Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Director Justin Lin has primarily been known for his work with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, however, now he’s blasting into another established cinematic series with STAR TREK BEYOND. Written by Simon Pegg (who pulls double duty playing in front of the camera also as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott) and Doug Jung, this chapter find the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise – comprised of Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Pegg), Checkov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho) – on a rescue mission deep in the uncharted Nebula region when they are attacked by Krall (Idris Elba) and his soldiers. Relationships between crew members are tested and forged, survival instincts kick in and a new ally, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), is found.
We learned a lot today about the epic sci-fi adventure today – including a few things that might tread a little too heavily on the spoiler side. As with any pre-release article, please proceed with caution. For all others, enjoy what we found out about what will most likely be your favorite TREK movie yet.
Pegg and Jung wanted to make a hybrid episode of the series. Pegg said, “We wanted to try to create a hybrid of an episode of the original series with a spectacular cinematic event. The STAR TREK movies have always been an event film. The TV series, you get time spent with the characters – it’s a longer game. The film, you have to hit it and it has to be very self-contained and memorable.”
The relationship dynamic between Spock and McCoy deepens. Urban said, “It gave me a lot of material to work with. It was great to have those two characters that are so diametrically opposed to each other be forced into a situation where they depend on each other to survive. It was obviously an opportunity to explore a lot of comedy, but also really deepen the relationship between the two. By the end of it, they were able to go back into their respective corners with a bit of inside knowledge – for long-term fans, it’s rewarding.” Quinto concurred, “In a movie franchise, we’re used to spending all this time together, it was actually nice where it was only Karl and me together where we got to know each other. They end it in a much better place than where they begin it.”
966 days in space is a reference to when TOS began. Kirk and his crew spend 966 days away from their loved ones in Yorktown – this number, of course, being an Easter Egg. It was meant to signify, “September 1966,” said Pegg.
The line about being a vodka guy was improv’d. There’s a scene where Kirk and McCoy drink some 30-year-old pilfered whiskey. Pegg let it slip, “that was improvised, by the way, when they were talking, ‘I thought you’d be a vodka guy.’ That all came out from those guys on the day. That’s the kind of superb actors you get to work with as writers. They come up with the best lines.” Pine stated, “Hopefully things that make us giggle, fans will appreciate.”
The Beastie Boys “Sabotage” made it into the movie – but barely. “The initial idea was that they fire a radio at the swarm. It took many shapes as we wrote it. Then we realized there was no sound in space – we have to abide by physics sometimes. I like that they all have the idea together about what it could do. “Sabotage” is what we used in ’09 and it’s part of Kirk’s childhood. It all links back to the past. It’s about him moving on as a man. If anything is going to blow up a swarm of spaceships, it’s gonna be Beastie Boys.”
Leonard Nimoy died during the writing stage. Quinto said, “If Leonard was well enough to be part of this film, I’m sure he would have been. I know there were early conversations with him about that possibility. True to his incredible self, he knew himself well enough that wouldn’t be possible. It became important to us to honor his legacy. We all carried him with us throughout this production. It was definitely a different feeling to make this movie without him.” Pegg clarified, “We wanted to make him part of Spock’s arc – not just a reference to Spock Prime or to dedicate the film to him. We wanted his passing to inspire our Spock to move on as well. It became an integral part of the story.”
Blowing up the Enterprise. Pegg initially fought Lin on this, but wound up relenting. “I realized what [Lin] was doing brilliantly was not only taking out a main character, but he was removing the physical connective tissue between the crew to see what happens when you take away the thing that physically bonds them together. If you take away that thing that necessitates their being a unit, do they dissipate, or do they come back together? If you take it away dramatically and violently, and you wait and see if they all come back together, to be this family.”
Zoe Saldana loved that BEYOND showed the characters’ humanity. She said, “That’s the one thing I appreciate the most about what Simon and Doug did. They made us human and sad – how being overly worked and not being grounded could put a strain on the intimate relationships but also the professional ones. I thought this was a great place to start.”
Sulu has evolved. In this iteration, we learned that Sulu not only has a daughter, but a husband at home waiting for him on Yorktown. Cho said, “I was told of it through Justin early on. I thought it was a beautiful idea. I had concerns by how it would be received by George [Takei]. The handling of it was most important of it to me. Having seen the film, it’s non-chalant posture toward it is the best thing about it. It’s normalized. It’s news now, but if you re-watch the movie in ten years, you won’t think anything of it. That’s the best thing about it. There’s no music cue. There’s no close-up.”
There’s an almost innocuous detail on the costumes. Kirk’s costume was a specific nod to TOS being mustard yellow, but Urban said, “Unlike on the previous two films, the women in STAR TREK BEYOND have ranks on the uniforms. I was shocked that wasn’t the case before. It’s a 60’s throwback to the costumes.”
Jaylah was named after Jennifer Lawrence. Pegg explained, “Doug and I and Justin, in the writer’s room, wanted to create this very independent, resourceful female character. We didn’t have a name for her – we used to call her ‘Jennifer Lawrence in WINTER’S BONE.’ But that was such a long name! It started to get tiring. So then we started calling her J.Law and then she became Jaylah.”
Justin Lin’s son wanted to be an alien – but one in another franchise. Lin said, “I try to bring him on set and shoot a shot with him. On the FAST movies, he’s always the little kid looking at cars. He was doing this one and he really wanted to be an alien. I was like, ‘Okay. Cool.’ He was so adamant – he knew what he wanted. We had meetings – he wanted to be green and have ears. So we shot it and later on, I was talking to him and later on he said he wanted to be Yoda. When you see the film, he’s a young Yoda.”
STAR TREK opens on July 22.