirk and Chekov are together when they leave the Enterprise, and quickly prove to make a good team, while Sulu and Uhura are left to lead the rest of the crew and keep them out of harm’s way.

Scotty finds himself paired with his new friend Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a kick-ass alien mechanic who he runs into while attempting to abandon ship. As far as the Star Trek reboots’ original characters go, she’s pretty awesome. Weirdly, the film’s other new character, ruthless commander Krall, isn’t as memorable as you would expect a villain played by Idris Elba to be, but he’s menacing and gets the job done.

It may have flaws, but Star Trek Beyond is rooted so deeply into everything we love about Star Trek and the ideas behind it that it’s difficult not to love it too. For two hours, it effortlessly switches from fun and thrilling to goofy and emotional. It’s big and loud, but also has a heart, which is all we could have asked for.