In 2009 J.J. Abrams introduced the world to what is now known as the “Kelvin Timeline” in Star Trek giving us a whole new way to look at and experience the iconic characters from The Original Series. In this third movie Justin Lin has taken over the dictatorial reins and given us a film worth of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary.
Purpose and Identity
Star Trek Beyond finds the Enterprise 3 years into it’s 5 year mission exploring deep space and Kirk is beginning to have questions. “Why are we out here?” What is my purpose?” “Do I really want to be doing this?” Each one of these has been plaguing him as they chart unknown. The vastness of space as left Kirk feeling directionless and without purpose. Kirk even says in the movie, “It’s hard to feel grounded when even the gravity is artificial”. He has gotten so lost in the routine of life, that perspective has become skewed. It brings to mind the struggles of Kirk from The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, yet this time, Kirk is thinking of becoming an Admiral. It’s something we have only seen in books, the thought process that would lead Starfleet’s best captain to take a desk job.
Krall, the villain of the film is a mirror for Kirk in the movie. He’s a man who was so beholden to one thing in life that when life required him to grow, learn and move forward he found it impossible. As Kirk begins to learn more about his adversary he begins to find his own sense of purpose again, he’s out in space to help protect as many lives as he can, because all lives matter. Kirk is in space to learn, grow and help humanity do the same.
Both Kirk and Spock in the film are also facing the question of identity. Kirk has spent his time in Starfleet trying to be his father and live up to that legacy. McCoy tells him, “You spent all this time trying to be your father, now you’re wondering just what it means to be you.” Whereas Spock is struggling with his identity as a Vulcan and therefore his responsibility to them as they rebuild, which is heightened in light of Ambassador Spock’s death. Each one of these men must found out what it means to be themselves, to escape the shadow of father’s and mentors and chart their own course. What is beautiful about the movie is that they both find their identity and purpose in helping the other become the best versions of themselves and in protecting others.
How We Grow
The idea of being able to grow as a person and society is a huge theme in the film. Krall has found himself unable to move from the past. He sees struggle, war and strife as the only true ways for a race to test themselves. Kirk reminds him that if all we do is continually wage war on the battles of yesterday, then we will be stuck in the past. It brings to mind John F. Kennedy’s words that inspired a whole generation,
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."
Adversity though war and infighting is not the only way to grow, choosing to do the impossible, with only hope as your guide is a powerful force for change. Humanity grows best when it learns from the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them again. Unity in mission and purpose, serving something greater than yourself is the best way to do that.
It’s the strength of the Federation to have unity, bringing together many different people for a common purpose and goal. In the film, this is also reflected on a smaller scale in the crew of the Enterprise. It is their commitment to each other, their working together in concert, each using their gifts to the best of their ability that help them solve the problems they face. It is a nice mirror for what Paul says in 1 Corinthians about the body of Christ, each working together through their God given gifts for the betterment of the other and in service to something much greater than the individual.
There are a couple things I don’t like about the film. One, I am not crazy about the action editing which often leaves the viewer wondering what just happened. It is so fast and cut so quick that it is sometimes hard to see or understand what transpired. I also have to say there were no surprises about the story, I leaned over to my wife a few times and called all the “reveals” or plot points well in advance.
What the movie does do well are the characters. The way in which we see them interact and grow is spot on and the introduction to Jaylah is a joy. Here’s to hoping that this is not the last time we see her in Star Trek. On top of all of this, Michael Giacchino has crafted a beautiful score that harkens back to The Motion Picture in some places as well as the best from every Trek movie since.
Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and with the announcement of a 4th film coming in the “Kelvin Timeline”, the future is bright. The film is rated 4 out of 5 detached saucer sections.
This post first appeared on Matt Rushing's Blog.