If one were to judge from trailers alone, Star Trek Beyond looks to be the fastest-moving Star Trek movie yet. The sheer amount of exciting things happening in the short ads shows just how far we have come from the days of Shatner’s Kirk pontificating on the deck of the Enterprise, with every piece of dialogue attached to a thoughtful pause.
Yes, Beyond will likely be bigger and more muscular than anything we’ve ever seen come out of this universe. It may feel for viewers more like Star Wars, The Avengers, or even something Vin Diesel would star in. We see stunt doubles attacking each other with swords, almost falling off ledges, launching off ramps on motorcycles, and getting into every kind of hyperkinetic conflict. It seems Trek is going through its most action-packed era yet, and we can thank (perhaps) a few different people for that. There’s JJ Abrams, who set the new pace with his 2009 Trek reboot and 2013 follow-up Into Darkness. There is the bevy of similarly sci-fi franchises out there that have made gargantuan profits from throwing superhuman characters at each other for hours on end. And lastly, there is director Justin Lin, who, after a tenure at the helm of the Fast & Furious series, was given the opportunity to direct Beyond.
With just a few months until its release, we wanted to sate your palette with some movies that are similar in scope and feel to modern Trek, movies featuring the important players, and those milestones (“Khaaaan!”) that helped us get to where we are now. This is the perfect primer for anyone just stepping into the series, or even for the jaded Trekkie out there in need of a bit of excitement while they wait.
So with that, please sit back, relax, practice your best Vin Diesel growl, and enjoy Screen Rant’s 10 Movies to See Before Star Trek Beyond…
10. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness is the latest film of the series, and Beyond is apparently going to be a follow-up to it, so it makes sense to delve into this one a bit. Into Darkness was directed by JJ Abrams and released to audiences in 2013. It made approximately $467 million worldwide, making it far and away the most successful Trek installment ever. For comparison’s sake, 2009’s Star Trek took in about $385 million, and seven years before that Nemesis pulled in a thin $67 million.
It’s safe to say that the success of Into Darkness really puts the onus on Beyond. It never looks good when a movie makes less money than its predecessor, so expect there to be a lot of doubling-down stylistically. Into Darkness was a darker Star Trek film than we are used to seeing, with an especially violent and unpredictable villain, the massive destruction of a major metropolis, and an overall cynical story arch that included much more action than a normal Star Trek installment. Be ready for Beyond to be chock-full of some or all of these cues.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Rumors swirled in 2015, as production for Beyond was ramping up, that Paramount was in a heated dialogue with then-director Roberto Orci over the tonal direction the movie was to head in. Apparently the studio wanted the film to be less like typical Trek fare and more like other modern sci-fi adventures, notably Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
What was the meaning of this? Well, for starters 2014’s Guardians was an enormously likable movie, applauded by fans for having a cohesive script, genuinely fun characters, and little if any baggage compared to the more established franchises. Space explorer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his scrappy team must protect an all-powerful orb from falling into the hands of the evil Ronan. It’s a simple enough storyline that was executed beautifully.
It also doesn’t hurt to mention that Guardians raked in $773 million in ticket sales, making it roughly $300 million more successful than the biggest Trek yet. Studio execs likely looked at the numbers of Guardians and were understandably determined to make Trek more fun, more imaginative, and less constrained. This all sounds great for forging a new path for the venerable franchise — we just hope it doesn’t come off as too derivative of other peoples’ films.
8. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
One of the other writers on Beyond is Simon Pegg, a popular British actor who now adorns big-budget franchises like Mission: Impossible, where he stars alongside Tom Cruise, and Star Trek, in which he plays animated engineer Scotty. The impetus that got Pegg to the place where he is now was actually a modest-budget comedy back in 2004 called Shaun of the Dead. It was part of a larger trilogy — colloquially known as the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy — that also includes Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013). The films are lovable satires, each serving a different genre: Shaun with the zombie movies, Hot Fuzz with the buddy cop film, and The World’s End focusing on alien invasion flicks. Each was critically and commercially successful, and were co-written by Pegg and directed by his writing partner Edgar Wright.
