Star Trek: Beyond … the pale?

Abra Pressler comments on the trailer for the latest instalment of the rebooted Star Trek and what it means for the future of franchise films.

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When the trailer for the third of J.J Abrams’ Star Trek reboots dropped on the same day as the worldwide premiere for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, no one seemed to be surprised. It seems there are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Star Trek and those who love Star Wars, and the merits of each against the other are always heavily debated. It’s unclear where J.J Abrams lies since he jumped ship on Star Trek: Beyond to direct Star Wars VII and VIII, though he stayed on board the Enterprise with a producer’s credit. Justin Lin, known best for the Fast and the Furious franchise and his inconsistent ability to name sequels, signed up to fill the director’s chair.

The trailer opens to Kirk and the Beastie Boys, a subtle nod to J.J. Abrams’ favourite band and a long running joke among the Star Trek reboot. Because, really, what’s Kirk, a man from the 24th century, got any business listening to a 20th century New York rap group? The placement is awkward, kind of strange, but it does fire you up, which is what this trailer aims to do: and it’s debatable whether that’s a good thing.

Seems the plot is more like Star Trek: Survivor than anything we’ve seen in the past. We see the Enterprise being destroyed by various unidentified aliens as Kirk and the rest of the crew are ejected away from the wreckage in emergency pods. They land on a planet, seemingly separated. On this planet, Kirk meets a white alien played by newcomer Sofia Boutella (Kingsmen: The Secret Service) who makes vague statements such as “I know why we’re here… why we are all here”.

The trailer, which runs for one minute thirty seconds, tells us pretty much nothing about the plot of the film, and only hints at a few new characters, such as Boutella and Idris Elba as the film’s main antagonist. Instead, the trailer is packed full of awkward looking karate moves, matrix-like slow motion jumping, off-road motorbike stunts through wrecked machinery – it looks more like a Guardians of the Galaxy meets Fast and the Furious, than a typical Star Trek film.

For what we are shown in the trailer, it’s not the Star Trek fans know. That Star Trek, fans argue on YouTube comments underneath the trailer, is where the storylines and characters are complimented by the action and special effects, and not the other way around. And despite the shortcomings of the J.J. Abrams reboots, he seemed to maintain the character dynamics and the conflicting relationships that made the original Star Trek so wildly popular. We’re only given a single piece of sass from Bones in the trailer – surrounded by alien aircrafts, he quips to Spock that “at least I won’t die alone,” after which Spock is suddenly beamed away, leaving Bones alone. It’s a far cry from 2009’s Star Trek, which seemed to have an abundance of perfectly timed sass.

Chris Pine (left) as Kirk, and Simon Pegg as Scotty

Simon Pegg, who stars as Scotty and co-wrote the script, voiced his disappointment at the first theatrical teaser for the new film, saying there’s more to it than “action and fun. I didn’t love it, because I know there’s a lot more to the film.” Reports claim that Pegg also quit writing Star Trek: Beyond three times, with Abrams convincing him each time to come back. Pegg alluded to a long-held belief that every odd numbered Star Trek film was poor, with Star Trek: Beyond the 13th film in the long-running franchise.

Written by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, Star Trek stars the usual suspects: Chris Pine reprising his role as as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, and John Cho and Anton Yelchin as Sulu and Chekov respectively.

No doubt more trailers will be released, but the overall consensus for the threequel is not positive.

Star Trek: Beyond is due to hit theatres on July 22nd, 2016.

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