star trek beyond trailer

Hope, Optimism, and a Future Worth Fighting For

Every version of Star Trek has had its divergences from what has been established before, but there’s one concept that forms the umbrella that hangs over the entire franchise: the future is a better, brighter place and mankind will work together to create a new standard. This was peppered throughout the thrilling roller coaster that is 2009’s Star Trek, but it was almost entirely absent from Star Trek Into Darkness, which painted Trek’s future as an illusion, a front illegal wars and false flag operations and everything else in your conspiracy theory handbook. Star Trek has featured bad apples before (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country being the most obvious example), but the pervasive darkness and hopelessness of Into Darkness remains depressing. Star Trek has been critical of its own universe before, but that was the first time it has been portrayed as so profoundly broken.

Coming after Into Darkness, and arriving in a year where every real world headline brings with it another wave of despair, Star Trek Beyond is a rallying cry for rising above the muck. I’ve already discussed how the film mines so much drama and comedy from a cast of characters getting along and helping each other out to tight spots, but this general optimism, this can-do attitude, pervades every frame of the movie. It’s in Kirk’s final fight with Krall, where he pauses the punching to explain to the mass-murderer that he can find peace in this progressive future. It’s in the care the Enterprise’s command team showcases for the fellow members of their crew, risking life and limb to ensure their safety and rescue them when they’re captured. It’s in the scenes where characters come together and become smarter, braver and generally more efficient because they are actually listening to one another and acting as a unit.

Star Trek Beyond is obsessed with the value of change. It’s the most positive, upbeat blockbuster in years, a rallying cry for people to come together and rise up. The action is a choppy mess and the two of the new characters are uneven, but this is what matters. This is what Star Trek is all about: social consciousness occasionally interrupted by someone punching an alien in the jaw.

star trek beyond clip

A Special Note On Sabotage

There’s one scene in Star Trek Beyond that sounds so disastrous and ends up working so well that it deserves special consideration. Late in the movie, our cast of heroes must devise a way to defeat the swarm of drones that made quick work of the Enterprise before Yorktown can be destroyed. With only the antique USS Franklin at their disposal, options are limited…until the crew brainstorms an idea so crazy that it just may work. If they used radio signals to override the drones, they could create mass chaos amongst the swarm and destroy Krall’s entire fleet. All they need is to broadcast something very loud in the exact right way.

And that’s when a throwaway gag earlier in the film comes into play. The Franklin’s music selection becomes the only weapon that can save the day, with “Sabotage” being aimed directly at the enemy. It works and a Star Trek movie manages to get away with a scene where the Enterprise destroys an intergalactic threat using the power of the Beastie Boys.

Let’s break down why this works. First, it was the climax to an amusing joke from earlier in the movie and the sudden realization that Jaylah listening to “Fight the Power” was more than a simple laugh moment is deeply satisfying. Second, it showcases Kirk and his crew thinking outside of the box, using their minds and ingenuity to win an un-winnable fight. Third, it allows for the moment where McCoy and Spock hear the song of choice and refer to it as “classical music,” which manages to justify the use of a song that should otherwise have no place in a Star Trek movie (and I say that knowing good and well that it was previously used in the 2009 movie, as well as this movie’s teaser trailer).

It’s a scene that will many fans something to grumble about, but it also represents the unique touch Justin Lin brings to this movie. It’s bombastic and silly, but it’s in service of characters being wily and intelligent. It’s the crowd-pleasing, literally-explosive result of some very smart men and women saving the day because they’re a fully-functioning unit powered by positivity. It’s so weird. It’s a little dumb. But it’s totally Star Trek.

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