Category Archives: Star Trek

‘Beyond’ as a Rebuke of ‘Into Darkness’


startrekbeyondposterThere were two things very clear to me after I saw Star Trek Beyond last night. One, that movie is freaking amazing. And two, it is was definitely a rebuke of Into Darkness, whether it was intentional or not.

Now, before I go into this, you don’t have to research very far into my writings to know that I wrote a fairly positive review of Into Darkness. But you don’t have to look much further to see that that afterglow wore off very quickly.

That being said, while I had a little doubt about whether I would enjoy Into Darkness a second time, I have no such worries with Beyond. I will always love this movie because it was everything Into Darkness tried to trick me into believing it was.

Into Darkness told me the movie was about the crew but not showing it. It made me think it was a film reveling in Trekkie canon with shallow references. They were all smoke and mirrors, and their illusions are shown to be just that in the light of Beyond.

In Into Darkness, much ado is made about “doing anything for your crew”, but the movie just followed Kirk and Spock around being action stars. The crew, while there were some notable highlights (Sulu in the captain’s chair will always get bonus points with me), were essentially accessories to the movie.

Beyond is… well… way beyond that.

Throughout the movie, we see each member of the crew competently getting shit done toward a mutually shared goal that never discussed: the survival of the whole crew. A Captain’s Log at the beginning detailing their relationships over the last three years of isolation in space really hits their closeness home. Their actions all beautifully weave together to create a plot that is believable solely because the crew knows how to work together without actually being together.

suluanduhura

After all, it was why they were sent to the planet they were sent to. It wasn’t because the Enterprise had the best technology. No. It had the best crew, and nothing was more evident than that as their world came crashing down around them in a matter of seconds.

Khan’s words of “Is there anything you’d not do for family?” cling to every action by every character in Beyond that was only evident for Kirk in Into Darkness.

In my review of Into Darkness, I said

The movie basically groveled at my feet, and offered me inside jokes and canonical references to appease any wrath I may have had towards story.

But I hadn’t realized how shallow all that was were until I saw Beyond. Beyond had very little in the way of references and inside jokes. Yes, it mentioned the Xindi, the Mako, and introduced an ancestor of Admiral Paris, but it was all in such subtle ways that the Trekkies in the opening crowd barely noticed (but thank you for the Enterprise references, that poor series needs a little more credit than it gets).

The strength of Beyond however was not in trying to recycle old jokes and old emotions from the old days of TOS, but rather give us a whole new experience along the same lines of what we love. When people tell you that Beyond was a real Star Trek experience, this is what they mean. They mean they got a new story that felt Roddenberry-esque, but still fresh. It involved diplomacy, understanding alien cultures, and self-criticism. It had adventure elements without relying too heavily on action, gut-wrenching tensions, and strong characters. The music even hearkened back to old 70s TV soundtracks but was still modern (with a few throwbacks to JJ Abrams’ love for the Beastie Boys)..

In short, it was the reboot movie Star Trek fans have been agitating for, and in doing so, it gently rejected many of the precedents Into Darkness had tried to set.

Oh, and random bonus. Women get to have rank on their uniforms now. So, yeah. Fuck yeah, Beyond.

Thank you Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, and Justin Lin. Just thank you.

 


Why Isn’t Star Trek as Progressive as We Think It Is?


Okay. First let me start off by saying Star Trek tries. It always make and effort toward a better future, and god bless it for doing that.

Now if we could just get to this point please...
Now if we could just get to this point please…

The thing is, I think we have to critique things we love, even when they are trying.

When I bring up social justice issues in Star Trek, such a pointing out that non-acknowledgement of homosexuality is casual homophobia in “The Enterprise Rubs One Out“, or analyzing misrepresentation of Asian women in the new movies, I’m often told that these things don’t exist in the Star Trek world, so I should just shut up about it.

I won’t, though, and for one very good reason.

Star Trek exists in two contexts. While race and gender discrimination supposedly doesn’t exist in the Star Trek world, it is undeniable that it exists in ours and therefore manifests in the other.

When 90% of the captains in the Federation are white dudes, one has to start wondering at what point should we start realizing that we are assigning our contemporary privileges on to a show that is supposed to be about progress.

*gasp* How dare you...
*gasp* How dare you…

Furthermore, identity politics are important in television because television doesn’t represent us.

I once saw Avery Brooks (panel write-up can be found here), and a fan asked him what the biggest change in Hollywood has been since he started. His answer was “Nothing”. He said that he was still waiting for the change; that he was still waiting for Hollywood look like the world.

We need identity representation in the media because it doesn’t exist, whether you like it or not.

As such, Brooks’ position has always been interesting to me, and perfectly illustrates why I continue to critique the show. In Star Trek, his character isn’t defined by race. He has a distinctive culture just as Picard and Kirk do, but it’s never used as an after-school special. He just is. Loyal, serious, and deeply complicated and sometimes contradictory man. Yet, the first thing we think about when we think of Sisko is that he was the first black captain. That should let you know how important these two contexts a show lies are. There is what it supposed to be, and then there is what it is.

Let’s face it. The original series of Star Trek was a mess of sexism and neo-colonialism, and The Next Generation has more than a few problems smoothing over cultures to fit Federation standards, and then ignoring how problematic that high-handed moral attitude is. Star Trek isn’t perfect because the people of today write it, and that’s worth looking at it.

So yeah… I’ll keep on doing that, because I love this show, and because I also want a brighter future.