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Friday, July 22, 2016

On Representation, Female Badassery, and Complex Aliens in STAR TREK BEYOND

I keep having to remind myself that I can't have it all. Just because a film features a boss chick played by 64-year-old Iranian-American actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog), an openly gay and married Asian officer of the U.S.SJohn Cho), and a alien chick (Algerian actress Sofia Boutella), who kicked serious male ass on screen, apparently doesn't mean that its only black female lead (Zoe Saldana) would have more ass kicking duties as well. But, like, can we not make her the damsel in distress though, especially when we all know she can throw a good right hook (or three) when provoked?

I'm nitpicking here, because I actually thoroughly enjoyed STAR TREK BEYOND. It's fun, it's action-packed, and has a seriously awesome cast that knows how to deliver a good joke in the middle of an apocalyptic crisis (shout out to Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto, whose one-line zingers as Dr. McCoy and Commander Spock provided unexpected levity even in the midst of dire circumstances). And while Liutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is supposed to be the pragmatic and loyal one of the group, I was just really hoping to see Saldana a la Colombiana--kicking ass and taking names.

Instead, that job belonged to Jaylah, a new alien warrior to the franchise, who not only ended up saving the entire crew, but proved to be a good deejay on the low (slight spoiler, so I won't say anything beyond that). So often in sci-fi films, the alien is the villain, ready to blow up everything for no reason at all. But Jaylah shows up on the scene, right after the U.S.S. Enterprise takes a nose dive, scattering its crew, and she presents herself as threatening yet compassionate, ready to snap a neck if the situation calls for it, while harboring a tragic past. She's exactly the kind of three-dimensional female character that we deserve. And Boutella owns every minute of it.

Krall, played by Idris Elba, is also really interesting to watch. Though Paramount had released countless clips from the film ahead of its release, I had no idea who Elba was playing until the last 20 minutes of the film--which actually gave me a better appreciation of the actor. Too often I feel like his celebrity gets in the way of his acting, and is sometimes the only thing redeeming a performance (yeah, I said it), but this was a nice balance of intrigue and complexity. Thank you, director Justin Lin, for bringing this out of him. Ladies, now I get it. Finally.

All that said, STAR TREK BEYOND is a thrill ride: a fun popcorn movie that highlights the value of  teamwork and a good playlist (priceless core values in life). As mentioned in an earlier post, Paramount is already working on the sequel. My dream plot? Jaylah and Uhura team up for some major badassery. You're welcome, Paramount. 

Rating: B+ (**** out of *****)

STAR TREK BEYOND is now playing.

Check out a clip from the film--a scene between McCoy and Spock:

And here's a Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) featurette:


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm really looking forward to this, even though I'll probably get a bit sappy over seeing Anton Yelchin.

Emmanuel Lopez - Motivatorman said...

Glad you enjoyed the film! I also enjoyed it and thankful it recaptured the spirit of the original show I thought was missing from the other 2 reboots. Lots more to love about this movie so will be seeing again soon!

Jeanne said...

I loved the original show. Loved TNG more. I'm not seeing what others are seeing about the spirit of the original show. I thought Beyond was decent, but that human story was thin. Maybe that's what people are meaning by recapturing the spirit of the original show? I didn't feel terribly invested in any of the human stories. Like the Spock/Uhuru and Spock/Kirk stories were there as window decoration rather than deep character development like later TNG became.

I, too, didn't know who Idris Elba was playing until the end--I'd completely forgotten that he was in it at all! It was a nice surprise.

I also enjoyed the humorous banter in the middle of dire situations (maybe THIS is the spirit of the original show?).

But I wished the women were more badass than they were. Uhuru seemed weaker, and more meek, in this film. And secondary to everything. You're right. She and Jayla need to be the heroes in the next film.

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