Star Trek: Beyond has just released, and it is garnering critical praise. Full of special effects, the film has more heart and humor than might be expected. I quite enjoyed the movie. Here, I will discuss the movie from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the film in what follows.
One of the earliest scenes of the movie is a breathtaking view of a space station, Yorktown. The space station has rings encircling the interior and intersecting each other, with gravity presumably holding people down in a kind of inverted globe with trains and other vehicles zooming past. Huge crowds are observed milling about. It is a kind of utopic vision of the future. One can’t help but sit back and think: look what we could accomplish if we just set our minds to it!
Star Trek has always been about offering a kind of humanist vision of the future. Of course it goes beyond humanism and into a kind of inter-species unity in which we can hopefully learn to interact without conflict. What is striking, however, is how swiftly this vision falls.
Unity vs. Conflict
The most prominent theme in the movie, one that is repeatedly emphasized, is that of unity vs. striving and conflict. Krall is obsessed with the idea that humanity has grown weak through unity. It has made humans complacent and taken away their drive. He seeks to push humanity to new heights through conflict, bringing destruction in his wake. As he put it, the Federation has been pushing into the frontier, but now “the frontier pushes back!”
Of course, this shows a significant contrast with the vision of humanism offered early in the film. Indeed, Kirk and others do everything they can to show that unity is strength rather than weakness. Ultimately, they succeed, but only through striving and conflict.
Is it therefore possible that Krall actually succeeded in his plan, in some way, after all? He did force conflict–he brought it to the Federation–and in doing so, he made Kirk and others strive for something further, seeking new solutions and pushing new heights. It’s a subversive way to interpret how the film ended, but the implications are interesting to pursue. Krall’s vision is one that is so similar to the humanist vision it is difficult to pull them apart. When we make humanity the measure of all things, we inevitably must strive to continue to better ourselves. We will never find a limit beyond which we cannot or should not push.
Unity is a worthy goal, but without something to unite us, it is a vain hope.
Fear of the Unknown
The message of exploring the frontiers and having the frontiers push back is particularly poignant in this film. We approach a time–and are in many ways already in that time–in which changing DNA is possible, we push more and more boundaries every day. How long until we push a boundary and find that we have delved too deeply? Such a fear of the unknown ought not to forestall any advancements, but it should serve as a cautionary reminder that we should not rush blindly into the beyond.
One thing I have really appreciated about the new Trek movies, and Beyond in particular, is their treatment of women. Lieutenant Uhura is assertive, decisive, and intelligent. Jaylah is a character who offers the kind of complexity that is too rarely seen in female leads in film. Moreover, her innovation and power help to save the day on multiple occasions. I hope that she continues to show up in future iterations of the franchise.
Star Trek: Beyond is a phenomenal film that will make viewers think. There are many more avenues to explore that I haven’t even touched upon here. What I think is most interesting, though, is the idea that unity is what we ought to strive for. I agree it is a worthy goal, but it is one that requires something around which we can all unite. Christ, I believe, has provided that something- we may guide our lives by his commands, and rely upon God’s grace when we fail.
“Star Trek: Into Darkness”- A Christian Perspective– I take a look at the previous film
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Thanks for sharing!
You’re very welcome J.W.!
Nice review! But is Christ the only thing/person humanity can unite around? Surely Christians can (and ought to) make common cause with non-Christians in order to achieve good things for society. I grant it gets complicated figuring out what social good can be… but even God, through Jeremiah, called for God’s people to seek the common welfare, since they would not be saved apart from it.
My point was ultimate unity, something I may need to make more clear. I agree that people–Christians and non-Christian alike–can work toward goals together and unite around common causes, but such unity will always be imperfect, for we are sinful people. Thus, only Christ, the God-man, can bring true unity to all humanity.