Shaun of the Dead was a cult hit and part of the resurgence of interest in zombie apocalypses, bridging the cultural conversation to zombies between the incredible 28 Days Later… (2002), Zombieland (2009), and The Walking Dead TV series (2010-). And it has had just as much of an influence on modern comedy, presenting in stars Pegg and Nick Frost one of the best modern-day comedy duos.
7. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The numbers are nothing short of astonishing. Avengers: Age of Ultron is the 7th highest-grossing film ever, having taken in $1.4 billion at the box office. Its predecessor, The Avengers (2012), is at number 5 with $1.5 billion. The larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest franchise in history: its 12 films have made $9 billion in receipts.
With all this happening only very recently, it doubtless has had an effect on the creators of Star Trek, and anyone else who’s even remotely associated with making movies today. Marvel clearly has a winning formula — the movies feature likable characters, lots of impressive action sequences, and funny dialogue. Some of our favorite Hollywood stars breathe charismatic life into some of our favorite superheroes: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) must reassemble their team to fend off an encroaching techno-villain.
Director Joss Whedon, who will pop up again on this list, does a fantastic job balancing the big action with smaller character-building scenes. He does a fantastic job allowing the actors to play off of each other, and this gives the Avengers films an amazing sense of lightness and fun.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
There are few arguments that have loomed larger in the science fiction community than the squaring off between its two blue-chip franchises: Star Wars versus Star Trek. It’s a fair comparison on the face of it. Both series are futuristic space adventures that delve into humans working with alien races to explore space, protect the defenseless from villainy, and continue the quest to realize one’s own inner potential.
But historically, that’s where the similarities end. Trek was always custom-built for the scientifically inclined, catering to those who wanted a show with substance that employed exhaustive research to suss out what’s actually possible. The Star Wars films were fantastical space operas that based themselves on adventure serials of the 1950s and eschewed scientific acumen for action and emotionality.
Oddly, today we have a situation wherein JJ Abrams has directed the latest installments of each series. Understandably, the two have never felt more alike. Abrams did an excellent job resuscitating the flagging Star Wars franchise, trading in George Lucas’s wandering and bloated prequels for a rip-roaring return to form, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Between the Abrams connection and the success of The Force at the box office, it would be surprising to no one if Justin Lin was taking notes from the Jedi Council.
5. Serenity (2005)
Far from the big-budget Marvel-ousness of Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon’s other entry in this list is a much smaller and niche experience. Serenity is a 2005 film that was coaxed out of the studios after fans begged for a follow-up to 2002’s Firefly, a sci-fi TV series that was canceled after only one season due to poor ratings, yet gained cult status. Serenity picks up where the beloved show left off: Set in 2517, the crew of the spaceship Serenity live a life of cargo smuggling and exploration, but their travels are interrupted when they pick up a mysterious new passenger.
Serenity stars Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds, captain of Serenity and leader of the crew, which includes second-in-command Zoe and her husband, pilot Hoban Washburne (Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk), mercenary Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite) and others. The movie’s strengths lie in the power of Whedon’s writing. Each character is enormously relatable. And Whedon sure knows how to progress a story.
4. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Maybe the best way that we can prepare ourselves for Beyond is to delve into the previous works of its director, Justin Lin. The director has had no small part in the lineage of the Fast & Furious franchise, having directed four installments, and 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 is his latest release.
Furious 6 continues the story about a scrappy team of Los Angeles street racers who find themselves with strange bedfellows — being tapped by government agencies to use their unorthodox skills to take down international criminals. Vin Diesel stars as Dom, the hulking leader of the racers, and Paul Walker returns as Brian, a one-time cop who is now part of the racing family. With the rest of their crew, Dom and Brian must again help the feds, this time in the monstrous form of Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who’s after a band of mercenaries.
