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Non-Review Review: Star Trek Beyond

Early in Star Trek Beyond, James Tiberius Kirk states that he doesn’t celebrate birthdays.

This is, of itself, a knowing reference to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Fans will recognise the nod immediately, as Doctor Leonard McCoy stops by for a birthday drink to reflect on what growing up actually means. It is one of several knowing homages that populate the film, acknowledgements of the franchise’s legacy and longevity. However, there is also a sense of truth to Kirk’s confusion. How exactly do you mark a milestone like a fiftieth anniversary, particularly for a cultural behemoth like the Star Trek franchise.

Bridge commander.

Bridge commander.

This is a question that will need to be asked with increasing frequency in this era of belated sequels and franchise reboots and recycled properties. The current entertainment ecosystem means that more and more franchises are living to ripe old ages, intellectual properties that need to mark the milestones as they pass. Indeed, the fiftieth anniversary of the Star Trek franchise comes only three years after the fiftieth anniversary of a revived Doctor Who. That was one year after James Bond hit his fifty years on screen with Skyfall.

This is to say nothing of the anniversaries that fall either side of that big five-oh. Characters like Batman and Superman are over seventy-five years old. Films like Jurassic Park and Independence Day are over twenty. These are milestones. It seems appropriate that we treat these milestones as anniversaries or birthdays, given how multimedia has come to treat intellectual property as a living thing – something growing and cultivated, something engaging with the changing world around it and with its own history.

Down to Earth.

Down to Earth.

So, how exactly do you celebrate a fiftieth anniversary for a franchise? Do you make a big occasion of it? Do you launch a thematic meditation on its core values? Do you deconstruct it so that you might reconstruct it? Do you add to the mythos? Do you revel in the continuity? Do you simply try to offer a reminder of what fans loved about the property in the first place? It is a delicate balancing act, and Star Trek Beyond struggles with it. It tries very hard to be all of these things and more, to the point that it can feel both overstuffed and underwhelming.

To be fair, there is a sense that Star Trek Beyond is somewhat hobbled by its format. Star Trek is a franchise that has always thrived on television more than in film. Various critics and producers and franchise veterans have argued repeatedly that Star Trek is a franchise that lives on television, that as exciting as the films might be that they are ultimately as supplemental as a mid-episode log update. The essence of Star Trek is in the continuity of a week-to-week television show, something that by its nature cannot be replicated in a film franchise with a new installment every few years.

He ain't heavy, he's my Vulcan.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my Vulcan.

In some respects, this handicaps Star Trek Beyond. The film strains to be all things to all people. Director Justin Lin, working along with writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, packs the script with heavy thematic dialogue and loving references to the franchise’s history. Star Trek Beyond is packed with deep (and loving) cuts from the franchise’s fifty-year history, but the two-hour runtime and the demands of blockbuster storytelling serve to hem in these elements of the narratives.

In contrast, Star Trek Beyond works best when it is content to be its own thing, when it is willing to go its own way and take advantage of its own unique position in the larger Star Trek canon. A seemingly minor revelation about the personal life of Hikaru Sulu services to be one of the most progressive creative decisions that the franchise has made in twenty years, a credit to the entire production team. In terms of storytelling, the reboot has been lucky to benefit from a phenomenal cast, and Star Trek Beyond really works when it trusts them to carry the weight.

"Check it out, Chekov..."

“Check it out, Chekov…”

Star Trek Beyond opens with Kirk reflecting on the strain of command and the weight of his obligations, perhaps reflecting the weight that the production team must feel given the demands placed upon them by fandom expectations. This is a film that finds itself wrestling and grappling with fifty years of what has effectively become an American mythology, a set of iconography and imagery familiar to people who have never even watched a full episode. That is a lot for a single film to bear, and it is to the credit of the production team that they invite that upon themselves.

At the same time, the sequences in which Star Trek Beyond takes flight are those at which it feels confident enough to move under its own power. Perhaps that is the best way to mark the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary, celebrating what makes this iteration of the franchise unique and pushing it boldly forward instead of looking backwards.The strength of the rebooted Star Trek film franchise has always been in its cast. Indeed, it could legitimately be argued that the reboot has the most charismatic cast in the franchise since Star Trek: The Next Generation, a bunch of talented young actors who bounce well off one another and do an excellent job conveying a sense of personality and nuance to what are (and were also in the original iteration) essentially a set of stock roles. That said, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine retains the most talented ensemble in the franchise, pound for pound.

