The new Star Trek series has had its ups and downs. Of course, when I say “ups and downs”, I mean one glorious reboot (Star Trek 2009) and one horrible rehash of better Star Trek material that should have never made it past a first draft, let alone to film (Star Trek Into Darkness), but I digress. I think what bothered many Star Trek fans about Star Trek Into Darkness is pretty much the same thing that bothered me about it; there was not a single original or cerebral idea in the movie’s head. Whereas a Star Trek movie should be turning my brain on, that film asked me to turn it off and break the switch right out the gate. It was just a bad remake of The Wrath Of Khan with a little Undiscovered Country thrown in and some Nemesis sprinkles on top. There were no complex ideas or anything resembling substance within the story, and being that Star Trek was built upon the foundation of ideas, that is probably the worst sin it could have committed. Even the worst Star Trek movies had thought-provoking ideas (The Final Frontier, The Motion Picture), they just weren’t executed very well.
Well, Star Trek fans were given a glimmer of hope when the studios brought Simon Pegg on to co-write the newest installment, Star Trek: Beyond. Pegg, who portrays Montgomery Scott in the reboot series, has promised to bring the series back to its roots with new ideas and intrigue and based on the latest trailer for the film, I have nothing but the utmost confidence that he, along with his fellow writers, will help to deliver something special for the fans. That being said, a statement made by Chris Pine, who portrays Captain James T. Kirk in the reboot series, may have to put my expectations in check.
In a recent interview with SFX Magazine (via Trek Movie), Chris Pine made the following statement.
“You can’t make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in today’s marketplace. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up. It’s very, very tricky. The question that our movie poses is ‘Does the Federation mean anything?’ And in a world where everybody’s trying to kill one another all of the time, that’s an important thing. Is working together important? Should we all go our separate ways? Does being united against something mean anything?”
Alright, I’m just gonna ignore the part about Star Trek Into Darkness having crazy, demanding questions and themes because if I have to list off all the reasons that statement is wrong, I’ll be here for the next year and a half. However, from a logical and realistic standpoint, Chris Pine is technically correct. Today’s marketplace, especially in the realm of science fiction, demands less use of brain cells. You need the big explosions and fist fights because that’s all audiences want to see today and therefore, the series seems to be unfortunately marketed toward that demographic. Now, that isn’t to say that all smart sci-fi films can’t be profitable. Both The Martian and Interstellar were all giant hits upon release, financially and critically. However, those films aren’t double digit sequels in a franchise either. Star Trek, to stay alive, needs to keep up with modern tech and modern moviegoers and needs to adjust accordingly. This is why the Transformers movies make top dollar; they conform. They’re all terrible and nigh unwatchable but hey, they made money. Sadly, in Hollywood, that’s all that seems to matter anymore.
Now, as for what Pine said the movie will be about, “Does the federation mean anything?”, I believe this could lead to some interesting conflicts for the enterprise crew as well as the federation itself. Look, I’m not an idiot. I’m not expecting them to have something along the lines of the original show (although that would be nice). I know that there will be a ton of explosions and action as Chris Pine put it. Hell, the new director of the series, Justin Lin, directed half of The Fast & The Furious franchise. I don’t mind action in a movie like this. In fact, I welcome it and if it services the story, all the better for it.
However, I just hope the action and the effects don’t overshadow what Star Trek stands for like Star Trek Into Darkness did. Star Trek has always (Into Darkness excluded) displayed thought-provoking themes and ideas. You can have the Cerebral elements beneath everything else and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as those elements don’t disappear altogether. They need to shine through when the time is right and as long as that happens, I believe Star Trek: Beyond can be one of the best films in the franchise. I sincerely hope it is and I wish the cast and crew all the best. Star Trek: Beyond opens in theaters July 22, 2016.