Furious 6 is very slickly made and very entertaining, but it’s not exactly smart. Thing is, Star Trek was always meant to be a smart series. Characters were well-read, and the stories were often inspired by literary influences. Details meant everything: the original showrunners in the 1960s worked hard to keep things as science-based as possible. The Abrams outings did away with such cache, and Lin’s resume gives us the sense that fans waiting for a return to form will likely have to continue waiting.
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the quintessential Trek movie, widely regarded as being the best film of the franchise. William Shatner stars as the inimitable Admiral James T. Kirk, leader of the USS Enterprise. With the help of Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of his crew, Kirk must outsmart the supervillain Khan (Ricardo Montalban). After first appearing in 1967 in a couple of the original show’s episodes, Khan is back — a megalomaniacal, genetically engineered tyrant whose super-intelligence emanates from his incredible self-confidence. But his arrogance has its blind spots, which Kirk and Company must exploit in order to save the galaxy.
Wrath of Khan was a child of the first Trek film’s failures. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), directed by Robert Wise and produced by series creator Gene Roddenberry, was released to a middling critical environment. It did quite well at the box office, taking in $139 million, but its then-unheard of $46 million budget left studio execs feeling flustered. Roddenberry was pushed out of the franchise and Paramount resolved to whittle the budget of its follow-up, Khan, to more pragmatic proportions. Armed with only $11 million, director Nicholas Meyer had to use every trick in the cost-cutting book to get Khan off the ground, but he made it work. The movie had the biggest worldwide opening up to that point, and would go on to make a healthy $97 million.
2. Confidence (2003)
With all this talk of recent blockbusters that had an unmistakable impact on the Trek franchise, it may seem strange for us to now mention a movie that came out in 2003 that only raised $23 million at the box office. Not the sort of thing one would be taking notes from, right? Well, the obscure crime flick Confidence is influential in the story of how we arrive at this newest Trek, as it is one of the few prior examples of the work of Beyond co-writer Doug Jong, and so it may give us some ideas as to his narrative style.
A sleek and handsome thriller, Confidence stars Edward Burns as Jake Vig, a talented hustler who becomes indebted to a dangerous mobster (Dustin Hoffman) and to secure repayment must pull off an elaborate con. Meanwhile, Jake’s plans become further complicated as he’s tracked by Agent Butan (Andy Garcia). The film co-stars Rachel Wiesz and Paul Giamatti, who both give predictably great performances.
Confidence is indeed slickly written, and it gives vital insight into Jong’s talent. It skirts the most glaring of script issues, namely in that each character has their own voice and specific perspective. This means two things for where we are at now: Hop online and rent Confidence sometime, as it’s a hidden gem, and rest easy that whatever foibles Beyond may end up suffering, poor writing likely won’t be on that list.
1. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Many of our favorite characters are returning for Beyond, but we will also have a couple new faces. Idris Elba (The Wire) will show up as the villain Krall, and if trailers are any indicator, Sofia Boutella will have a prominent role, as Jaylah. The little-known Algerian actress will likely experience a quick rise to stardom thanks to her turn in the upcoming Star Trek movie, so it might be worthwhile to check out one of her past features in the meantime.
In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Boutella co-stars as the lethal mercenary Gazelle, henchwoman to billionaire supervillain Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). Valentine devises a plan to go on a rampage of the globe, and only the British secret service is equipped to stop him. Agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recruits Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) from a life of crime and together they roll back Valentine’s plans at world domination.
Kingsman is an offbeat sci-fi action flick, and an obvious play on the James Bond franchise. Egerton, Firth, and Boutella all do well in their roles, and Jackson plays Valentine with unbridled hamminess. The movie did well with critics and scored greatly at the box office. It’s one more worthwhile diversion while we eagerly await Star Trek Beyond.
And there you have it. Screen Rant’s 10 Movies to See Before Star Trek Beyond. What do you think? Will Justin Lin do Trek justice? Have any other movies that fans can watch before the release?