Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A Tuesday Film
Because today was promising to be rainy all day long I decided I would head out to the first showing of Star Trek: Beyond at the Varsity Cinemas. Because the film has been out for a couple of weeks there wasn't a large audience. The film the third in the relaunch of the Star Trek series follows the crew of the Enterprise three years into their five year mission. While not as fast paced as the previous two films, this film is helmed by director Justin Lin, better known for the Fast & Furious car films, the film still trades in everything expected from the relaunch. It begins with a monologue by Kirk questioning the routine of space exploration and his role as captain. The film then ramps up with lots of stories woven together allowing everyone in the ensemble cast to have their moment in the sun. Watching it in 3D, never my first choice, I am always surprised how dark everything is in a 3D film. Visually it is almost as if the edges of the film disappear trying to create the 3D effect making a darker world. I did enjoy some of the technological effects, especially the Federation created world-station that is really stunning, but too often films like this focus on effects rather than narrative and at times the story which trades in the old Star Trek idea of Federation captains who become depraved when lost on an alien world is lost in the desire for effect rather than story.
It is also depressing to continually see race, gender and sexuality given such short shrift. Why is that aliens (or those who appear as aliens) especially those who are bad have to be black? This is not the only film that trades in such ploys but it is used far too often by Hollywood. It is nice to see more women in the Star Trek universe but why must strong independent women still appeal to the gaze of young heterosexual men? Strong women who are sexualized really doesn't help make for better representations.
There was a lot of press about the queering of Sulu in the film, responding to decades of criticism about the lack of queer characters in Star Trek. I was also looking forward to see what they would do, but knew in the end I would probably be disappointed. Why did his partner have to be Asian? Why did they not kiss when they met? An opportunity was missed earlier in the film when Kirk was talking about the trials of extended space travel, two relationships are shown, both heterosexual that could have been used by the filmmakers to show that queer characters are part of the Star Trek world. In the end too often in this world calls for inclusion become token incursions without any real incorporation into larger narratives. When I was in graduate school we wanted our comprehensive courses and classes we helped teach to include better representation of minorities. In the end what happened was that disenfranchised groups were given their own week instead of being incorporated into the entire course. Too often Hollywood's response to calls for better representation or inclusion are the same. Minority groups are grafted on allowing Hollywood bigwigs to pat each other on the back instead of interrogating their own ideas of privilege.