The sun wasn’t due to set in San Diego until 7:54pm Wednesday evening, which made the predicted start time for the premiere of “Star Trek Beyond,” at 8pm, a clear imposssibility. But the wait was worth it.
For its Comic-Con premiere, Paramount brought the newest installment of the 50-year-old franchise to Embarcadero Marina Park South, an open space just south of the San Diego Convention Center — allegedly the first-ever outdoor IMAX screening ever held, said to have 3,000 people in attendance.
BTS footage screened in the prelude to the screening sold the film as fun and full of heart, but the mood was an odd mix of sober and joyful, due to the recent tragic loss of star Anton Yelchin.
Perhaps because of the venue location — right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, with the breeze blowing in, Zachary Quinto observed that “It’s peaceful here.” (The breeze, coupled with the beautiful sunset, contributed to that initial vibe.)
On the red carpet, the cast chose to wear black pins in Yelchin’s memory. Commenting his death, “It’s a reminder that life can be so fragile,” star Zoe Saldana said on the red carpet, to sincere applause.
“This is for Anton Yelchin — a beautiful dear colleague and friend. This film is for him. We miss him dearly,” Karl Urban added.
The screening also featured the San Diego Symphony Orchestra performing live to accompany the soundtrack, as well as light-up wristbands timed to certain events. (The audience thus missed out on hearing Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer” over the closing credits, but to compensate the music video was played beforehand.)
Conan O’Brien appeared as a surprise host for the actual screening, bringing the cast and crew on stage as he poked a bit of fun at the venue choice: “You’re about to see this film in the one way every filmmaker dreams of their films being shown — on a jumbotron, in an amphitheater, with planes flying overhead.”
(Things were getting chilly by the time the screening grew close to starting, but Idris Elba seemed unbothered. In fact, he wore shorts, claiming that he lost his suit at the airport.)
At the end of the opening remarks, the two recent major losses experienced by the “Trek” universe were acknowledged: “The first time I ever came to Comic-Con was in 2007,” Quinto said, “and it was the first time I ever met Leonard Nimoy. The role of Spock bonded us — no pun intended.”
And then, Anton. “As much as it is a celebration of this film and the 50th anniversary, there is something wrong tonight and there is something missing tonight and there is someone missing here tonight,” J.J. Abrams said.
So, with Yelchin’s parents in the audience, Abrams asked for “A moment of silence for our dear friend Anton Yelchin.” The moment of silence lasted a good solid minute.
Then the lights dimmed, and the orchestra began to play, and fireworks erupted over San Diego to the iconic music of “Star Trek” — 50 years old, and still unforgettable.
“Star Trek Beyond” premieres this Friday in theaters. San Diego Comic-Con continues through Sunday.