Offering from popular franchise hopes to make a mark this time
Chinese fans were screaming “Live long and prosper” as the cast of Star Trek Beyond made the iconic Vulcan hand gesture in the Indigo shopping mall nestled in downtown Beijing on Friday.
Fifty years after the sciencefiction franchise was created, “Captain Kirk” and “Commander Spock” were in the Chinese capital to fan interest in an upcoming sequel.
Among the stars on tour are Spock’s human girlfriend “Lieutenant Nyota Uhura”, and the spacecraft USS Enterprise engineer “Montgomery Scott”, and the film’s director Justin Lin.
Star Trek Beyond, the 13th title in the Star Trek movie series and the third installment of the rebooted franchise since 2009, will open in mainland theaters in the 3-D, IMAX 3-D and DMAX formats on Sept 2.
In the latest sequel, the Enterprise crew explores space as part of a five-year mission, during which they are attacked by a ruthless new enemy.
While the franchise has a huge fan base in North America, there is much less recognition for it in China.
The second installment of the rebooted series, Star Trek into Darkness, grossed only 353 million yuan ($53 million) in 2013, not even making the top 100 releases in China of all time, according to figures from entertainment researcher Entgroup.
So will this new Star Trek movie interest locals?
Simon Pegg, who stars as Montgomery Scott and has co-written the script, is confident.
He says it will be a newstart and is fit for first-time watchers to dive into the story and be introduced to the characters.
“We start with the characters and from there we build the world, the situations and the actions,” he tells Chinese reporters.
“The key is that we care about every role, and give them the right amount of screen time.”
For diehard fans, they’ll also be surprised to see a couple of bold twists: The iconic spacecraft Enterprise is destroyed and the character Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu is openly gay.
“It was Justin’s idea to take down the Enterprise.
“My initial reaction was that we cannot do that… But I soon realized that what Justin wanted to do was to take away the things that bond the crew together. It’s the signature moment that the film is built on.”
The Enterprise, which has taken the crew around the vast universe in a dozen films and TV series, is the rock of the Star Trek franchise, but is rapidly torn apart in an ambush in the film.
Meanwhile, Hikaru Sulu, the only Asian face in the main crew, is a gay man with a husband and a daughter in the latest movie, and this has sparked controversy in the United States.
Referring to this, Chris Pine, who reprises his role of Captain Kirk for the third time, says this is part of Star Trek’s trait of crossing barriers.
Giving examples of this trait, Pine cites the famous 1968 interracial kiss, between William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk, and Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura, in the TV series episode Plato’s Stepchildren.
It’s the first mixed-race kiss in the history of television in the US.
“If you take a look at the kiss, it’s not a big deal now…
“Star Trek was and is one of the most forward-thinking, creative franchises in history,” says the 36-year-old American actor.
“It always pushes the boundaries.”
Separately, Lin says that besides pushing the boundaries, Star Trek Beyond has a legacy of fantasy that spans half a century.
“The Star Trek franchise doesn’t have anything that is related to our lives, but it’s always about us and our future.
“It’s a future where we (human beings) stop fighting each other and fight (evil) aliens.”
For the Taiwan-born American filmmaker, Star Trek was a part of growing up.
As his parents, who ran a little fish and chip restaurant in California, usually finished work at 9 pm, Lin says the family typically ate at 10 pm and then let him watch Star Trek at 11 pm.
Putting a different spin on the Star Trek franchise, actress Zoe Saldana, who plays Nyota Uhura in the movie, says films such as Star Trek Beyond have educational significance for children.
“These movies have a very important message for children. It teaches them empathy at very early age, and helps them become good citizens.”
Left: StarTrekBeyond, the 13th title in the Star Trek movie series, will premiere on Chinese mainland theaters on Sept 2. Right: (from left to right) Actor Zachary Quinto, actress Zoe Saldana, director Justin Lin, actor Chris Pine and actor Simon Pegg attend a promotional event for the film in Beijing.