Thursday, July 28, 2016

Star Trek - Beyond





"I Believe in a Star Trek Future."


I've always said that and I've always believed it.  Sometimes I say it with a wink and a nod.  Sometimes as a tech reference and sometimes when things seem to be at their darkest. 

To me, a Star Trek future isn't just about space travel and the wonderful gadgets that go along with it, although I love them too.  It's about the community of mankind. 

I grew up in a turbulent time.  Civil and racial discord, the constant drumbeat of war on the evening news.  It was a frightening period.  Especially to a young child.

But I always had Star Trek and Star Trek understood the community of mankind.






There was one particular episode that I've always remembered it was called, 'Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."  One of my favorite actors of the time, Frank Gorshin, was in it. (I told I was young then!)  It told the story of two space aliens locked in an eternal struggle.  No matter how the crew of the Enterprise tried they could not settle the differences between these two intractable enemies.

Frustrated, one of the two finally turned to Spock and berated him, "What are blind Commander Spock?  Look at me.  Look at me!  I am black on the right side.  Lokai, is white on the right side.

I hadn't noticed.

But it didn't take me long too realize where this episode was going and what the metaphors meant.




Today, I look back at that episode and wonder how far we have come.  Sadly, it seems, not too far.  We have people shooting at each other in the streets and a minister of hate and intolerance that is running for President.

I anguish over this.

But we still have Star Trek and to me that means we still have hope.

In fact, that is one of the messages of Star Trek Beyond, in unity there is hope.




Star Trek may not be perfect but at least it tries.


Beyond



I can tell you simply, if you loved the original Star Trek you'll love this one.

Oddly enough, that's what some critics have a problem with.  Apparently, they are not familiar with the comic asides, the corniness, Kirk's ego and Spock's angst.  That is their loss.

As for Kirk, he is the usual center of the show.  The crew is still on a 5 year mission but he seems to be on a voyage of self-discovery and he is a little bored.  Diplomatic missions are not his thing.  Careful what you wish for Jim.

The Enterprise answers a distress call and they boldly go where no man has gone before.  Or at least they wish that was true.  There is an Alien conflict but it goes much deeper than that.  As the crew deals with the calamity that has befallen them, they learn what it means to be part of a crew, a team, if not a family.


 
As the crew is split up they have to fend for themselves.  One of the best pairings is that of Spock and Bones.   If you imagine this to be a source of some comedic moments then you are correct.  These two often play as antagonists and polar opposites but as the struggle continues, they find they have more in common than they think and are actually pretty good friends.

Not that they'd ever admit to that.




The aforementioned Kirk (Chris Pine) is paired with Chekov played by Anton Yelchin.  You can't help but feel that pang of grief at Yelchin's on screen presence.  His tragic death not too long ago still hangs heavely upon one's consciousness.  Yelchin brought youthful exuberance to his role (if you recall, he played a seventeen year old in the first movie) and he displays a quick wit and positive energy.  In a sense, he is us on screen, as if we were suddenly thrust into a Star Trek movie.  We feel his excitement and the pure joy of being there.  He will be sorely missed.  (And, yes, there will be a fourth film.)

Kirk has to put his big boy shoes on for this movie.  No aimless romance to distract him or us.  Often known for his brutish gambler's approach, Kirk has to rely on his wits this time as well as his coolness under fire.  He does not disappoint.  In fact, I think there is a deliberate focus on how this Kirk is intellectually substantial versus the old school iteration.

It comes with a maturation process and having to be a leader and thinking for your friends and not just for your self.




Simon Pegg plays Scottie once again  and he gets a co-writing credit along with Doug Jung.  (Who has a sweet cameo.)  Pegg looks a little older in the movie.  That's not to say he isn't a little older but in the Utopian like universe that Star Trek exists in, everyone usually looks their best.  (In other words, lots of makeup.)

Scottie does play a mentoring role opposite Sofia Boutella as Jaylah so maybe his seniority fits.  For her part Boutella nearly steals every scene she is in.  She is fun, energetic and definitely irreverent.

We should be thankful Pegg helped pen this movie.  He really gets the original Trek vibe and even went as far as contacting the people at Memory Alpha the Star Trek wikia in order to get things just right.

Including this following gem.


 

Yeah, you'll see.  I loved it.


 
One of the surprise pairings of the show isn't a pairing at all.  As many of you know, Spock and Uhura have a thing going on.  In this movie they are deliberately separated.

The point?

Well, the point is they need each other.  They all need each other.  That is where Star Trek finds its strength.  Not only in its storytelling but in its morality also.   In one of the many nods to the original Star Trek, Jung and Pegg made sure they cast a mirror on society itself.  There are far too many people wistful for a bygone era that no longer exists.  That era no longer exists because it was rife with division and violence and celebrated the things that set us apart.  

That is nothing to be nostalgic about. 

You may say that is cornball and needlessly Utopian.   But that is the stuff dreams are made on.  That is the future we should all strive for.

That's why I I believe in a Star Trek future.


 

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