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Movie review: ‘Star Trek Beyond’ takes Enterprise on an exciting ride

July 22, 2016 GMT

The good ship Enterprise flies again in the action-filled “Star Trek Beyond,” the third chapter in the revamping of Gene Roddenberry’s 50-year-old space adventure — and the first that feels unbound from the need to drop winking references to the source material.

Three years into the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is of two minds about his future in Starfleet. So is Kirk’s second-in-command, Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), who gets news of the death of his alternate-timeline self, Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy, in a fitting tribute to the actor who died in 2015).

Such ruminating has to wait. Just after docking at the Federation’s new outpost, Yorktown, Kirk must lead the Enterprise crew on a rescue mission for a stranded ship on the other side of a nebula. The distress call, though, is a trap — and soon the Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of nasty assault vehicles, led by a cunning mastermind named Krall (played, under considerable make-up, by Idris Elba).

On a desolate planet, the main bridge crew is paired off: Kirk with navigator Chekov (Anton Yelchin, who died in June), Spock with Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), and helmsman Sulu (John Cho) with communications officer Uhura (Zoë Saldana). Only the engineer Scotty (Simon Pegg) gets an unfamiliar partner: The monochromatic Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), a tech-savvy survivor of another ship sucked in by a similar distress call.

J.J. Abrams, having directed the first two “Star Trek” reboot titles before taking on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” has passed the directing duties on to Justin Lin, who made episodes 3 through 6 of the “Fast & Furious” franchise. Lin’s action chops are first-rate, and he stages some thrilling chases and complex fight sequences that get the moviegoer’s heart racing.

The script, by Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead,” “The World’s End”) and Doug Jung (who co-created the police series “Dark Blue”), doesn’t try to drop names from “Trek” lore, the way director J.J. Abrams’ first two movies did. (In fact, this movie references Abrams’ quirks, like his Beastie Boys obsession, just as much.)

Instead, Pegg and Jung honor Roddenberry’s creation by telling a simple, no-filler story that would fit in as an episode of the original series. All of our major players get their moments to shine, though the sharpest scenes revive the bickering byplay between the stubbornly logical Spock and the cantankerous McCoy.

“Star Trek” doesn’t engage the intellect quite as fervently as Roddenberry’s series or Abrams’ movies did. Its more modest aim is to jolt the senses and get the adrenaline pumping — and that Lin accomplishes with cool authority.

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