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An instalment that feels familiar - and interesting
ZIPPING around in deep space, searching for new life forms and spreading goodwill across the galaxy can be a little monotonous - if you've seen one green-skinned alien you've seen them all - but just as the ennui starts to sink in aboard the Starship Enterprise, another scaly villain intent on wreaking death and destruction shows up to make things interesting.
Star Trek Beyond, the third instalment of a rebooted sci-fi franchise featuring characters first seen in the 1960s TV series, feels reassuringly familiar, sort of like stopping at a favourite restaurant for some comfort food. Trekkies expect - as do regular audiences in search of summer entertainment - and this film duly delivers.
The current cast members are well-established in their respective roles and the latest adventure calls for them to be faced with the usual number of life-and-death situations. Director Justin Lin - taking over from JJ Abrams and taking a break from The Fast and the Furious franchise - has proven adept at high-speed action sequences while the story, by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, owes a significant debt to the original show.
Three years into a five-year mission (and three years after Star Trek Into Darkness), Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and the crew of the Enterprise make a scheduled stopover at Yorktown, a Federation star base, to revitalise.
Both Kirk and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) have issues of duty and career weighing on their minds but before these can be addressed, they are sent on a rescue mission to an uncharted section of the nebula.
Once there, a bee-like swarm of attack craft cripples the Enterprise, which is boarded by an alien group led by the sinister warlord Krall (Idris Elba), who wants to retrieve an ancient artefact from the ship's storage - with it, he intends to activate a deadly weapon and destroy Yorktown. The Enterprise is crippled in the attack and crash lands onto a foreign planet, where most of the crew is imprisoned by Krall.
Meanwhile, Kirk with Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Spock with medical officer Leonard "Bones" McCoy (Karl Urban) have landed in separate escape pods. Each pair is joined by an alien being - Kalara (Lydia Wilson), whose own crew the Enterprise was attempting to rescue, and Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who has been stranded on the planet for some time and developed a system for evading detection.
Battle with the enemy, and banter with each other, ensue. Sometimes, the chatter turns philosophical, as when an injured Spock reveals that his father has died. "When you have lived as many lives as he, fear of death is ideological," he says. "Fear of death is what keeps us alive," replies Bones. A proper farewell is accorded to Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, who died during pre-production. The film also pays its final respects to Yelchin, who was killed in a freak accident last month.
Star Trek Beyond remains true to the rebooted series as well as the original television show, which is no small feat in itself. Sure, the climactic battle sequence drags on somewhat but at least the special effects are up to speed. Despite the loss of important members of the Star Trek family, the trials and tribulations of a Starfleet captain and his crew are sure to continue for the foreseeable future. In Hollywood, no one dreams of breaking up a winning team.