Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are the stars of the Star Trek franchise, but their fellow U.S.S. Enterprise crew mates are just as integral to the long running property. The friendships the characters formed serve as the emotional center, making it tough to envision the group separated. Each individual brings something unique to the table, allowing everything to feel whole. If just one person was absent, there'd certainly be a vital element missing from the ensemble.
This is portrayed very nicely in the rebooted Trek films that began in 2009, but the team almost had to replace a key figure for this summer's Star Trek Beyond. Fan-favorite actor Karl Urban, who plays the Enterprise's doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy, nearly did not return for the third installment and only had a change of mind once he sat down with the series' new director, Justin Lin.
In an interview with IGN, Urban discussed his hesitancy to reprise Bones and how Lin convinced him to come back to the fold:
"It was a breath of fresh air, and I really appreciated Justin's intimate knowledge and understanding of the character dynamics. In fact, I was on the fence about doing the movie until I spoke with Justin... I had a conflicting schedule, and I had a decision to make about which film to do, and I was no longer under contract to do a third picture. So I had a decision to make, and it was talking with Justin that enabled me to commit to it."
Much has been made of Lin and co-writer Simon Pegg being huge Star Trek fans involved with the creative process, but Urban is also quite fond of Trek himself. That Lin was able to persuade the actor to sign on for Beyond is a testament to the film's potential quality. Especially after the controversial first trailer, there were concerns that Beyond would be Fast & Furious in space, but the most recent preview calmed nerves. In addition, Urban's co-star John Cho mentioned recently that this latest entry captures the best of the Original Series, suggesting that it could be the strongest of the bunch.
Urban also spoke very highly of Lin's handling of the material, stating that Beyond is going to please many who watch it this summer:
"I mean, he gets it. I think between Simon, [co-writer] Doug [Jung], and Justin and myself, we really formed a wonderful collaborative team. There's a lot of material in this film that long-term fans are going to be very happy with."
It's obviously not a pre-requisite for a director to be emotionally attached to a franchise before helming an installment within it, but at times it can yield excellent results. For instance, J.J. Abrams is a filmmaker who grew up on the original Star Wars trilogy, which definitely helped him while working on The Force Awakens. Fans have a tendency to know what works well in a given universe, and those fortunate enough to make franchise films have an opportunity to convey what makes it so special to them. They want to deliver the best movie possible and understand how important it is to get things "right" so audiences don't leave the theater disappointed.
Fortunately, it looks like Star Trek Beyond is going to be an exhilarating celebration of the brand's 50th anniversary. Lin, Pegg, and company seem to have crafted a compelling narrative that explores the longstanding themes and tropes of Star Trek, and tells modern audiences why they're still relevant. After the first two films in this series relied more on space opera action (a la Star Wars), this could very well be the change-of-pace Trek on film needs to live long and prosper.
Star Trek Beyond hits theaters July 22, 2016.