Star Trek Beyond works best when it recognises this. In many ways, the plot borrows one of the stronger elements of Star Trek, shrewdly separating the cast so that it can then draw them back together for a big heroic climax. The result is that the plot gives the members of the ensemble a little space to bounce off one another, making sure that every character gets a “hero” moment. The film wryly splits the cast into smaller groups. Kirk and Chekov. Uhura and Sulu. McCoy and Spock. Scotty and Jaylah.

"Stick with me, kid. You might learn something."

“Stick with me, kid. You might learn something.”

This decision is clever on a number of levels. From a purely plotting perspective, it allows the film to cover a lot of (literal and metaphorical) ground quite quickly. It helps to build a sense of momentum and create a sense of forward movement, as the film is never stuck in a particular place or with a particular character for too long. More than that, it allows the actors to play against each other in a way that emphasises their charm. Everybody gets something to do, whether it’s Uhura solving the mystery of Krall or Scotty discovering an antique.

One of the great successes of Star Trek Beyond is the vintage team-up of Spock and McCoy. The two characters had a long association on the original show, serving as two parts of the original “trinity.” Conventional wisdom positioned Spock as the superego and McCoy as the id, with Kirk balancing between the two as the ego. However, the reboot films have generally downplayed that dynamic, swapping out McCoy for Uhura. This is not a bad decision of itself; it emphasises the diversity that many Star Trek fans champion and it adds a novel twist to reboot dynamics.

The real McCoy.

The real McCoy.

At the same time, it is great fun to watch Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto play off one another as they attempt to navigate a hostile alien environment together. There is an interesting contrast at play in the dynamic. Of the recast leads, Karl Urban is the cast member most obviously and intentionally channeling the original actor; Urban’s interpretation of McCoy can veer close to an affectionate impression of DeForest Kelley at times. In contrast, Zachary Quinto is perhaps the cast member with the most unique interpretation of his character.

The result is a dynamic that encapsulates a lot of the charm and the appeal of the reboot. It captures a lot of what made the original so iconic, while offering just enough of its own little twist on that basic concept that it doesn’t feel like a rehash. Although very much marginal in terms of the actual plot, Spock and McCoy serve very much as the emotional heart of the film. Their interactions recall great Spock and McCoy moments like their pseudo-reconciliation in Bread and Circuses, but in a way that feels somewhat novel.

Three of a kind...

Three of a kind…

Pegg and Jung are careful to afford each of the cast and crew their own big moment. Sulu gets to (briefly) take command and fly an antique ship. (When Kirk asks whether Sulu can pilot the ship, Sulu responds with a wry, “Are you kidding me?”) Uhura gets to delve into the origins and backstory of the film’s antagonist. Chekov is perhaps the most underserved, although he gets to act as the very embodiment of youthful enthusiasm, whether chatting to young women or studying under Kirk.

Scotty gets to talk about the importance of the crew as a surrogate family unit, which feels like a thematically important point given that the dialogue is given to the film’s co-writer. In getting to know the scavenger orphan Jaylah, Scotty makes an appeal for unity and teamwork that provides the scripts strongest thematic throughline. Consciously harking back to the structure that made the first of the reboot films so successful, Star Trek Beyond is a story about how this group is so much more effective when they work together. That is a very Star Trek theme.

"We also wear cool jackets."

“We also wear cool jackets.”

To a certain extent, there is a bit of franchise revisionism at play here; Gene Roddenberry did not really structure the Star Trek universe as a pacifist utopia until Star Trek: The Motion Picture or even The Next Generation. After all, it was not until The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine that the harmony and unity of the Federation was grotesquely mirrored in the terrifying homogeneity of the Borg or the frightful oppression of the Dominion. In contrast, the original Star Trek placed less emphasis on the unified utopian aspect of the franchise.

Still, it feels like an appropriate theme for the franchise’s fiftieth anniversary. Certainly, the theme of unity within the cast works a lot better than the broader theme of unity as Star Trek Beyond tries to tie it to the larger continuity of the franchise. Indeed, this ties fairly well back to the original Star Trek. Although the show often neglected supporting players like Uhura or Sulu, there was always a sense watching the show that the crew represented the very best of mankind coming together in common cause even before the words “Starfleet” or “Federation” were uttered.

The big chair.

The big chair.

There is something very appealing about this core cast. Every single member of the crew is affable at the very least, and quite a few are far more than that. Chris Pine has a goofy improvisational charm that sits on the unlikely midpoint between William Shatner and Harrison Ford. Quinto finds pathos in moments that could easily descend to fan service. Zoe Saldana conveys a sense of certainty that anchors the character and the cast. The late Anton Yelchin is incredibly energetic as one of the franchise’s most gleefully eccentric creations.

