This is the film that finally dares to ask the question: what would happen if they actually tried to make a good Star Trek film?
The previous two nu-trek films, Star Trek, and Star Trek Into Darkness, were a pleasant enough popcorn action flick with the Trek insignia hot glued on, and a grating waste of everyone's time respectively. This time they let Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Scotty in this, generally a massive nerd, etc) co-write it, which means that a) it feels like a Star Trek film, and b) the plot actually makes a modicum of sense.
Not too much sense though, this is still a Hollywood sci-fi film. The crew of the Enterprise is feeling a little burnt out after years boldly going where no-one has gone before. But they can't have boldly gone that far because the first thing that happens is they stop off at a fancy snowglobular Star Base for resupply. Here they get involved in a rescue mission that goes horribly wrong, the Enterprise gets destroyed and the crew either scattered on a hostile planet or captured by a crazed strongman.
Splitting up the crew like this gives everyone in the large cast a place to shine. I always felt that the first two films never really nailed the character dynamic from Star Trek but here it is much improved. Kirk actually acts like a captain, Spock and Bones get to do their odd couple routine and even Sulu and Uhura play large roles. The plot unfolds like an expanded episode of the original TV show. This pleases me.
Films like these require a great villain to rise above the genre. Star Trek Beyond tries hard but its bad guy (Krall) is a pretty generic madman leading faceless, voiceless troops. Even the revelation of his originsFor the record, I saw it coming about half way through. doesn't really help, his motivation is muddled at best. The film spends a lot of time setting up an ancient super-weapon but once Krall gets his grubby hands on the final piece, it is shown to be so incredibly dangerous that it can kill one person fairly slowly. Krall would have been better served building more of those bee things he had whizzing about - they seemed very effective.
Star Trek Beyond is a huge improvement over the previous modern Star Trek films. It even flirts with the idea of being a proper movie, with themes and subtext and stuff. Although it fails to reach the lofty heights of Wrath of Khan, Star Trek Beyond is neither boring nor insultingly stupid. And that is a small triumph itself.