The episodes and films of Star Trek frequently have a scene, or at most two, that go something like this:
Cap’n, mah poor engines are giving everything they’ve got!
It’s not enough, Mr. Scott, we need warp speed now!
Sir, the ship can’t get enough power!
Watch out, they're shooting at us!
Multiply this by a hundred and you’ll get some idea of Star Trek Beyond, which should be renamed "Star Trek Fast and Furious" as befitting its director, Justin Lin, who pumped so much adrenaline into the Fast and Furious car-chase franchise.
The long middle hour of this film is a never ending “Cap’n, we can’t get enough power” scene. The ship is being attacked. The ship can’t get enough power. We’ve got to escape in the pods. The escape pods can’t get enough power. Watch out, they’re shooting at us! Scotty, give it everything you’ve got!
The teenage audience, raised in the era of Fast and Furious, is going to enjoy this. But I admit some frustration in never understanding the motivations of the villain (Idris Elba). The plot seems to revolve around the possession of a plastic device that looks like a toy made by Hasbro—available this Christmas, by the way—which when fit into this other toy, creates some kind of swarm that attacks a planet.
Apparently, he’s doing all this because of irritation over a bad skin condition, which was the price of immortality. Or at least that’s as much as I could figure out. At times like this you really miss Ricardo Montalban as Khan (Star Trek II), who was essentially Captain Ahab in space.
But, having said that, there are some aspects of this film that are wonderful.
First, it has by far the most spectacular special effects of any Star Trek production. And, with the possible exception of Avatar, this film has about the most spectacular production of any science fiction movie ever. Wait until you see the new Federation space station, which alone is worth the price of admission. You're going to wish you could go there and spend a year just exploring it.
A second thing to love about this film is that in the last twenty to thirty minutes, it becomes the perfect tribute to fifty years of Star Trek. It’s sobering to consider that almost half a century has passed since the original actors first walked onto the set. That there could be any kind of reconnection to the original cast is something of a neat trick and is enough to bring a tear to the eye of any die-hard Trekkie.
Third, Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) get paired up nicely for comic scenes. “I'm a doctor, not a (fill in a random profession here)!” This film actually has some good laugh lines, unlike most of the "comedies" of 2016.
Fourth, in addition to the just mentioned Urban and Quinto, the actors are growing into their roles nicely. Chris Pine, as Captain Kirk, is finally acting as the responsible leader Kirk was originally presented as in Season One of the 1966 show. It was only in seasons two and three that he became the cosmic womanizer.
But that was a long, long time ago, in a production company (DesiLu Studios) far away. It’s hard to believe that five spin-offs followed along with an animated series and—now, if you’re keeping count—thirteen films.
Star Trek Fast and Furious… excuse me, “Beyond”… is a special-effects extravaganza for the younger set. And it is one other thing: A nostalgia-fest for people who, over the last half-century, have grown to love this franchise and the series characters. On that level, it succeeds beautifully. For other people, it’s not clear to me that they’ll want to boldly go to the movie theater this summer. The whole summer seems to have been hijacked by a gang of deranged Klingons.