Watching this cast interact with one another that helps ease over some of the shakier plot logic or the fact that Star Trek Beyond hinges on an unnecessarily dense core mythology. Star Trek Beyond is full of likable actors allowed to be charming. In its own way, this idea of a coherent family forged from dysfunctional individuals is very much at the heart of the franchise, even stripping away all the franchise’s social relevance and commentary and utopianism. In its own way, each of the Star Trek shows is about found families, albeit of differing types.

The not-yet-Ensigns of Command.

The not-yet-Ensigns of Command.

(Tellingly, this was also a central theme of Where No Fan Has Gone Before, the Futurama celebration of the original Star Trek that plays very much like an affectionate anniversary celebration of the franchise. In a moment of heartbreaking honesty, the central character Fry explains why the Star Trek franchise spoke to him. “When I had no friends, it made me feel like maybe I did.” There is a tiny grain of truth in that sadness, particularly for children who grew up with the franchise in syndication on afternoon television. Star Trek Beyond gets that.)

There are points at which this does feel like too much. Indeed, while Sofia Boutella makes a solid addition to the cast and Jaylah interacts well with Scotty, there is a sense that her personal grudge against one particular secondary antagonist is a character arc too many in a two-hour film with at least nine major characters. However, the emphasis on the cast dynamic helps to gloss over these little issues, and any awkwardness around trying give Jaylah her own arc are balanced out in her interactions with Scotty.

Great Scott.

Great Scott.

The structuring of Star Trek Beyond as an ensemble piece also makes for a nice structural homage. One of the more interesting aspects of the Abrams era films is the way that they each consciously mirror and parallel the original film series. Both Star Trek and The Motion Picture unite the crew to resolve a spectacular threat against Earth. Both The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek Into Darkness put Kirk into conflict with Khan Noonien Singh. It seems only appropriate that Star Trek Beyond should share a number of core attributes with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

The broader focus on the ensemble cast is one such attribute. With Leonard Nimoy absent following the death of Spock at the climax of The Wrath of Khan, the following film was able to diffuse its focus. The Search for Spock marks the first time that the franchise made a point to allocate plot beats to each and every member of the ensemble; it is the point at which Star Trek really grew beyond the trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. As such, it seems appropriate for Star Trek Beyond to widen its focus in that way.

Commanding presence.

Commanding presence.

Other parallels suggest themselves. Both Star Trek Beyond and The Search for Spock open with the Enterprise returning to Spacedock, exhausted and perhaps defeated. Both Star Trek Beyond and The Search for Spock find a cast member stepping behind the scenes, with Leonard Nimoy directing The Search for Spock and Simon Pegg serving as co-writer on Star Trek Beyond. Both films also feature an antagonist played by a veteran television star who is motivated by a deep-seated political objection to the expansionist tendencies of the United Federation of Planets.

Of course, the most obvious parallel comes in terms of premise and setting. The Search for Spock famously featured the destruction of the Enterprise, with Kirk sacrificing his ship during his mission to save Spock as some sort of restorative trade. Following the destruction of the Enterprise in The Search for Spock, Kirk and his crew find themselves waging a ground war on the surface of the mysterious Genesis Planet. Star Trek Beyond follows a similar premise, with the trailers showcasing the destruction of the Enterprise as the crew try to survive on an alien world.

The ship is not in the best of health.

The ship is not in the best of health.

Still, these are far from the only references to the Star Trek canon. As befits a fiftieth anniversary celebration, Star Trek Beyond is saturated with references and callbacks. The film opens on “day nine hundred and sixty six” of the five-year mission, at once a reference to the show’s September 1966 premiere date and to the truncated three-season run. “I tore my shirt again,” Kirk complains early in the film, an affectionate nod to William Shatner’s tendency to tear his uniform in exactly the same place each and every time.

Although there is nothing quite as blatant as the lifts that Into Darkness took from The Wrath of Khan, fans will spot any number of sly in-jokes and references. McCoy visits Kirk in his quarters, as doctor and captain converse about the latter’s exhaustion in an obvious homage to The Cage, the very first (unaired) Star Trek pilot. There are repeated suggestions that the universe is a hostile place that can (physically and mentally) transform those who pass through it, a thematic nod to Where No Man Has Gone Before, the second (aired) pilot.

Hailing frequencies...

Hailing frequencies…

As with Star Trek and Into Darkness, there is a sense that Beyond is aspiring to be a big bold “pop” version of Star Trek, essentially a gigantic celebratory party mix of the franchise’s highlights. There are a lot of familiar beats. McCoy gets to utter “I’m a Doctor, not a –“ and complain about his organs being scrambled. Scotty gets to work miracles. Kirk gets to act impulsively. The Abrams era tends to draw a lot of criticism from fandom for drawing broadly on the mythos, but it does so to craft a broadly accessible version of Star Trek for a wide audience.

