“Star Trek” had the lofty task of winning back the hearts of its loyal fans this year.
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the last entrance in the “Star Trek” franchise, divided just about everybody by trying to hide a twist that any person could see from a mile away.
Now, the Enterprise crew has earned back a lot of goodwill with “Star Trek Beyond,” a fine sequel and an excellent adventure into deep space. In “Beyond,” Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew face a new enemy named Krall (Idris Elba), who wants to destroy everything that the Federation stands for.
But here’s the thing: “Star Trek” didn’t just have to win back their die hard fans, they also had to win back the millions of other people who go to the movies and just want to watch a motorcycle chase in outer space.
I consider myself in the latter category.
I can’t call myself a Trekkie. I consider this no fault of the series itself. It’s just that if I had to choose what science fiction I consume, I always found myself leaning towards “Star Wars” and “The Twilight Zone.” Perhaps the biggest achievement of “Star Trek Beyond” is that it makes non-fans feel like they have been a part of the universe from the beginning.
It adds an awesome new character.
“Beyond” adds a brand new character to the world with Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). She manages to steal the spotlight even from some of the most established and legendary characters, offering both heart and kick arse fight scenes.
The fact that there’s a new character walking around that fits perfectly into this world allows anyone watching to feel like they can fit right in as well. It also doesn’t hurt that “Star Trek Beyond” has the kind of richly diverse cast that Hollywood has been looking for.
The characters feels like they are part of a family.
The two most recent “Star Trek” installments were directed by J.J. Abrams. “Beyond” was helmed by Justin Lin, who has worked on multiple Fast & Furious movies. As Matt Singer pointed out in ScreenCrush, Lin has a talent for making his cast of characters feel like “a real family.”
And family transcends franchise.
Just watching these characters interact is a joy. One of the best moments in the film comes when Kirk and McCoy (Karl Urban) bond over a bottle of bourbon they stole from Chekhov (Anton Yelchin). Kirk jokes that he assumed that Chekhov would have been a “clear liquor” kind of guy. It gives the sense that these people know each other beyond the plot. This isn’t just something a decades old series should be doing; this is just good writing and filmmaking right there.
It builds awe-inspiring new worlds.
I found myself slack-jawed at a few parts of “Star Trek Beyond.” There’s one planet they visit that is basically a revolving space station covered in skyscrapers. It’s the best kind of sci-fi: something that should exist in the future, and something that you only could have imagined in your wildest dreams.
You don’t have to be a “Star Trek” fan to appreciate this; you just have to be a fan of movies and big, bold ideas.
The movie wraps up with a declaration of the “Star Trek” mission:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
After watching “Beyond,” this mission becomes an exciting promise.
As great as, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be (and it did reach new highs this year with “Captain America: Civil War”), the reason it is so alienating is that it often doesn’t feel welcoming to non-comic book fans. Marvel seems more committed to bringing moments from the comics to life, rather than creating something new. “Star Trek,” meanwhile, promises to take us to brand new places we’ve never been before.
Begging for completely original, big summer blockbusters at this point feels pointless. Perhaps one day, studios will again take more risks on new ideas. But for now, we are in the middle of a tentpole-focused era. The best thing you can do is what “Star Trek Beyond” achieved: making every casual fan feel like a Trekkie for two hours.
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