In 2009, JJ Abrams (of Lost and Mission Impossible 3 fame) breathed new life into Star Trek by rebooting the whole thing with a hot, young, new cast and a lot of lens flares. Abrams is a talented director, with a distinct visual style and a real knack for ramping up tension. He was able to cash in on plenty of retro geek-chic, while also creating an ‘ edge of your seat’ action film that drew in a wider audience. Not every die-hard Trekkie loved it, but most at least liked it, and saw the potential in the simply titled Star Trek to reinvigorate the franchise. Plus the late, great Leonard Nimoy turned up as the OG Spock to cement the legitimacy of the whole affair.
Then in 2013 came the follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness (if it’s dark, where are all these stars you keep going on about, eh?) – a film which had so much expectation and promise, only for it to turn out to be an ill-conceived remake of Wrath of Khan. While watching Into Darkness, Abrams’ bright lights and well-composed action scenes do enough to make it enjoyable – but when you start to think about what you’re watching, it all unravels into a mess of Cumberbatchian nonsense, which watches like well-produced, poorly written fanfiction. It was a misstep for the franchise, to be sure – but not a fatal one. That privilege may well be saved for Star Trek Beyond.
Early signs weren’t good, with Abrams jumping ship to the only bigger Star-based franchise. Then went the writers (Roberto Orci, who was slated to direct at one point, and Alex Kurtzman), though this wasn’t a huge blow to me after their work on utter dross such as The Island (a film no amount of Beaning about from Sean Bean could fix) and the first three Transformers films, and for “writing” those… shame. Shaaaame. Maybe it was a dare to see how bad they could get away with it being? Ultimately the script was put together by the relatively unknown Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty – so expect to see more of that character, I guess. The directing duties finally landed with Justin ‘ The Fast and the Furious’ Lin, a nice in keeping with the studio’s supposed desire for this outing to be “less Star Trekky” and more accessible. It’s a move that risks yet further isolation of the core fan group, but will it pay off? Based on this first trailer, my instincts are saying no.
The trailer starts by kicking out Sabotage by the Beastie boys, which could be viewed as either a fun call back to the first film, or a further extrapolation of Star Trek trying to be cool, and trying just a little too hard. The first big thing we learn from the trailer (beyond the fact Kirk has a new outfit that makes him look like he’s the lead singer in a bad Queen tribute band) is that after two films’ worth of getting them into the enterprise and out exploring space, the ship is going to get wrecked and they’ll be stuck on an alien world full of action-packed adventure, and apparently motorbikes. The team are split up and are going to have to action movie their way to each other.
There’s no clear sign of the movie’s villain, Idris Elba – though we hear a threatening voice saying something threatening, which could well be The Elbster – and we get a pointed shot of an alien looking angry, which could be him. If it is, then the film has buried its best actor under a mountain of prosthetics – but with 2 Justin 2 Lin calling the shots, I imagine acting isn’t the main priority. Indeed, based on this, cheap one-liners and improbable motorbike jumps are.
The bottom line here is that the film looks fun, but it’s brainless, action-focused fun, not a thinking, character-driven science fiction fun. Star Trek has become orange cordial. In its purest form it’s too sweet for most, so we have to dilute it down. But how dilute can we get before we essentially just have water, with barely a trace of that tasty orange? With the cast’s contracts up, this could well be the last cinematic outing for this iteration of Star Trek. It looks set to go out with a bang, rather than a whimper – but I fear the bang may be a misfire.
You can follow John on Twitter @GrumpyNorCric