Deep upon the rugged planet of Altamid, Commander Spock and Lieutenant Commander McCoy ruminate the consequences of thanatophobia. “The fear of death is illogical,” concludes Spock, but McCoy is quick to disagree: “It’s the fear of death,” the good doctor retorts, “that keeps us alive.”
It’s just one of the pair’s numerous and delightful philosophical scuffles during Beyond, but actually serves as a neat piece of metatextual criticism for Star Trek itself. The franchise celebrates its golden jubilee this year, and Justin Lin (and the series’ star-crossed lover, J.J. Abrams) seem desperate to maintain warp speed ahead of time’s winged chariot.
And they mostly do. Beyond is a fast and furious summer blockbuster, which manages to best 2013’s messy remix Into Darkness while never quite living up to its transcendent promise. Lin’s adventure is mostly standalone; an episode which dislocates then joyously reassembles the Enterprise’s crew for a punchy finale, but fails to deliver a villain even close to Benedict Cumberbatch’s icy homerun, Khan. Idris Elba’s remarkable talents are sadly squandered under a deluge of latex so only his distinctive drawl is recognisable.
Star Trek needs to now use its existential dread to boldly go further. Space battles scored to the Beastie Boys would have been grin-inducing five years ago, but feel decidedly dated in the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Martian. Like most of Beyond, it holds you for the moment, but doesn’t linger into the next.
Beyond proves that Star Trek’s largest hamstring is that it seemingly cannot top the reboot’s maiden adventure. 2009’s eponymous uncorking of this rejuvenated series remains far more satisfying than the two glasses that have followed, but Beyond hints the best might yet be still to come.
CAST: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella
DIRECTOR: Justin Lin
WRITERS: Doug Jung and Simon Pegg
SYNOPSIS: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.