However, Beyond digs a bit deeper into the franchise lore. There are lots of nods and imagery appropriated from the franchise’s fifty-year history, often from the most unlikely of places. The Enterprise crash sequence looks a lot like the crash sequence from Star Trek: Generations. The youth-chasing villain and the forest setting seems like they might have stepped out from Star Trek: Insurrection. There are also more recent nods; Scotty gets to hide in one of the man-sized torpedoes from Into Darkness and the film shares Star Trek‘s affection for multi-layered fight choreography.

"Borg? Sounds Swedish."

“Borg? Sounds Swedish.”

Indeed, there is even a sense that the Borg haunt the narrative of Beyond. Lin, Pegg and Jung seem to understand that introducing the iconic cyborgs into this rebooted continuity would risk a full-blown fan mutiny, but there is a very strong influence on Krall and his allies. Most obviously, Krall’s fleet is described as a “swarm” and likened to “bees”, with the key to defeating them lying in the cybernetic connections between them. There is also a recurring sense that Krall has been transformed and rendered monstrous through his pursuit of his objective.

To be fair, a lot of those similarities are purely thematic in natural. Krall has obviously and consciously designed to stand in thematic opposition to the crew. “Unity is not your strength,” he goads at one point. “It is your weakness.” As such, the hive mind working under Krall stands in sharp opposition to the strength that Kirk draws from the individualism of his crew. However, there is also a sense that the production team may have been inspired in terms of design aesthetic by the most popular of the franchise’s second generation aliens.

"Definitely not Swedish."

“Definitely not Swedish.”

However, the continuity references in Star Trek Beyond run much deeper than just surface references and aesthetic echoes. Even the macguffin that drives the plot is tied back to the “Ancient Ones” of Lovecraftian lore, which were carefully threaded into classic Star Trek lore as “the Old Ones” by Lovecraft aficionado Robert Bloch in scripts like What Are Little Girls Made Of? and Catspaw. None of this is essential information, as the plot logic driving Beyond is easy enough to follow, but it speaks to the level of Star Trek minutiae at which Jung and Pegg are working.

Slightly more complicated is the way that Beyond integrates classic Star Trek continuity into Krall’s back story. Beyond keeps things relatively accessible in outlining Krall’s motivations and history, but it is threaded through a number of thematic and continuity references that are firmly entrenched in Star Trek lore. It is not just that these are very specific references of themselves, it is that they come from rather esoteric parts of the franchise history. Krall’s back story is rooted in a portion of franchise history that comes long after the mid-nineties peak.

48 Responses

  1. You briefly touched on the villain, but I wonder where do you think he ranks in the pantheon of trek villains?

    • It’s difficult to talk about Krass without getting into spoiler territory, I fear.

      So depending on how much/little you want to know, I can only go into so much detail.

      Broadly speaking, I like the concept a lot more than the execution. There is a bit of a John Harrison element to the character, where there are two great concepts fused together in such a way that there’s a twist between then that somehow makes them less impressive than either concept would be on its own terms. (Although I’m very much in the minority of Star Trek fans who seemed to quite like Benedict Cumberbatch as nu!Khan, so the comparison might not be quite as damning as it first seems.)

      But Krall is not an all-time great. He’s not Montalban’s Khan or Lloyd’s Kruge or even Plummer’s Chang. (Oh goodness, do I love Plummer’s Chang.) He certainly can’t compete with any of the DS9 baddies. I suspect fans will like him more than Nero, although I admired the simplicity of Nero as a character. (I’m more tolerant of plot devices than most critics, it seems, in that I think making Nero more complex would have taken away from the Kirk/Spock stuff, which was the heart of the film.)

      I’ll be putting up a spoiler-heavy review next week that will probably go into a bit more depth on Krall as a character.

    • “Whom Gods Destroy” sure was a great episode, wasn’t it?

      • I thought the same thing with the “Balthazar Edison” reveal. Although I suspect that the production team were going more for a Where No Man Has Gone Before vibe.

  2. “Lin, Pegg and Jung seem to understand that introducing the iconic cyborgs into this rebooted continuity would risk a full-blown fan mutiny”

    Speaking as a *very* lukewarm viewer of the reboot movies, I’d actually be fine with this. If they’re going to go back and tell the old stories all over again, at least mix it up a little. Throw the TOS crew in with the Borg or the Q and see what comes out instead of just Kirk v. Khan 2.0.

