Patrick (H) Williams created a wonderful video essay about What do we want from a Star Wars movie? It hit on all the elements that he thinks people want in their Jedi fueled franchise films, and why The Last Jedi was such a divisive film. But it got me thinking, that the same question could be asked to the other huge space opera franchise out there: Star Trek.
|Boldly brandishing belt buckles.|
For decades Paramount seems to be a bit confused with what fans and the general audience want in their Star Trek films. The results have been a whole batch of films with mixed reviews over the last couple decades. Sure Star Trek (2009) seemed to hit a sweet spot of sorts, but much likeThe Force Awakens it felt like the start of something, a grounding of the Star Trek universe that was going to pay off in future films.
|"Is it supposed to do that? I don't think it is supposed to do that."|
For many people Into Darkness and Beyond did little to fulfill the promise set out by the first film. But the big question remains, what are we looking for in a Star Trek film? I know some folks just want the same things they are looking for in any space adventure film. But I usually expect a bit more.
|It's all smiles and giggles until someone mentions "The Last Jedi".|
1. Solid, memorable and meaningful character interaction. One of the best elements of every Star Trek series or film is the interaction between the crew. Their reactions to the problems in front of them, their ability to work together (or not) is the source of much of the joy of Star Trek. Some of the most memorable films have great interaction between the characters, be it Khan, Kirk and Spock or Picard, Data and the Borg Queen. When Star Trek is at its best, it is because the characters are written and acted well.
|"Drop the stupid script and back away slowly."|
2. Events and plots that impact the characters in a big way, or the world of Star Trek in a big way. These are movies after all, and we expect the film to have stakes that feel like they need a movie size canvas to tell. It is one of the reasons why Star Trek (2009) feels more important than the sequels, because the events in that film have major consequences. It is also why First Contact feels more satisfying than Insurrection.
|"I thought you said they dropped the stupid script."|
3. A sense of wonder about space travel. Now I admit this has been missing from a lot of the Star Trek films over the years. But it is one of the reason I adore The Motion Picture so much. That movie has this immense sense of scale. It feels larger than life and wondrous all at once. We need more of those moments in these films. Because in my mind Star Trek acknowledges the enormity of the task of exploring the universe and finding our place in it.
|"Are we having a moment? It feels like we are having a moment."|
4. Themes about our place in the universe. This is the primary thematic difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Star Wars is mythic and most of its themes deal with ones familiar to us from myths and legends. It is much more of a fantasy narrative. But Star Trek focuses on humanity’s place in the universe and our journey through it. The best Star Trek films fashion their narratives to get you thinking about humanity. Even Nemesis for all its faults, tried to tie back to nature versus nurture. The newer films seem so focused on plot and spectacle they forget the core exploration of this theme.
|Are they really ready for the final frontier?|
5. It needs to showcase how the diverse crew comes together to solve a problem. In the end, as much the movies want us to believe it comes down to Kirk or Spock, or Picard or Data. The best episodes (and films) give key moments to the whole crew. Everyone gets a moment to shine and the mission would fail if they all didn’t give it their best shot.
|They captured Kubla, or Shaka, or Sherlock...|
So those are the elements I’m looking for in a Star Trek film. No, I don’t need a great villain. No I don’t need massive starship battles or motorcycles zipping around. No I don’t need Khan to show up again. I just need a solid space exploration tale well told. Include these five elements and you ware well on your way to making a great Star Trek film, no matter what continuity you decide to use.
How about you? What would you like to see in your Star Trek film?