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Is Star Trek “Beyond” Hope? Action versus Vision

14 Dec

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By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

The problem with the trailer for Star Trek Beyond is that it does not feel like classic Trek anymore. When the title implies it’s moving away from the ideologies created by Gene Roddenberry, who created this series, not everyone will take to the changes. I adore the Original Series, The Next Generation (TNG) and Deep Space 9 (DS9). Some ideologies from the television sagas must be kept. Ever since the first movie rebooted the saga, the story has been more about re-imagining the series. J.J. Abrams, however visionary he is, had some good ideas. I appreciate him telling fans in the film that this series is set in a mirror universe. I’m okay with the first film, but the second one was atrocious. I was not okay with a new Kahn. Ricardo Montalbán owned the character. Nobody, not even Benedict Cumberbatch, could ever replace him. From “Space Seed” to Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn, he made that character.

In this third film, Idris Elba has some tough shoes to fill. Who will be playing? A Gorn perhaps? Most likely not but I get the feeling this movie will be a tribute to all the episodes where Kirk was forced into an a blood sport and fight it out to save his crew. In the trailer released today, Justin Lin shows just how fast and furious he’s going to get with a franchise that’s lost its direction.

Thankfully, Simon Pegg is lovable as Scotty in the opening frames. He can do no wrong and nor does the cast. The Starship Enterprise gets pummelled again (perhaps forcing the building of the B class ship) and the fail I’m feeling here is that I have seen all these stunts before. Pegg gets to copy Ethan Hunt by perilously latching on to the edge of a cliff! The joke is there when we hear, “We will find hope in the impossible.” His wit is there and Mission Impossible fans will appreciate this crack.

Instead of the smiling trio, the entire crew will have to fend for themselves on a planet filled with aliens. A female creature says she knows why everyone is forced here. Could gladiatorial sports be involved? Is the voice over that of Elba’s? He intones, “This is where the frontier pushes back.”

I’m wondering if this third film is a re-imagining of the episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion.” The light-skinned Sofia Boutella does not have a name given to her alien persona, but she reminds me of Shahna from the said TOS episode and Elba is nowhere to be seen — or was he that reptilian who got three-seconds worth of trailer time?

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I have to worry about what Pegg is up to with this film. He shared the script-writing chores with Doug Jung (Dark Blue). Most of Jung’s work is on the television front, and the shows he’s worked on does not inspire confidence. I like to know if he understands the nuances of what defines a great science fiction tale.

When 2016 marks Star Trek‘s 50th Anniversary, the right people need to be involved in celebrating and making the film great. I am more open to Pegg and Edgar Wright crafting a tribute product. To be fair, I suspect the studio heads at Paramount were putting on the pressure by saying this is the story we want to pan out instead of giving Pegg carte blanche in crafting the tale. Pegg can craft delightful British science fiction style products. Spaced is crazy. He writes great buddy material, like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, but when it came time to Star Trek, I hope he did not cave in to pressure.

If the ambition by the studio heads is to simply rake in the wow factor, then the trailer succeeds. Sadly that means the final product may have very little regard for what made Roddenberry’s series great. The alien encounters have a bit of that gunboat diplomacy going, but where’s the social drama? Exploring the frontier is one thing, but how to deal with new dangers in a rational style is another (that’s where TNG comes into effect). In Roddenberry’s pitch for his television series and in the making of Star Trek II, director Nicholas Meyer said he took his inspiration from the adventures of Horatio Hornblower. Once he understood that, he knew how to focus his energies in the making of later films.

All I’m getting from Star Trek Beyond is the feeling of copying from just how nasty the universe is from a Farscape or  Guardians of the Galaxy perspective.  We have alien species being herded by a mysterious peacekeeper force. From the trailer, Kirk and crew have to fight them, and they may perhaps meet a Scorpious-like figure. Sorry Paramount, but I have more faith in seeing what you have planned for a TV series than film. Compressing a whole ton of breakneck action is not what Star Trek is about. Some re-evaluation is in order.

Star Trek Beyond opens July 22, 2016 in theatres in the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

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