Whoever thought that dropping the first trailer for Star Trek: Beyond this week was a good idea should be fired. Look, it’s Star Wars‘ week. It just is. Sometimes things aren’t fair, sometimes other franchises have basically stepped in and taken over a space of time in everyone’s brain. This is the week Star Wars returns to theaters after a 20+ year hiatus. It’s their week. DC would not attempt to drop a Justice League trailer 48 hours before an Avengers movie hit theaters, lest there be unfavorable comparisons. Moreover, Star Trek‘s marketing department has little excuse. After all, their rivals have been putting on a master class in cross promotional synergetic marketing since Force Friday arrived in September. They should have taken notes.
Now, I say this as someone who has been for most of their life a Star Trek fan over Star Wars. I’m not saying I don’t like Star Wars, but when I was 14, it wasn’t a world in which I wanted to go live. It was an old school good vs evil tale, like Legend, except instead of Tom Cruise and Tim Curry on two foot stilts, it was Mark Hamill and the voice of James Earl Jones. Star Trek however, was a place I wanted to go. It was a world i wanted to live in–no war, no famine, just the best and the brightest and the bravest men and women of all colors and creeds boldly going into space with nothing but their wits and their power of positivity. The episodes weren’t about sword fights and feats of derring do. They were philosophical debates, like what was the Measure of a Man? How does one communicate with a race that speaks only in Metaphor? Even the original series, which has plenty of shirtless Kirk, always included an intellectual exercise component. It was what made the series so different from the rest of the sci fi genre of the time.
Some would argue that ever since the 2009 reboot, that has been conspicuously missing from the Star Trek movies. The first one was a pure reboot, more interested in restarting the franchise with a side order of serious fan service, than anything full of deep thought, and to that end, it did the job, with many fans coming away feeling like their favorite franchise had been born again. But the lack of depth problem became magnified when the second movie Star Trek Into Darkness, which was a full on Wrath of Khan retread, despite everyone involved outright lying that it wasn’t, seemed more interested in the fighting between Khan and the fan service than it was in making a movie able to stand alone.
Post the Into Darkness complaints, Abrams, who had rebooted the series, admitted he was always more of a Star Wars guys anyway, perhaps he wasn’t the best fit here, and left. (Ironically, it was to go reboot Star Wars. You’ll notice that Disney has no interest in allowing him to do the second movie though, once the “reboot and fan service first installment” has done the necessary job of reestablishing the franchise.) One might have hoped that this would solve the problem of Star Trek and that the third installment Star Trek: Beyond would reinstate the intellectual ideals of the original series, and focus on the things that made Star Trek unique in this genre.
One would be wrong.
One of the most confusing moments in the 2009 reboot is when Kirk, as a child is seen driving a car to The Beastie Boys “Sabotage.” Yes, the idea of the movie is that we’ve been pushed into a mirror universe, but Kirk is still born in 2233. No one in 2233 will be listening to songs from the mid 1990s. It was one of the few obvious misfires of the reboot, which then I overlooked. Clearly I shouldn’t have, and neither sound anyone else, as someone, somewhere thought the best idea for the third installment was to basically take that scene writ large, and use it to sell the next movie.
This is not Star Trek. This is a Fast And Furious movie that happens to be set in space. (The new director, Justin Lin, is famous for the F&F movies.) One might as well see Kirk order Uhura to wind down the windows of the Enterprise and step on it. The only Sabotage is of the legacy of Star Trek.
Or as Wil Wheaton put it: