Why ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Should Have Been The Blockbuster Hit of the Summer

By September 1, 2016

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.

star trek beyond featured image

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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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable
  • David Halley

    Movies today are boring, they are just flashes and explosions with no stories worth getting out of the house for. OMG they destroyed the Enterprise again, and again. Zzzzzzz

    • David Nicholson

      Yeah, they destroyed it, but there are some really good character driven stories there too, along with a beautiful scene where we first see the Yorktown. Also, we get a new Enterprise with warp nacelles that are further apart. It was a great film.

    • I actually disagree this time. From the trailers I was annoyed with the destruction of the Enterprise, but not only was the sequence itself in the film really well done, but it also impacted the story and characters in really interesting ways I thought. Even without their ship, they managed to remain unified and absolute. I really enjoyed it.

  • Manuel Porras

    Well, I guess the worldwide box office has been affected by the fact that the movie will be released here in Mexico next week! I don’t know why it took so long to bring this movie here, almost two months after its domestic run, since here in Mexico there is a huge fanbase for Star Trek. Hopefully this will improve the numbers for the movie, but I still don’t know why we had to wait so long for it.

    • David Nicholson

      Don’t forget China, where the cast promoted the film really hard.

    • Yeah, the release strategy for this one (and a whole lot of other blockbusters this year) has been really strange. Don’t quite understand why either.

  • David Johnson

    IMAX is Re-Releasing it this weekend!!!!

  • Herman Blume

    It was a very satisfying film. Much better and much closer in feel to OST than its two predecessors. I think the hangover effect Into Darkness created by ruining the greatest villain in Trek history had a lot to do with it.

    • Yeah, and I think that the biggest issue with Beyond is actually in the development of Krall as well, but it was nice to see a movie equally concerned with the staple characters as it was the villain. Unlike Into Darkness.

  • Adam Rasmussen

    Good movie but I’m not sure it’s quite as good as all the Geek sites are saying. It’s being overpraised like Into Darkness was overcriticized.

  • David Nicholson

    I loved the film. My friends loved the film. I encourage everybody to go see it if you can still find it in theaters. It really is a wonderful movie in the tradition of great Trek.

    • Yeah, it’s a perfect blend of modern blockbuster expectations, with the heart, soul, and themes of classic Trek. I adored it.

  • ToSeek

    40% of it seemed like riding a roller coaster with goggles on so that you can only see what’s right in front of you. 40% of it seemed like one-on-one fistfights. Yes, there were some good character bits in the rest, but so far as I’m considered that didn’t make up for the rest of it. I’ve wasted four hours of my life on the reboot movies (fortunately skipped the second one) – not going to try again.

  • Mark

    For a “shit blowing up in space” movie, it was pretty enjoyable.

  • William Knight

    what I think hurt the film was cbs suing axana. The fan films where keeping the fanchise alive. I know when cbs said it was suing I said I would never pay to watch the new Series. I will wait until its on youtube for free. It will be on youtube 24 hours after the episode airs. This I think also is why the fans did not go out and support the movie. I think cbs needs to say I’m sorry to the fans and tear up the rules for fan films that where just put in place. than they maybe able to make some money. the moral of the story is piss off the fans than no money for you.

  • Arnold Moore

    Unity and hope – oh, so that was what the movie was about. I didn’t get it because it was hidden behind some much shock and awe.

  • Shanahan

    Truly enjoyed it, sorry it hasn’t done better at the box office, especially with this being Trek’s 50th anniversary. Didn’t see a whole lot of marketing for it, though, outside a few TV spots and advertisements in theaters.