Screened Out – Star Trek Beyond

By : Stephen Miller
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Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban

In the pantheon of science fiction, Star Trek is often the thinking person’s franchise. Even with its goofiness and cheesiness – tribbles – it still often asked mind-tickling questions.

Not this movie. It’s a solid, enjoyable popcorn flick, chock full of expensive effects and action. It fills your eyes with wonder. Just don’t bring your brain.

It seems our beloved characters are now asking themselves whether they really want to finish their five-year mission. James T. Kirk (Pine) rankles at the travel and the loneliness. After his affair with Uhura (Saldana) and the destruction of his home planet, Mr. Spock questions whether he should instead breed with Vulcans to repopulate his race.

Zoe Saldana, John Cho (whos Sulu is revealed to be gay), and the rest of the cast still do solid, updates of the original characters.

Zoe Saldana, John Cho (whose Sulu is revealed to be gay), and the rest of the cast still do solid, updates of the original characters.

The characters put their angst on the back burner when another captain comes looking for help. She says that her ship was attacked and crashed on a mysterious planet. She wants to get her crew back. Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the crew jump into this messy situation to save the day.

OK, so one could argue that this movie hearkens back to the 1960s series. Villainous Elba acts through a rubber mask that looks like the love child of a lava rock and a lizard. Another alien’s head is creepily crab-like. A third sneezes acid. A few unknown, red-shirted crew members die.

This approach is more about nostalgia than cohesive storytelling, though. It feels as though screenwriters Pegg (who ably plays Scotty) and Doug Jung know the characters very well. Their jokes are funny. Other than that, the writers sat around and played “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if.” “Wouldn’t it be cool if one alien was a small, dog-like creature?!” “Wouldn’t it be cool if thousands and thousands of smaller ships attacked the Enterprise?!”

This “everything in the pot” scriptwriting raises too many questions. If these questions don’t get answered, they’re plot holes. How did all those small ships get built? Where did the technology come from? How did the villain race know about something we’re told is ancient, unknown history?

There are even more questions, but I cannot mention them with posting some spoilers.

Star Trek Beyond is fine, until we start asking those questions.

Cowriter Simon Pegg director Justin Lin have fun with this film, even though it lacks mental engagement.

Cowriter Simon Pegg director Justin Lin have fun with this film, even though it lacks mental engagement.

At least the special effects and the battles are downright thrilling. That’s the work of director Justin Lin (the Fast and Furious series). As one-time director J.J. Abrams took over Star Wars, Lin stepped in with his well-played visuals and explosions. In fact, Lin is always so keen on getting back to the action that small, dramatic scenes feel rushed. That’s sad when you consider that this film had the possibility of making emotional connection, with the recent deaths of Leonard Nimoy and young actor Anton Yelchin (Chekhov).

All in all, Star Trek Beyond still delivers character and fun. It just doesn’t go anywhere, and it certainly doesn’t push the boundaries forward. Beyond is a placeholder film – an entertaining, blood-pumping distraction full of sound and fury. It’s also just a basic, Hollywood summer flick.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Maybe the next Star Trek film will get back to using intriguing questions to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no film has gone before.

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