Last night, I attended the Irish Premiere of Star Trek Beyond, the latest feature film entry in the franchise, which celebrates its 50 anniversary this year. None of the big stars were in attendance, but instead a number of Irish TV and radio personalities, all Trekkies in their own right. Additionally, a number of fans were lucky enough to secure tickets to fill out the packed theatre. If you’ve attended one of these premieres, you’ll understand it can be easy to get caught up in the moment. You are in a room full of people who want to love the movie, whose very passion is palpable. Yet even in isolation, Star Trek Beyond proves itself to be one of the summer’s finer action movies and perhaps the most faithful movie in the franchise in a number of years.
In his opening Captain’s log, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) admits that three years into the Entreprise’s five year mission, their lives are getting a bit “episodic”, but what begins as a nice meta-joke comes to define the rest of the movie. Star Trek Beyond, in the most positive sense, feels like an episode of the original series. It marks the first of the new timeline films to truly embrace the spirit of adventure that characterised the series in the past. With an original villain and without having the burden of an origin movie, it is free to do it’s own thing and come up with creative scenarios. The film presents Spock (Zachary Quinto) struggling to come to terms with his own mortality as Kirk questions his commitment to Starfleet. In this time of internal re-examination, the Enterprise is sent to assist a ship in distress only to be ambushed by a veritable swarm of fighters . While stranded on an unknown world, the crew team up with Jayla (Sofia Boutella) who assists them in rescuing their comrades. Thankfully, this brilliant and energetic warrior does not become a love interest, instead forming a crucial part of the fight against Krall (Idris Elba).
The film is as much about how the crew of the Enterprise act as a dysfunctional family as it is about the threat posed by Krall. Much of the film’s best comedic moments come not from Scotty (Simon Pegg), but from Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban) learning to work together, in spite of their differences. Furthermore, the bud-cop team of Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) act as a tragic reminder of the talent that was lost. Rest assured the overall threat does what all good Star Trek plot-lines does and uses Sci-Fi to examine the challenge our modern society faces. Krall challenges the Federation’s commitment to peaceful co-existence and prosperity, instead believing the value of an isolationist struggle for superiority. If that sounds familiar, then you may have been following the news the last couple of years. Most of us have grown up in an era where unification for peace was the standard. We grew up in the shadow of the EU or the United Nations truly becoming forces to be reckoned with. We grew up at a time where acceptance, tolerance and friendship towards those who were different from you was the norm, rather than the exception. Gene Roddenberry grew up in a very different world and his vision of the future was seen by many as Utopian in nature. The Federation had moved beyond capitalist structures, poverty all but erased. Gender, racial and sexual equality were embraced (uniforms aside). Diplomacy, not war, was the greatest tool at our disposal. It was an ideal to strive for, but in recent years, as we’ve pushed to go beyond that final frontier,the more the frontier has pushed back. Within this is an all too real reminder of those who get left behind when peace is found. When you’ve spent years fighting, when war is all you know, is it realistic to expect a solider to simply stop? If that isn’t a condemnation of the state of our current peacekeeping efforts, then it is at least a call to action.
Star Trek Beyond, though not has fleshed out as one might like, is about that conflict between unification and isolationism. The clash between keeping what we have or daring to aim for something greater. It is film that aims to defend that original vision that Roddenberry had so long ago, in a time where it looks to be more further away than ever. It’s a reminder that, despite all that has happened over the last number of years, we can overcome indifference and intolerance. It remains hopeful in spite of all that was lost. It may not be the best Star Trek movie, but on the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise they could be no more fitting a tribute to all that has come before.
Star Trek Beyond hits theatres worldwide on July 22nd.