It’s fair to say that Star Trek Beyond has had a troubled road to release, beginning with a trailer dropped late last year that failed to please hardcore fans of the franchise. In a hail of rock music and disjointed imagery, the teaser ultimately failed to feel like Star Trek – and following in the footsteps of the critically divisive Into Darkness, concerns about the franchise and its future began to appear online. Add to that the film’s conspicuous absence from marketing arenas like CinemaCon, and the future of Star Trek on the big screen seemed uncertain.
But with Fast & Furious director Justin Lin onboard, J.J. Abrams producing, and nerd whisperer Simon Pegg not only writing and starring, but also assuring fans that all was well with the film – could these concerns really be founded?
As if to prove otherwise, Paramount didn’t simply carpet bomb the Internet with a second, apologetic trailer. No, they threw a party. A party to honor fifty years of Star Trek. Wrangling 500 eager Trekkies into the lot’s iconic Stage 31, Paramount gathered Lin and Abrams – along with cast members Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban – to celebrate a half-century of Star Trek. Moderated by MythBuster Adam Savage, the evening saw testimonials by a number of celebrities and storytellers, as well as a Q&A session with the creators and cast. Everybody in attendance walked away with passes to the film’s official premiere at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con, where Star Trek Beyond will debut in a first-ever outdoor IMAX screening.
But with the reveal of new footage imminent, there was one final tribute in store. With the passing of Leonard Nimoy early last year, Quinto especially seemed moved that Beyond would be the first Trek film released in his absence. With that, Paramount gathered the hundreds in attendance in an emotional ceremony to re-name the adjacent street “Leonard Nimoy Way.” After a champagne toast and 500 hands raised in Vulcan salute, it was time to honor the past and look forward to the future.
With that, Lin introduced the long-awaited follow-up trailer for Star Trek Beyond.
From the opening strings to the long, lingering shots of the Enterprise, the trailer instantly evokes the familiar spirit of the Star Trek franchise. Gone are the pop-rock guitar riffs and meaningless action imagery. Brimming instead with brotherhood and old-school, planetary adventure, it’s clear that Beyond is channeling classic Trek. In two-and-a-half minutes, the new trailer manages not only to set aside the previous teaser, but to inspire confidence that this third chapter might possibly be the best yet.
A handful of longer scenes from the film – screened exclusively for the crowd – help to enlighten us on Star Trek Beyond’s story. While the trailer shows Kirk and company first peeling away in the Enterprise, the footage makes it clear that the film is set during Year Three of their five-year mission.
The first sequence shows a lighter, somewhat whimsical montage of daily life aboard the vessel: Kirk fussing over his lack of fashion options and spilling coffee on the Captain’s chair; randy crewmen making out and breaking up; Scotty hammering away at the countless malfunctioning machines. A quick bit of levity to show that space travel isn’t all phaser fire and photon torpedoes.
The second scene takes place between Bones and Kirk, sharing a drink over the Captain’s mid-life crisis. It’s clear from both the trailer and this extended moment that Beyond’s major theme will be Kirk’s journey of self-discovery. How does a man living in the shadow of his father, constantly imitating a man he never knew, become his own person? Defining his own command, developing his own code, will clearly weigh on Kirk throughout much of the film.
The final sequence is full-on sci-fi action, establishing how the USS Enterprise is once again obliterated by an alien threat. Bombarded by a dense swarm of smaller attack ships, the Enterprise is more or less shredded. In a series of sweeping, kinetic shots, we watch as the hive-mind of shrapnel tears into the ship’s engines, sawing through the neck of the vessel to separate the massive disc from the lower decks beneath. With Kirk given no choice but to abandon ship, the crew scrambles madly into the remaining escape vessels, pursued down onto the alien planet below.
The footage ended there, but it’s clear that the majority of Beyond represents a harrowing, away-team-style chase across this mysterious new planet. Chock full of alien species – with 50 original races to represent the 50th anniversary – Beyond is clearly aiming for galactic scale and diversity. Adventure, exploration and teamwork were front-and-center throughout the new trailer as the crew is scattered across the landscape.
Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22nd, 2016.