“Things have started to feel a little … episodic,” acknowledges the commander of the USS Enterprise in his famous captain’s log, three long years into a five-year 23rd-century gig.
That line, cheeky and knowing, comes early in “Star Trek Beyond.” It’s the 13th feature film pulled from the hallowed Gene Roddenberry TV series, the Cold War-era phenomenon that believed in ideas and the democratic ideal.
So many franchises fight for our attention these days that it’s easy to forget how satisfying the recent J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Trek” films have been. The latest, produced by Abrams and directed by “Fast and Furious” alum Justin Lin, isn’t quite up to the 2009 and 2013 movies. But it’s still fun, you still care about the people, and the effects manage to look a little more elegant and interesting than the usual blue blasts of generica.
The nemesis this time is a lizard fellow named Krall, played by Idris Elba, which means he has the coolest voice in the universe. Krall’s desperate to regain control of the plot device known as the “Abronath,” also referred to as “the death machine.” The Enterprise takes a fatal hit from Krall’s swarming, flying spacecraft, and much of the first half of the picture finds Kirk, Spock, et al. stranded and separated on a forbidding, spiky-rocked planet.
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The gang reassembles, with the help of fearsome warrior alien Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). The object of Krall’s wrath is a huge, glass-enclosed federation stopover known as Yorkville, where the gravitational forces and upside-down-and-sideways architecture are inspired by M.C. Escher, which makes for some entertaining combat.
It’s the little things that count in “Stark Trek Beyond.” The casual details include Sulu (John Cho) meeting up with his boyfriend and their daughter, Spock (Zachary Quinto) enjoying an atypically hearty laugh at one point, and Kirk’s (Chris Pine) accumulating air of world-weariness, which tones down the character’s hot-headed qualities. Pine’s a good actor, but it’s a tough assignment: How does any actor cope with the role as written, while suggesting the old William Shatner arrogance?
Director Lin stages a nutty sequence involving multiple Kirks riding multiple motorcycles, which I suspect will be the dividing line for many in the audience. Either you like that bit, or you don’t.
Lin’s movie works best when approached as a relaxed two-hour expansion of one of the old 1960s episodes. Krall never quite pops as the antagonist. But if there’s one thing this franchise has taught us, it’s this: You can’t always get a Khan when you want one.
‘Star Trek Beyond’
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence. 2:02. 2D and 3D: Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill. 2D only: Georgetown, Winchester.