JJ Abrams takes a back seat this time round, as director Justin Lin leads the way with sci-fi sequel Star Trek Beyond. Leading a truly stellar cast including Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine, the film-making duo offer up a fresh instalment to the franchise abandoning the "Darkness" and adding some much-needed fun.
Years into their long-running mission, the crew aboard the USS Enterprise are beginning to wane under the demands of deep-space exploration, most of all Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Both are questioning their future working within Starfleet for different reasons: the former is finding his once exciting role meaningless and "episodic", while the other is feeling the pull of his Vulcan roots.
But when their ship becomes the target of an alien warlord named Krall (Idris Elba), who is convinced it contains a potentially devastating ancient weapon, both have to commit fully to their crew in order to stop their new enemy from ending civilisation.
"I think you're underestimating humanity," Kirk utters in the film's second trailer; a poignant line embodying not only what Starfleet is all about but what Star Trek as a whole is, too. Yet, sadly, said quote doesn't seem to make it into the final cut and it's telling. Paramount Pictures' has released a slew of sneak peeks, each one looking to be more touching and character-driven than the one before but that's ultimately not what you get with Beyond, regardless of it still being good.
That being said, without even having to touch upon it, this movie perhaps possesses more moments that will tug at your heartstrings than any other blockbuster this year – not in its story – but because of the deaths of both Leonard Nimoy and, much more recently, Anton Yelchin. Beyond wonderfully balances respectful nods to "absent friends", acknowledging the real-life story behind the movie while also making it feel natural to the fiction. Kudos to you, Mr Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung.
The script knows when not to dwell on the actors' deaths and it's evident that Lin's hands were firmly on the wheel (or command console), given how much he utilises his action-based background. More so than its predecessors Star Trek and Into Darkness, Beyond leaves the more emotive stuff behind and concentrates on big set pieces: the Enterprise's obliteration, a thrilling rescue mission and a high-octane scene of "Sabotage". Brilliantly choreographed and undeniably fun to watch, you can't help but feel such sequences would pack much more of an emotional wallop if they were sandwiched between ones that were a bit more human and featured significantly more dialogue.
There's just something about these characters, and the brilliant chemistry of the cast that portray them, that makes you drawn to them sentimentally, but then again, not everyone wants to see their space-set sci-fi mixed with drama when it comes to this franchise; a fact that was certainly proved given the Into Darkness backlash. Back in 2013, it was heavily criticised for feeling much too dark and not that much like a Trek movie. Not such a worry here; as Beyond gearshifts into a much lighter and more action-packed outing.
During the film's promotional tour, Pegg admitted that the script-penning process was very inclusive between the whole cast and that he (and Jung) were keen to hear where the actors saw their characters and if there was anything they wanted to add or develop on. A decision that hugely benefited the end result. Urban's Bones gets more personality and funny quips than ever before – and nails every one – while Quinto is able to present a much more humorous and slightly more personable Spock, too. Don't worry, he's still gloriously pragmatic, too, of course.
Pine is once again perfection also, playing a loyal but inertly rebellious Captain who is struggling with not only the ghost of his father looming over him still but the monotony of travelling through space and trying to keep the peace among the planets. With a cast this broad, however, it's not all that surprising that supporting characters such as Zoe Saldana's Uhura, John Cho's Sulu and newcomers Sofia Boutella and Elba often fall a little by the wayside, with particular emphasis on the latter.
Whatever you think of the previous film, Into Darkness' big bad Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) was not only a scene-stealing, one-liner-filled sasspot but his motives were understandable and his abilities foreboding. His presence constantly loomed in the movie and over the crew of the USS Enterprise but here, Elba's villain Krall makes one of the best entrances seen in recent cinema, only to be sectioned to the sidelines for the remainder of the film and to receive the most hurried of all backstories in the movie's final minutes. Turns out, it's not just Elba's excessive facial prosthetics holding him back...
Not quite as polished as its predecessors but quality entertainment nonetheless, it's safe to say Beyond reaches for the stars in terms of thrills and visuals and it's willingness to own those scenes and those scenes alone, pays off. More humorous than any other before it, too, Beyond injects some much-needed fun into the ongoing series that is sure to make hard-core Trekkies and casual fans desperate to boldly go alongside them as they continue to make more.