It was a brutal summer at the theatres this year for blockbuster and franchise films, with more of them turning out to be serious disappointments both critically and financially than not. There were the usual amount of fantastic original films that seemed to fly under the radar unfortunately with general audiences as well, which while being expected still managed to cut deep for film fans like myself (shame on literally everyone who didn’t go to see Shane Black’s The Nice Guys in theatres). As I look back at this summer moving forwards into awards season now though, there’s one film that seems to have already been forgotten about by audiences, that continues to increasingly bother me.
That film is director Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond, the third installment in the rebooted Trek film franchise, and the long-awaited follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ divisive Star Trek: Into Darkness. Released near the end of July, a place in the summer where films can either thrive or be forgotten about, Beyond was a pleasant surprise for everyone who went to go see it, including the entire press screening I saw it at for the first time, in which myself and a number of the other journalists who were there all looked at each other in surprise at the end, delighted by how much we had all truly enjoyed watching that film.
However, in the weeks that followed its release, not only did the movie fail to hold attention for long, but it also performed only moderately well at the box office, with a total worldwide box office gross currently sitting at only around $224 million, one of the quieter and smaller successes of the summer. Considering it’s a blockbuster, franchise film currently sitting at an 83% on the RT meter with a 83% audience score as well though, the fact that the film didn’t do better and emerge as one of this year’s biggest successes, is a baffling one at that.
Part of it could be Trek fans’ distaste and skepticism from Into Darkness turning into a disinterest for the new film, especially with a promising new TV series on the way next year, as well as being stuck in between both the Ghostbusters reboot and Jason Bourne. But we’ve seen films with good word of mouth emerge as successes from tough competition in the final months of summer though, and with the kind of critical raving that Beyond had going for it, there’s no reason it should have flown under the radar in such a massive way.
Those are all technical reasons for why Beyond should have been a success though, when the real reason that I wish more than anything else that Beyond had been one of this year’s biggest hits (it wasn’t even my favorite blockbuster of the summer), was the film’s message of unity and hope, in a world where the temptation to divide amongst ourselves is strong and there seems to be more anger in the world than anything else, on the silver screen, social media feeds, nightly news, and almost everywhere we look.
In Star Trek Beyond, Idris Elba’s Krall is a villain devoted solely to tearing the Federation and the tenuous unity its strived to create throughout the galaxy apart. Why? Because he was a soldier, one that lived in a time of division and heartache, and who believes that the only way for the universe to truly thrive, is for it to be torn apart, constantly separated into warring factions. Standing on the other side of him is Captain James T. Kirk, and the crew of the Enterprise, who believe firmly in the idea that the best world is one of unity and peace.
These are themes that have been present in the Star Trek property from its very inception, but Beyond threw out the jaded idea that those philosophies and ideals can feel outdated in the modern day, illustrating instead that in all actuality, they’ve never have they felt more prevalent or needed than they are right now.
When every day it seems like all that’s happening is people becoming more and more divided, Star Trek Beyond was the summer blockbuster that we needed to come out this year, in a marketplace where the two biggest superhero films focused on their heroes being driven to fight each other rather than come together, and we saw not only one but two other blockbusters that were delighted in presenting us with end-of-the-world images in the hopes that we’d just shove popcorn in our mouths and give them our money many, many times. Beyond was one of the few lights of optimism and hope in the abyss of darkness and cynicism that dominated the silver screens this year.
Obviously, I can’t snap my fingers and give the film a couple hundred million dollars more (though I would if I could), but if it’s still playing in a theatre near you, I recommend going to see Star Trek Beyond if you haven’t already, or going to see it again if you have. I plan on it, because a movie with that kind of message, that also manages to be one of the most fun and entertaining films of the year, deserves more recognition than we’ve given it so far. Not to mention it’s brilliant use of a musical cue during its final battle, which managed to bring the kind of big, goofy smile to my face that very few other blockbusters of recent memory have.
For reference, you can go back and read my review of the film here if you’d like as well, and I’d also recommend reading Matt Singer’s piece on the film, since he goes into a number of the same messages and themes of Star Trek Beyond that I’ve mentioned above.
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