    • I’d agree entirely. But, then again, I didn’t mind Into Darkness doing Khan again because the franchise had spent the better part of two decades offering rip offs and knock offs, so actually doing Khan felt like ripping the bandaid off, which I appreciated. Although I seem to be the only person who actually liked Cumberbatch’s Khan, so take that with a grain of salt.

      Of course, I think fandom would mutiny if such a possibility were mooted. And Beyond reads very much like a bona fides attempt to reach out to the fanbase, for better or for worse. (I think its heart is in the right place, even if I feel like there’s a certain amount of pandering to it.) So there was never any possibility that Lin/Pegg/Jung would do a “Borg” film.

      Which is a shame, on multiple levels. Most obviously, I think that the Borg could work quite well if reconfigured for the War on Terror. Then again, take that with a grain of salt. I really liked their use in Regeneration, which I think might have been the best Borg story since Scorpion or First Contact. Plus it would be fun to see this production team reconfigure and reinvent them.

      There are points in Beyond where I wondered if Krall was originally conceived as a proto-Borg. There are certainly elements of the script that would only have to be changed very slightly to rework it as a Borg origin story, and would actually position it as a weird mirror to Descent.

      • To Descent, as in the TNG two parter? What do you mean?

        I’ve researched a lot of Trek development history, plan to make a video or write something on it in the future, but I haven’t yet come across any plans considered for the Borg in any of the new films, but I imagine it’s at least been considered and discussed. No way it hasn’t.

      • Yep. Descent had (at least a section of) the Borg Collective collapse due to Hugh’s individuality, making them massively vulnerable when Lore came along as a would-be dictator in need of an army. The premise of Beyond reminds me of that, in a way. This abandoned and foresaken mechanical apparatus (a drone army) that has fallen into disrepair and ends up in the clutches of Krall as a would-be dictator. I could almost imagine a version of the Borg origin playing out in that way, which would neatly mirror Descent. (Which would, admittedly, be a strange choice given its status as a non-iconic (and deeply flawed) Borg story.)

      • Oh yeah, I love that two parter, I can kinda see the connection now…

  3. Well, after having seen this movie I can safely say that it is my least favorite Star Trek movie I have ever seen. Granted, I have not seen Insurrection or TMP. Even the worst Star Trek movie, such as Nemesis or Star Trek V had at the very least interesting ideas. Nemesis had the nature vs nurture theme, and Star Trek V had the interesting message that pain is necessary, as well as the idea that God may become obsolete in the future. Now, that is not say that either of these films were good, but at least both of them were trying for greatness. Star Trek Beyond was not trying to do anything other than tell a dumb action story with CGI i images to try to distract you. I will now list the things I liked, and then the things I disliked.
    Things I liked.
    1. I did like the design of the Yorktown. I thought it was extremely breathtaking, and it was great to see a Federation station rendered by state of the art effects.
    2. Michael Giacchino’s score. It was powerful and soaring when it had to be, and it was also dark and menacing when it had to be.
    3. Some of the Spock and Dr. McCoy scenes were cute, and provided the only decent character moments in the films.

    Things I disliked
    1. Kirk’s arc was seemingly nonexistent. At the opening of the film, Kirk is worried that he is not living up to his father, and that he is a failure. He also seems bored with the two year mission, which makes little sense. They are going where no one has gone before, and the opening teaser shows an exciting mission. Also, one would think after losing the ship, Kirk would be plagued with feeling inadequate, and possibly start second guessing himself. At the very least, one would think he would have a moment of reflection like Kirk does in Star Trek II after the initial battle with Khan, in which he is very visibly mad at himself. Instead, Kirk just acts like he always does, and his whole inadequacy complex simply vanishes. This is not good character development.
    2. The villain Krall. Krall was easily the worst part of the picture. There were so many plot holes surrounding him. How he did he come to like an alien? How did live for so long? Where did he get his henchmen? How did he develop this swarm technology? If he served in both the Romulan and Xindi war, then why did he not get promoted to Admiral or something? Also, why did he not attack the federation earlier? His swarm seemed to pretty devastating, even without the radiation superweapon, so why was he just trapping people.
    3. Finally, the biggest problem was the plot. In short, there was no plot. It was just one action scene after another, and to make matters worse the action was not very exciting due to overreliance on CGI and shaky cam. The enterprise destruction seemed to go on for an eternity, and paled in comparison to previous enterprise destructions in Star Trek III or Star Trek Generations. The final battle with the use of Beastie Boys to disrupt the hive was so stupid it was laughable. Also, I had no idea of the geography of the station, so the Enterprise emerging from the water was big and dramatic, but rather contrived.

