Seven years ago director J.J. Abrams, the brains behind hit TV shows like Lost and movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, thought there was still some uncharted life to be found in the Star Trek universe.
This weekend the third film in his new generation of movies, Star Trek Beyond, puts phasers on stun. Directed by Fast & Furious director Justin Lin it continues Abrams’s mission to seek out new cinematic life and civilizations.
After five television series, ten movies, countless books, comics and video games, a stage version and even an Ice Capades style show Abrams re-launched the big screen Trek franchise. Simply called Star Trek, he took audiences where no man (or director) has gone before, back to the very beginning of the story before James Tiberius Kirk bore an uncanny resemblance to T.J. Hooker.
In this prequel to the original series Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are assigned to the maiden voyage of the most advanced starship ever created, the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood).
Star Trek was one of the great popcorn movies of 2009. Notice I didn’t say sci-fi movie. Star Trek is a lot of things but despite all the talk of warp speed, black holes and time travel, it can’t be strictly classified as science fiction. It’s a character based space serial more concerned with the burgeoning relationship between Spock and Kirk than with photon thrusters.
2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness is a sequel AND a prequel (something so illogical Spock would never approve) that gets underway when an act of terror robs Kirk of a close friend. Determined to bring the perpetrator to justice the reckless Starfleet captain takes the Enterprise and crew to a war zone populated by Klingons and one brilliant and ruthless genetically engineered adversary (Benedict Cumberbatch). To finish his mission he must make difficult decisions.
Abrams finds a balance of old—Kirk, Spock et al—and new—the space suits are redesigned, the tech is different and there are younger characters—that should satisfy hard-core Trekkers and attract tenderfoot Trekkies. For fans there are in-jokes like Kirk telling two expendable members of the landing team to “lose the red shirts.”
At the beginning of Star Trek Beyond Kirk’s life on board the U.S.S. Enterprise has become a grind. He’s three years into a five-year mission and he is, personally lost in space, trying to find meaning in his mission. “It can be hard to feel grounded when even gravity isn’t real.”
Lin, taking over for Abrams, does his best to spice things up for the good captain. The director, best known for his Fast & Furious films, knows there is nothing like a wild alien attack to snap James T. out of his funk. Expect more hi-fly action than sci fi intrigue.
Star Trek Beyond producer Abrams admits he “didn’t love Kirk and Spock when I began this journey, but I love them now.” It seems the fans love his interpretation of the characters as well. Trekkers have embraced the new movies but Abrams knows the Star Trek universe is so vast it’s impossible to please everyone. Instead he says he caters to the average moviegoer “who just wants to be entertained, understand, and care about the world and the characters.” As Spock might say, “Sounds logical to me.”