Fifty years ago, through their home televisions, the world was introduced to a new way to explore new frontiers. Extraterrestrial worlds could be explored and made peace with from the comfort of the living room, later spawning a long series of theatrical releases that still won’t quit. So now, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin takes the responsibility of creating the first Star Trek feature shot entirely on digital cameras, in an effort to balance out the uniqueness of the franchise along with Paramount’s populist style of entertainment. The anticipation may sound hopeful, but Star Trek Beyond fails to stand out as its own entity, instead becoming exactly what Star Trek into Darkness turned into, minus the unnecessary underwear shot of Alice Eve.
I was never a fan of Star Trek; the original series always came off as boring to me, and the movies have been just plain predictable and unexciting. So how did this film appeal to me as an outsider of the franchise?
Right from the first scene I knew I was in for something I was not going to like; basically Kirk gives a message of goodwill to a council of aliens, offering them a symbol of peace. I felt some disaster coming when I saw the embarrassingly bad composition of the CGI aliens, made all the more painful to watch during their attack on Kirk in response to his offer. Kirk then explains in voiceover about how he can’t feel at home midway through this five-year mission, an important character trait that has little resolution by the film’s end. The USS Enterprise then arrives on this mystical high-tech planet coated in glass, where Spock hears some untimely news about his peoples’ ambassador. An unidentified vessel soon arrives, where an alien mistress calls to them for help. At this point, I’ve seen this whole routine happen before in better movies.
As the USS Enterprise flies toward the alien’s rescue mission, a swarm of enemy ships attacks. Now, this part here could have blown my mind with its spectacle, except it didn’t for some reason. The ships hijack the Enterprise, and their leader marches onto the ship in precisely the same fashion as Darth Vader in the beginning of A New Hope. He takes the crew members captive, and the Enterprise breaks apart, crashing onto the destination planet with a devastating catastrophic burn. Nope, still don’t care.
I think that the excitement could have been better if the screenwriters took more care to add tension and conflict within the scenes that exist only to explain important plot details. But the actors weren’t doing much to flavor up the dialog either. Zachary Quinto as Spock was the only actor I enjoyed, as his straight emotional expression actually made his lines of comic relief all the more effective. Now don’t get me wrong, I see potential in the story, but the drama should have been more intensified to heighten the action.
The characters also had plenty of potential to generate much more staying power than the end result. Clear backstories are given to each of them, but the countless subplots add to the confusion of remembering all the details. It’s the same problem Independence Day: Resurgence had, except with a more committed cast. While I’m not against the idea of multiple subplots, it still takes a lot more effort from the writers to achieve this complex format. Of all the old and new characters that Star Trek Beyond crams together, the only character that I wanted to learn more about was the white alien girl Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who I honestly would have wanted to see as the main character of this feature.
Now look, I certainly did not enjoy this film as you probably did, but I would not say that it was a total loss. While I would complain that there’s too much CGI, cheap-looking makeup effects, and a lack of exploration of new worlds, there’s still plenty of neat sound effects and enormous size to add enough fun for your Trekkie senses. Again, it’s the type of movie you have to have the proper taste for, but if it aligns with your taste, and you’re willing to shut off your disbelief enough for the reasons I stated above, then you shall live long and prosper with this exhilarating journey.
How is it that the Star Trek franchise continues to go on even 50 years after it hit television sets across the globe? Interestingly enough, I have taken a college course that explains it.
Whenever aliens appear on screen, they are always inspired, even if unintentionally, by some abstract idea that affected the time it was made. Back in the mid-1960s, America was weighed down by the Civil Rights Movement and the War in Vietnam, generating hate-filled messages of racial equality. Thus, the original Star Trek series took inspiration from these messages, with many of its episodes tackling similar issues about racial segregation. It’s also worth noting that the 1968 episode, Plato’s Stepchildren featured what many believe was the first interracial kiss on television.
It’s not just true with Star Trek: E.T. is a parallel to the life of Jesus, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an allegory for communism, District 9 is symbolic for racial imprisonment in South Africa, and the list goes on with virtually anything else you can think of.
The point being, Star Trek continues to resonate with audiences today because there is a subconscious thirst to see racial union on screen, good reasons as to why the words, “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” resonate so well with time. Too many people are afraid of being around people who aren’t like them, so watching people on screen do it in a way that doesn’t hit too close to home provides the needed empowerment to explore the next frontier.
You can see that all still going on today: people won’t go anywhere near certain countries because of eminent dangers surrounding terrorism.
Here is where it’s tough for somebody with autism, they are more afraid than others of trying new things, and stick too closely to their comfort zone.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #20: Trying New Things Isn’t Very Fun.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #39: Learning New Things is Really Hard.
I for example haven’t even tasted my first cheeseburger until I was nine years old. I didn’t even grow out of watching preschool programs every morning until I was eleven. Although I have gotten significantly better at it over time, as a child, trying new things and transitioning from one thing to another was one of the hardest things for me to do.
For somebody else with autism, it could be much harder for them to travel to other countries or meet new people outside their mode of familiarity. It would alter their entire routine, and the culture shock would be much more terrifying than for somebody without autism.
It’s time we start living like the “United” States of America the world sees us as. If people without autism can’t learn to accept and explore other cultures and activities, then how can somebody with autism ever feel any initiative to do the same? The reason I now can try new things and accept other cultures is because I was raised in family that also treated the world that same way. My parents always loved to travel and explore, and you couldn’t even get my dad to walk through a new city without him conversing with a total stranger every five minutes.
So no more racial stereotypes in media. We ought to start listening to the franchises we hold so dearly to, because they often are speaking to us all about the very issues that causes so much unneeded tragedy. If we learn to not only acknowledge these messages in the media but apply them to our relationships, while equipping anybody with or without autism to explore unfamiliar territory, then that is what is going to make not just America, but the whole world great again.
- Take a look at your favorite science fiction movies. Then do a search about what types of symbolism to real world problems they parallel. Understanding social problems through something you’re already familiar with is always the first step to generating change.
- Consider anything that encourages our union with other cultures. I say that this is where all our world’s problems stem, and opening our views across the world would save countless lives.
- If you’re about to travel with an autistic child, spend lots of time beforehand familiarizing him or her with the culture of the place you’re traveling to. Explain it in a way that will excite your child about learning new ways of life.
If there is a specific movie in my Review List you’d like me to do an autism lesson on, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Ammerman, Cassie. Star Trek terminology. OUPBlog. Oxford University Press, 7 May 2009. Web. <http://blog.oup.com/2009/05/startrek_terminology/>.
Cellania, Miss. TV's First Interracial Kiss. Neatorama. Purch, 10 Apr 2013. Web. <http://www.neatorama.com/neatogeek/2013/04/10/TVs-First-Interracial-Kiss/>.
McKnight, Brent. Apparently Simon Pegg's Goal Is To Make Star Trek 3 Less Star Treky. CinemaBlend. Disqus, July 2015. Web. <http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Apparently-Simon-Pegg-Goal-Make-Star-Trek-3-Less-Star-Treky-71535.html>.
Star Trek Movie. Paramount Pictures. Web. <http://www.startrekmovie.com/>.
Windon, Stephen. Sofia Boutella is Jayla, a warrior alien in "Star Trek: No Borders". Digital image. UOL Entertainment. Web. <http://cinema.uol.com.br/album/2016/01/05/star-trek-sem-fronteiras-2016.htm#fotoNav=5>.