    I apologize for the length of this comment, but I really hated this film, and needed to get it out my system.

    • No worries about the length.

      It’s good to talk. I am hoping to do a longer spoiler-filled review when I get a chance to catch it again. It looks like it might be the Mooney family cinema trip, continuing in the proud tradition of Mad Max: Fury Road.

      I wasn’t mad about the film itself. Although I did think that it tried to be about something, in a very “fundamental principles” sort of way. Unity is good, struggle is not inherently worthwhile. Star Trek 101, basically. Which is not the worst idea for the fiftieth anniversary year. I much preferred the specificity of Into Darkness’ War on Terror metaphors, to be blunt, though.

      • Oh, absolutely. I am a staunch defender of Star Trek Into Darkness, partly due to the War on Terror commmentary. Is it on the nose? Yes, but it is a message that people need to hear especially during this time in American history when a fascist, Donald Trump, is a major party nominee.
        I am confused, however, as according to you the message in the film was that unity is good. Well, if that is the case then why are the villains unified as a big swarm? That would seem to defeat the message.

      • This ties back into the weird niggling (and completely unverified) suspicion I have that Krall was intended as a “proto-Borg.” Krall’s “drone soldiers” and “hive” fleet are really just extensions of his own totalitarian will. They do not really matter beyond their ability to enforce his will. They are unity in a fashion, but a grotesque parody of what the Federation represents, much like the Borg or the Dominion are funhouse mirrors of the Federation. (Indeed, Krall might easily have been read as a criticism of communism if he existed in 1966.)

        In contrast, I think the unity of the TOS crew is one that celebrates diversity and finds strength in collaboration rather than subjugation. I seem to recall everybody having a part to play in the Beastie Boys climax, but even the decision to delegate the closing monologue to the entire cast speaks to the theme, I thing.

      • Will Abrams Trek feature the Borg? I know theres another Abrams film coming (yeah I know Abrams doesn’t direct them anymore, it’s just an easy term to use) and it seems like it would be something they’re considering. I wonder if they already have and have decided not to do it? I imagine they’ve at least thought of it.

      • I think I have a bunch of quotes from Orci/Lindelof somewhere around here. Maybe in the “Regeneration” review on Enterprise?

        But, as I recall, and it’s been a while, but they admitted in the lead-up to Star Trek Into Darkness, that they were very tempted. It was very much a “you can’t rule it out” answer; it was around the time they were starting to get questions about Khan and they were very much like “the temptation is there.”

        I suspect the huge backlash to Into Darkness sort of soured them on the idea, but I look at Krall’s forces and I see a lot of the Borg in the design and aesthetic.

        (And I still call them the Abrams films myself; it’s easier than calling them “Bad Robot” or something. Although maybe I should be more precise.)

      • Oh wow, interesting, confirms what I always figured, given that The Borg are Trek’s most popular villain. I’m tempted to see the Original Series setting tackle the Borg, though doubt it will ever happen at this point. I don’t think Discovery would touch them, as they’re in the Prime Universe as its called, and that would be a very thorny thing to tackle, then again Enterprise had the Borg…

  4. The only real problems I had with this movie is that Uhura didn’t get to do much in this film, which is a shame because I liked her inclusion in the previous J.J. Abrams films and that the Enterprise got destroyed AGAIN.

    One thing that definitely surprised me was all the Star Trek: Enterprise references throughout the movie. Not that I’m complaining though, I thought it was nice to see the black sheep getting acknowledged in some way.

    Alright movie.

    • I love that both Into Darkness and Beyond are all about the love of Enterprise. And not just because I like it more than most of fandom.

      As you said, there’s an element of vindication to it.

      • Not to mention the love for Viyager, the other black sheep of the Star Trek franchise.The villain is basically a cross between the Captain in Equinox and the aliens in the Swarm. I don’t if that was intentional or not though.

      • I didn’t really twig the Ransom parallel until you mentioned it; powering his infernal machines through the lives of aliens, it’s actually a very clear parallel when you mention it.

  5. I really enjoyed most of the movie, but Krall was rather boring for me. When I came out of the theatre, I compared him with a generic Marvel film villain because he just came off as rather mustache-twirlingly evil. But I did enjoy most of the other parts of the movie, especially the scene at the end where the Enterprise-A was built and the theme of leaving the captain’s chair that’s carried over from the older movies, like Generations.

    • Krall really was a tad generic, wasn’t he. Which is a shame, because there were two great concepts there.

