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Analyzing Our First Look at Star Trek Beyond

December 25th, 2015
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Amidst all the hubub over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I have been remiss in commenting on the first teaser trailer for Star Trek Beyond that dropped last week!

Star Trek Beyond (should there be a colon in there?) is the third film set in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted Trek universe.  However, J.J. is not returning to direct this third film (he’s been a little busy with that other movie sequel with Star in its title), nor are any of the other co-writers of the last two Trek films (Damon Lindelof, Robert0 Orci, and Alex Kurtzman) returning.  Instead, Justin Lin (director of the third through sixth Fast and Furious films) is directing, and the script has been written by Simon Pegg (who also, of course, plays Scotty in this rebooted Trek series) and Doug Jung.

I enjoyed 2009’s Star Trek I thought it got everything right except the script, which was a little too simplistic and a little too full of plot holes.  But the cast was spectacular, and most importantly the tone was perfect.  The film had stakes but felt like a FUN adventure.  It also looked gorgeous.  I didn’t care for all the design choices — and in particular I thought the Enterprise looked terrible, ugly and unbalanced — but it was exciting to see a Star Trek film realized with a big budget that the series had never before seen.  2012’s Into Darkness, however, was an abomination, a really terrible film that missed on almost every level.  And so I am fine with this latest Trek film having an entirely new creative team at the helm.  True, the idea of a Fast and Furious director at the helm of a Trek film doesn’t feel like a great fit to me, but Justin Lin has described himself as a Star Trek fan and has said a lot of the right things in interviews, and so I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  And Simon Pegg is definitely a hard-core Trek fan who knows his stuff, so that gives me hope.

So, how about this first teaser trailer?

I liked it!  I liked it a lot more than a lot of others across the internet seemed to.

Yes, setting the trailer for a Star Trek film to a Beastie Boys song seems wrong.  I agree.  I like my Trek stately and serious.  There’s something sort of silly about setting a Trek trailer to a Beastie Boys song.  It makes one worry that the tone of this new film will be all wrong, that it’s just going to be a dumb action/adventure and not the sort of more cerebral, thoughtful adventure that is what I believe Star Trek is all about.

On the other hand, what I like about this trailer is that it seems to be expressing that this new film’s tone is one of FUN, which after the dour Into Darkness I very much want to see in this next Trek film.  So that gives me hope that the the filmmakers will have gotten the tone of this new Trek film right.

Also, J.J. & co. already established that this rebooted James T. Kirk likes the Beastie Boys.  (He’s listening to a Beastie Boys track when he has stolen the car at the beginning of 2009’s Star Trek.)  So I bet someone thought that using the Beastie Boys trailer was just a play on that.

What most excites me about this trailer is that this film seems to be about new characters — new planets, and new aliens.  That is GREAT.  It’s time for these Trek films to start charting new ground.  I don’t want to see more of the same old familiar aliens.  Particularly since this film series is now supposed to be chronicling the Enterprise’s five-year mission of exploration, I am delighted to see this film appearing to embrace that concept.

I’m also tickled to see Idris Elba (who I am THRILLED is in this film — I really hope he is better served that Benedict Cumberbatch was in Into Darkness) is playing a totally wacky-looking alien.  How great is it that Mr. Elba is in under classic Star Trek full makeup and prosthetics?  I love it.

The trailer hints at the film spending some time with McCoy and Spock paired up together, something I would very much like to see.  The first rebooted film really played up the Kirk-Spock relationship, but I have always loved the Spock-McCoy dynamic and would love to see more of that in this film.

What don’t I like in this new trailer?

Seeing the Enterprise get hugely damaged and maybe destroyed.  Enough with this plot device.  It was devastating in Star Trek III.  But since then we’ve seen the Enterprise get destroyed over and over again and that plot device has lost all impact and meaning.  This was most egregiously evident in the last film, Into Darkness, in which we saw the Enterprise get totally trashed in orbit and then crash down onto Earth, smashing through a city!!  And yet, just a few minutes of screen-time later, everything had been miraculously repaired and the Enterprise was back, good as new.  I feel quite sure that the Enterprise will be all better by the end of this new film, too.  So how about just skip that plot “twist” and find other ways of challenging Kirk and co.?  In almost every episode of the Original Series the Enterprise was put in jeopardy, and Kirk and his landing party found themselves on an alien planet cut off from help from the ship.  Figure out a way to do this for the next few Trek movies without blowing up the Enterprise again, OK?

I’m not sure I’m taken yet by the look of the new uniforms and some of the new haircuts (particularly Kirk’s), but I am willing to leave my mind open for now until I see more than quick glimpses of them in a fast-cut trailer.

I also strongly dislike the title.  Star Trek Beyond has for me the same problems as Star Trek Into Darkness.  I don’t like the device these sequels are using of trying to make a phrase out of “Star Trek so-and-so,” and these titles are so simplistic as to be meaningless.

Is Star Trek Beyond going to be any good?  Who knows!  But over-all I really dug this trailer and I am hoping for the best.  We’ll see this summer!

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