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How Star Trek Beyond Questions the Federation's Philosophy

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Fans have complained that the recent Star Trek movies don’t do enough to explore the philosophical issues that were at the heart of classic Trek. But Justin Lin, the director of Star Trek Beyond, told us the new movie is all about debating Starfleet’s philosophies.

io9 was among a handful of outlets that spoke to Lin in the Paramount Theater in Hollywood Monday, just as his trailer hit the Internet. And he told us that the film’s villain, Krall (Idris Elba), is motivated by a clash between his beliefs and the Federation’s.


In fact, Lin told us that the conflict between Krall’s belief system and the Federation’s philosophy is an important one in the film. (And he confirmed that this is our first look at Krall, below.)


“What would happen if you were going on a five-year journey and you’re trying to not only explore but also maybe introduce other people to this way of thinking,” Lin said. “What would that mean? What are the consequences to that? Spreading a philosophy that you believe in, that you think is great. Are there gonna be any other points of views that’s gonna counter you? And I think those are the things that I thought of as a kid. And also then as an adult when I watch Star Trek. And I think we got to kind of explore that a little bit.”

So Krall’s beliefs will challenge the views of the Enterprise crew, but the crew will also question them themselves. Especially Kirk. “Why is Kirk doing what he’s doing?” Lin asked. “We assume on the TV show that [joining Starfleet] is just something he did, but I want to know why. Are you going to continue? What’s the reason? Why do you do what you do?”

Monday’s trailer was the world’s first glimpse at the third film in this new, J.J. Abrams-produced Star Trek franchise—and, as you’d expect, there were some complaints. Some fans complained about the upbeat music and the use of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” with its callback to the 2009 reboot, especially in a franchise many expect to be heady.

But Lin wanted that Beastie Boys song to make a strong statement: This is not a typical Star Trek movie. “Hopefully [the trailer] represents that we are trying to be bold and take risks,” Lin said. “Whether successful or not, I don’t know, but that was something I was excited to do.”


Some fans were also upset at seeing the Enterprise destroyed yet again, along with the line “We’ve got no ship, no crew, how are we going to get out of this one?” But Lin says the destruction of the beloved ship has a great pay-off.

“The Enterprise being taken down is a big piece of the film,” Lin said. “But I don’t mind sharing that. That’s a point of initiation and I’d love for everyone to engage on that level.”


Lin calls the destruction of the Enterprise the movie’s “inciting” incident, that leads to the crew going up against Krall. Meanwhile, though, the Enterprise crew will be helped by new alien Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She’s this one:


According to Lin, Star Trek Beyond originally included some references back to the previous film, Star Trek Into Darkness, exploring the impact of Khan’s attacks on the Federation. But the final version of the movie opts to ignore its predecessor, instead.

“We pick them up about two and a half years after the end of Into Darkness and there were iterations where we did explore [the impact of Khan],” Lin said. He revealed they shot a ton of stuff that won’t make the movie but “at the end of the day I just felt with two-and-a-half years in, in the presentation of this film, it didn’t quite fit in.”


Lin does what he does, in part, because of Star Trek. He used to watch the show with his family while growing up, and the director said that connection was a requirement for being part of the film. “If you weren’t passionate or you didn’t have a connection to this franchise, then you shouldn’t be a part of it,” he said. “And that was the mantra when I signed up.”


How that’ll all play out remains unclear; we’re still seven months from seeing the film. But Lin is determined to live up to the challenge posed to him his producer. Abrams didn’t ask Lin to do anything specific with the story. He didn’t have to use a previously written script. “He said ‘It’s yours, go be bold, just take it and make it what you would do to Star Trek,’” Lin said.

While Beyond takes place two and a half years after Into Darkness, Lin himself has barely been on it for a year. He came onto the movie in January, was shooting in June, and is now six weeks into editing. “We have a good cut already,” he said. But the weight of this franchise and expectations is something he’s quite aware of. “Whether this works or not, it’s on me,” he said. “The accountability is on me.”


Images via Paramount

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