Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Different Yet United



Star Trek Beyond” opens with an away mission as doomed as Captain James T. Kirk’s yellow shirt, which—of course—gets ripped in the opening scene. The obligatory Captain-Kirk’s-tissue-paper-shirts joke is not only an amusing callback, it’s actually a setup for one of the primary concerns of the film.

This is emblematic of the whole movie, which both lovingly pays tribute to its roots and offers a strong original story. The writing by Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) and director Justin Lin adds humor, thoughtfulness, and some interesting ideas about human purpose and virtues that make it worth watching, either for a fan of the original Star Trek series or for the average moviegoer.

“Star Trek Beyond” is set in the third year of the Enterprise’s five-year mission, and by that time both Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are beginning to question their reasons for being there. Kirk’s life feels “episodic,” and he muses to Bones (Karl Urban) that “My father joined Starfleet because he believed in it; I joined on a dare.” Spock, meanwhile, has learned that Ambassador Spock, his counterpart from an alternate universe who entered the prime universe in the 2009 film, is dead, so he feels that he may be responsible to continue the Ambassador’s work with the Vulcans. But when the Enterprise is commissioned to travel through a nebula on a dangerous rescue mission, both men glean new insight about their purpose and significance.

More than anything else, “Star Trek Beyond” is fun. It’s chock full of nods to the original series, from snarky jokes about the other Captain Kirk’s toupee, to sentimental reminders of the original Enterprise crew. Even the images in the ending credits include a treat for the hardcore fans.

“Star Trek Beyond” is also well-crafted. As with the joke about Kirk’s shirts, every line—even the ones that appear to be throwaway jokes or allusions for the initiated—sets the stage for upcoming events. Also, the film allows for more characters to be better developed than they had been in the previous two installments of the Star Trek reboot. Whereas in the previous films nearly all the screen-time, and thus character development, was focused on Kirk and Spock, in this film the other characters are given more time to develop as something other than Spock’s Girlfriend/The Hottie and Kirk’s Wingman, respectively. And finally, it introduces a non-Enterprise character, Jayla (Sofia Boutella), who has personality, rather than being the butt-kicking sex-symbol female type that haunted the previous two films.

The villain of “Star Trek Beyond,” Krall (Idris Elba), does not have the personality of Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” but this lack helps make a point. Krall is the head of an army that is modeled after a swarm of bees, down to the stylization of their uniforms and architecture. The members of Krall’s army are faceless cogs in the wheel, and so, in some sense, is he.

The members of the Enterprise crew, on the other hand, work together as individuals. As I mentioned earlier, much of the fun of this movie is getting to know more of the characters better. But that’s not just for fun, for as the characters learn and fight to survive, they are always trying to help those who are not there with them, and they are ultimately working towards the same goal: to be reunited, and to escape while leaving no man behind.

In other words, the Enterprise crew in “Star Trek Beyond” is human. Humans can work toward the same goal even while they are cut off from one another because of their creativity and intelligence. They can make independent decisions as a team and not a machine, and as a team they become stronger.

The constant contrast between a human team and an organic machine brings this film beyond the level of mindless spectacle, and into the realm of potentially thought-provoking art. It is not deeply philosophical, but it still offers a beautiful image of the uniquely human ability to be different but united—a fundamental way in which humanity reflects its Creator. It also emphasizes the importance of loyalty, a virtue that could be lost in a story that celebrates individual uniqueness. Each character is not just out for himself, but rather used his individual abilities to help, or even to sacrifice, for the others.

In the end, there is still an element of vanity. Kirk wonders at the opening of the film why he should travel endlessly through an infinite universe. The answer, “I do it for my team,” while emotionally satisfying and not morally unworthy, does not ultimately answer the question. One could do any number of things for the people one loves, so why go into the boundless depths of space?

For a Christian, it might be a worthwhile quest to learn about the glory of God’s creation, and thus the glory of the Creator. A Christian could be confident that the world God created reflects something of His goodness and wisdom, and thus has something to teach him. But these things have always been missing from the Star Trek universe and always will be.

Still, “Star Trek Beyond” is unusually well-written for a summer blockbuster, it’s very entertaining, and it provides food for thought. And while it might be missing a Christian sense of purpose, several Christian virtues are very much in evidence.

[Editor’s note: We’ve received a question about the gay relationship in this movie, so I will take the opportunity to address that here: Although this relationship got a lot of hype before the movie came out, it consists only of one brief, ambiguous moment. (See The Guardian’s description here: —GRD]

Image copyright Paramount Pictures. “Star Trek Beyond” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Kaitlyn Elisabet Bonsell removed a heart symbol from next to Karl Urban’s name before she sent the rough draft of this article to her editor. Arthur the Labradoodle thinks this does not mitigate the childishness of her behavior. Arthur the Labradoodle is an old man now, so he says things like “mitigate.”

Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.


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