      For all that fans rag on Into Darkness, I quite like the CumberKhan and Marcus villain combo. Yep, they’re familiar Star Trek archetypes, but they work well enough in the context of the film and both actors have screen presence that Abrams clearly appreciates. In contrast, Elba is a fantastic actor that the film seems to cut around. Part of this is due to having so many cast members, but part of it is also due to the third act reveal that limits what the film can or cannot do with the character up until that point.

      • The only individual Trek villains I like, at least that I can remember atm, are the original Khan and Dukat, whos easily the best Trek villain.

  6. Didn’t like this film, just like I didn’t like the other two. They’re just really boring and lame action flicks. On a nerdy aside, this film is filled to the brim with Enterprise references, even the Xindi get a shoutout. I find that odd, as isn’t Enterprise the most unpopular iteration of Trek, seen by many as its Phantom Menace/Attack of the Clones/Revenge of the Sith? Or has it been rehabilitated by the fan community?

    • As somebody who has always been somewhat bemused by certain attitudes within Star Trek fandom – most notably the assertion that continuity and quality are somehow correlated – I find the whole Enterprise situation somewhat hilarious. When it first appeared (and even afterwards), there was a very vocal section of the fanbase that tried to write the series out of continuity to say that it “didn’t count”, that it wasn’t really Star Trek. So I found it brilliantly ironic when Enterprise ended up the only Star Trek still in continuity following the JJ Abrams reboot.

      (Not that it matters. TNG and DS9 are not diminished in any way by virtue of being erased or relegated to the same continuity status of the mirror universe. They are (and always will be) better than Enterprise. And, truth be told, I have no problem with people who simply don’t like Enterprise. But I’ve always found it disingenuous that personal dislike should be used to motivate an argument that a particular object/iteration “objectively” doesn’t count. I also hate the “it’s not Star Trek” argument, because it’s an inversion of the “no true Scotsman” argument. “It’s not what I want from Star Trek” is a much more honest argument. There are a lot of episodes that are not what I want from Star Trek, but that doesn’t magically make then not Star Trek.)

      As for all the Enterprise references, I kinda loved how esoteric they were. Who thought we’d live to see the day when the frickin’ Xindi were mentioned in a Star Trek blockbuster?

      For what it’s worth, Braga claims that Enterprise has undergone a critical rehabilitation in Europe, but I’m not so sure. I think I still get a few raised eyebrows for daring to suggest that it’s better than Voyager. (And fans don’t much care for Voyager either.)

      • I agree with everything you say, and I wasn’t implying that continuity equals quality or whatever, I was just commenting that most Trek fans hate Enterprise, so I find it amusing the series and its events get so much shoutouts and mentions in the Abrams trilogy. For the record, I don’t “hate” Voyager and Enterprise, I still go back and watch episodes from both, I just think they’re meh levels of mediocre for the most part, mostly TOS is as well. I just happen to think DS9 and TNG are great shows, so to get two mediocre follow-ups to two great shows is disappointing to me.

        I actually like the Enterprise shoutouts btw, I think it’s cool from a fan perspective and funny to see people rage about it, esp since they apparently got some dates wrong?

        I had someone call me a “cretinous pile of shit” on Twitter for saying I like Enterprise more than Voyager.

      • Well, it definitely sounds like I got the polite response when I stated my preference. 🙂

        And, to be clear, just in case there was any ambiguity, none of that was directed at you. I don’t think you hate Voyager or Enterprise. (Anymore than I hate Voyager, for all the fun I have at its expense. I am quite fond of it, even as I acknowledgy its flaws.)

      • I am admittedly mixed though which I dislike more. Voyager is far more boring (the reality is the TNG style of hopping to random planet/event/whatever to meet random aliens/phenomenon is pretty boring without the good writing and acting/characters of TNG), but it does have two of my favorite Trek characters (Seven of Nine, EMH), on the other hand Enterprise is far more retarded, which far worse characters (I think the only character I truly like is Shran, or maybe Phlox as well?) and far more stupid plots for the most part. However it’s far less boring (after its first two seasons anyway).

  7. this new trilogy is craps, is totally unrelated to Star Trek

    • Well, to be fair, it’s not as if The Wrath of Khan is an exemplar of the Star Trek philosophy. (And it’s still a great movie.) These are blockbuster versions of Star Trek, and I think they do that rather well. The first two a little better than the third, to be sure.

      • I don’t dislike these films because they’re not “Star Trek” (though tbf, they’re not), I just dislike them for not being very good. I think Star Trek II is far more Trek, and far more actual Sci-Fi and I like it overall, alongside stuff like Star Trek FC and Star Trek 6.

