Gene Roddenberry’s acclaimed sci-fi classic is fifty years old. Spawning five long-running TV shows, over seven-hundred episodes, twelve blockbuster movies (and counting) as well as a mountain of spin-offs, Star Trek is still as relevant and exciting a property today as it was when it first launched on NBC in 1966. Star Trek Beyond, the thirteenth film in the franchise and the third to feature the rebooted original series universe, is therefore being released in cinemas at a perfect time to ride the wave of nostalgia and half-centenary festivities.

So how does Star Trek Beyond stand-up, given the extra weight of expectation that comes with being the big fiftieth anniversary celebration event? 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness already payed homage to some of classic Trek‘s greatest moments, after all. With this in mind, director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) and screenwriters Doug Jung & Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) instead plump for a better option and play to the strengths of the Trek franchise – it’s characters.

Star Trek Beyond Review

Beyond plunges the crew of the USS Enterprise into a white-knuckle adventure from the off, opening in entertaining fashion as ever, before setting course for a mysterious planet where our central villain, Krall (Idris Elba), destroys the Enterprise and captures the crew, who will play a big part in his devastating and twisted plans. Teaming up with stranded scavenger Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, Kingsman: The Secret Service), Captain Kirk and his remaining crew-members must find a way to defeat Krall with just their wits alone.

The plot is simple but effective, at times playing out like an episode of the original series. Awe-inspiring action sequences and fun character interplay are all present and correct, ensuring that Beyond never drags or feels overlong. There’s a few interesting twists in the narrative to keep audiences on their toes too, whilst Pegg & Jung’s screenplay also packs in plenty of heart, as both Kirk and Spock each find themselves experiencing a personal crisis. Destroying the Enterprise early on gives the film an extra sense of peril, as our heroes are forced to take on a powerful enemy with little in the way of resources.

Star Trek Beyond Review

Kirk, Spock and co. are all back, confidently portrayed by one of the finest ensemble casts ever put together. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban are a delight to watch, their interpretations of these classic roles inspired and fun, whilst the other cast members all get a decent amount of screen time. Taylah is a funny and interesting new addition to the crew, and provides many of the film’s action highlights, whilst Idris Elba cuts a very imposing figure as Krall.

The direction is sublime throughout, with Lin’s camera work both frantic and inventive, whilst his skill with action sequences is on full display in some kinetic space dogfights and one heck of an anti-gravity tussle. The icing on the cake is Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous score (plus what is easily the best use of The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage in any form of media ever!), as well as some beautiful tributes to the late Leonard Nimoy and the ever brilliant Anton Yelchin.

Star Trek Beyond Review

Star Trek Beyond may not please the most hardcore of Trekkers, but then again, the rebooted series never really has. Yet for fans and newcomers to the series, the core fundamentals of Gene Roddenberry’s creation are up on screen for all to see, in a lively, heartfelt and fun blockbuster movie that crams in everything the series is best remembered for – strong characters, inventive stories and a positive, progressive vision of the future. The cast is great, the script is solid, the direction a triumph. As a major part of Trek’s fiftieth birthday celebrations, Star Trek Beyond is a perfect gift that will certainly keep on giving.