Star Trek Beyond might be the Star Trekkiest film of the new, J.J. Abrams-ified Trek era. That is to say, it's the one that feels the most like a turbo-loaded episode of the original series, and has at least some of that classic spirit of exploration and derring-do. That's not to say the film is cerebral, mind you; the Abrams reboot pretty much did away with the allegorical, topical angle of Gene Roddenberry's creation, cross-breeding it with Star Wars–style space opera. The Trek of the so-called "Kelvin Timeline" is less about traveling to distant worlds to learn lessons regarding society and more about running through corridors and leaping off big, high moving things before the madman destroys the city/planet/space base/cosmos/whatever. This one still falls heavily on action-adventure, as Hollywood demands of all modern blockbusters. But somewhere in there, you can sense a template taking shape for how this series might proceed -- and it's a familiar, welcome one.
Director Justin Lin's main claim to fame is being the guy who helped turn the Fast and Furious series from a tired, gearhead B-movie franchise into a knowingly cartoonish, wildly profitable action fantasy. Early on, the story lets the characters reflect on things like duty, identity and regret. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) gets practically existential as he stalks through the USS Enterprise watching his crew go about their lives (in slow-motion!) and asks, in voiceover, "If the universe is truly endless, then are we not striving for something that is forever out of reach?" Pine sells these cornball ruminations better than William Shatner ever did. And Lin is absolutely in his element when the film becomes about bodies and vehicles moving swiftly through space.