      • I dont hate the films either, there’s a lot worse out there, you know like Star Trek V

      • I find it ridiculous that fandom is so outraged about the Abrams films when The Final Frontier and Nemesis exist.

      • Agreed, these films are def. not bad in the way Nemesis or V or Insurrection are, however perhaps because in a lot of (hardcore) fans opinions, nothing is “good” about this iteration of Trek, while Nemesis and V are apart of beloved iterations of Trek, makes them hate these films more?

  8. How would you rate the films from top to bottom? I imagine V or Nemesis is the worst? Maybe TMP?

    • Completely arbitrary ranking, subject to change at a moment’s notice:

      The Undiscovered Country
      First Contact
      The Voyage Home
      The Wrath of Khan
      Star Trek 09
      Star Trek Into Darkness
      The Search for Spock
      Star Trek Beyond
      The Motion Picture
      The Final Frontier

      Star Trek Beyond is very much the tipping point between the good and bad sections of that list.

      • Why VI and FC over II or 09?

      • Well, I think they’re better.

        Less glibly, I think less of II than most fans, if only because it is so incredibly overhyped. It’s really great, but it’s also responsible for any number of poor creative decisions that followed. (Because everybody insists on it being so great. If everybody accepted II was simply great instead of a masterpiece, we’d have been spared Nemesis.)

        VI is better because it’s one of the two most conventionally Star-Trek-y movies. (IV is the other one.) It’s also very clever and very well observed. It’s really the perfect place to leave Kirk, because it accepts that TOS was nowhere near as progressive and optimistic as the mythology around it would suggest. (Which is partly why the novelisation is so fun, because it’s clearly written by a fan who can’t handle the implicit criticism of TOS and so tries awkwardly and clumsily to write around it ignoring the fact that it is the entire point of the story.)

        First Contact is better because… well, it’s just fantastically constructed as a feature film. It is accessible, it moves incredibly quickly, it features one of Patrick Stewart’s best performances and has the best supporting cast of any of the feature films. (Cromwell, Woodard, Krige. Woot!) It also feels unique to The Next Generation, and does something clever with its structural homage to II, inverting it by casting Picard as Ahab and wedding it to a charming planet-bound time travel plot that calls back to IV.

      • Just curious how you feel on Insurrection as well. Everyone nowadays calls it the “worst” film, but I don’t feel it is. Is it bad? Yes. The ethics make no sense, the “good” aliens (and yeah, they’re “aliens” I guess?) seem like bad guys, the bad ones seem good, and it’s altogether crappy, but I don’t think it’s horrific by any means. It’s no V or TMP or Nemesis if you ask me.

      • I’d agree with that. Insurrection is kinda like Generations. It’s a middling two parter with a number of big problems, but which doesn’t smother its cast or go off the reservation in the same way that Nemesis does.

      • Don’t take my questions as a challenge or offensively, I was just wondering. If I’m asking you too much, just tell me and I’ll leave you alone.

      • No worries it all. I hope I didn’t seem like I was being defensive.

      • Here’s my list, also totally arbitrary:

        Star Trek: First Contact
        Star Trek II
        Star Trek VI
        Star Trek III
        Star Trek IV
        Star Trek Generations
        Star Trek Nemesis
        Star Trek Into Darkness
        Star Trek 09
        Star Trek Beyond
        Star Trek Insurrection
        Star Trek V
        Star Trek I

      • BTW I put Nemesis above the Abrams films now because while a bad film overall, I don’t feel its as aggressively stupid. Besides 09 and Nemesis are practically identical films, just one has a big name director and a sexy young cast and the other, well doesnt. I prefer Nemesis if I have to choose though, and I do like the last space battle in it

      • Well, regarding ST09 and Nemesis, I’d argue that the big name director is a better director and that the script is a better script, which combine to make a far superior film.

      • I’d say the opposite, though of course both films are IMO totally mediocre. Neither are the worst, and I’ve watched both more than once. I might agree that 09 is a bit more fun though

  9. I forgot to actually give my views on the film itself. Well honestly I thought it was one of the most boring Trek films I’ve ever seen, and one of the most boring films i’ve seen in a long time (though I don’t watch a lot of films). Yeah it doesn’t rank up there with the coma-inducing TMP, but it was just a sub-average action film. Balls to the wall colorful action to placate ADHD people in the audience, canned jokes, and bad CGI aliens just doesn’t impress me. I’m not sure why people love these movies so much.

    • And I know this is a cliche at this point, but half the time if you freeze the film, it doesn’t even look like Star Trek, or at least not the vast majority of Star Trek. If it looked superior, I’d beokay with that..but it doesn’t, it actually looks pretty goofy and stupid half the time.

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