Star Trek Beyond: For better or worse, Pegg’s script brings mindless summer fun

James T Kirk

Stark Trek Beyond is a peculiar movie. A cursory glance of the screenplay by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung would seem to have all the makings of a great adventure for the Enterprise crew. The problem, however, is that it is missing a certain level of intellectual gravitas that long-time fans of Gene Roddenberry’s creation have come to expect.

J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise in 2009 and then followed that up with the solid Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013. Both movies pushed the creative pendulum more towards an action-oriented audience, but Beyond seems to fully embrace the “mindless summer fun” designation. Director Justin Lin of Fast & Furious 6 fame is happy to oblige, which is either horrible or great news depending on your allegiance to Mr. Roddenberry’s original vision.

Here is what you need to know about Beyond:

  • Chris Pine as Captain Kirk; Zachary Quinto as Spock; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura; and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov all look comfortable in their roles. Everyone has at least a brief moment to shine, and most of the humor hits the mark. The crew is scattered across a planet far out of reach of the United Federation of Planets, which allows for character development between Bones and Spock that should pay off in future movies.
  • Sofia Boutella is convincing and entertaining as Jaylah, a warrior who lives alone on a deserted Starfleet ship. There is one problem: She seems in many ways like a knockoff of Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Simon Pegg may deny lifting aspects of Rey from J.J. Abrams while on set filming his role as junk parts dealer Unkar Plutt, but the similarities are a bit too convenient (i.e., young, fiercely independent woman who lost her parents is great with mechanical devices and a staff. She is also intelligent, witty, and quick on her feet.)
  •   Idris Elba does a fine job with the script he was given as the villain Krall, who is after an ancient artifact in Kirk’s possession for reasons unknown for most of the movie. Elba’s problem, however, is that the character is underdeveloped. For the most of the movie he remains an enigma, and by the time his true nature it is revealed the audience reaction isn’t shock and awe, but, “Sure. I guess. You could have disclosed all this in the first act and then spent the rest of the movie making him a better foil.”
  • The Beastie Boys. I say this as someone who grew up in the 90s and has nothing but love for the song Sabotage: “Why, Simon Pegg? Why?” I do not want to spoil anything in the main body of this review, but I will gladly talk about the song’s role in the comments section below.

Is Beyond worth seeing in the theater at full price? The short answer is yes. It is by no means a bad movie, but at the same time it will be a bit frustrating to fans who expect something a tad more cerebral from their Star Trek fare.

This third installment of the rebooted franchise is the weakest in terms of exploring philosophical conundrums, and as a result the movie suffers. It is an enjoyable film, but it is not something that would capture Spock’s interest for longer than five seconds. That seems like a significant failure to this blogger.


Did you see Star Trek Beyond? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below. I’d love the hear what you have to say.

Zachary Quinto twists Takei’s stance on gay Sulu to cover for ‘Beyond’ team

George Takei

Simon Pegg and the “Star Trek Beyond” team approached George Takei months ago about their decision to make the character he played for decades, Hikaru Sulu, a gay man. Mr. Takei politely told them that creator Gene Roddenberry never wrote the USS Enterprise officer that way and that they should create a new character instead. The “Beyond” team disrespected his wish and now trots out Zachary Quinto to twist the original Sulu’s words.

Here is what Takei told The Hollywood Reporter earlier in the week:

“I told [John Cho], ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’ I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought.

I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. He left me feeling that that was going to happen. I think it’s really unfortunate. I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed. I thought after that conversation with [director Justin Lin] that was going to happen.”

Here is the proper context: Mr. Takei, an LGBT activist, has played Sulu since the 1960s. He is the original Sulu and he knows what the creator would have wanted. A bunch of young guys essentially came to him for his blessing. They received an answer they did not like, did what they wanted anyway, and now try to frame his displeasure as if he has a thing against gay representation on film.

Here is what Zachary Quinto told Pedestrian.TV on Friday:

“As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. I get it that he has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character, but … as we established in the first Star Trek film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe. My hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world, and should be.”

There is no need for “eventually” because Mr. Takei already said he is “delighted” there is a gay character, Mr. Quinto. Therefore, Spock, it is “logical” to conclude that you are purposefully twisting the man’s stance like a petulant child because he wasn’t on board with the decision.

Zachary Quinto Star Trek Beyond trailer
“Disagree with Zachary Quinto? Why that’s … illogical.”

Simon Pegg was also offered his best straw man argument for the Guardian on Friday:

“He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?”

Again, it cannot be stressed enough that Simon Pegg and his team went to Mr. Takei for his advice and decades of experience with the character and Gene Roddenberry. They went to the original Sulu, defied him, and now pretend as if people won’t logically differentiate between the old and the new by calling Mr. Pegg’s version “gay Sulu.”

No one calls Captain Holt from the television show Brooklyn 99 “the gay Captain.” He’s just “Holt.” Why? Because the writers have done an excellent job.

If Brooklyn 99 is is reimagined in 25 years and writers make him straight, then people who loved the original will call him “straight Holt.” Lesson: Don’t mess with the source material.

Simon Peg Star Trek Beyond trailer
“We went to him for advice and he suggested we create a new character instead of altering the source material? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Marvel Comics made the same mistake with Iceman. The character has been around for decades, but writer Brian Michael Bendis decided to make him gay overnight. Critics who said it was lazy writing and disrespectful to the source material then faced the kind of backlash now experienced by George Takei.

Takei gay Sulu Twitter hate

George Takei is finding out what the rest of us have known for a long time: If you dare to disagree with activist-writers, then you will be demonized. If you dare to show any kind of reverence for source material, then you will be slimed as “homophobic” or “on the wrong side of history.” Their “right side of history” is defined as “those who agree with us.”

I hope the original Sulu sticks to this guns on this one because he has no reason to apologize. If anyone should apologize, then it’s those who came to him for his advice, led him to believe they would take his recommendation, and then did the exact opposite.

Will Ferrell goes soulless ghoul route, plans Reagan ‘dementia’ romp

Will Ferrell

Political pundits often wonder why the United States seems to be falling apart at the seams. There are many reasons for the slow-motion implosion, but one of them relates a cultural celebration of men and women whose principal appeal among fans is that they have no shame.

When a famous individual with no shame becomes a partisan political hack, one might say a dark spark occurs within them and you get what appears to be a soulless ghoul. There is no low that a ghoul will not go to destroy his political enemies, even if the result is a pyrrhic victory.

Will Ferrell’s decision to shop around a dementia romp about former President Ronald Reagan is an excellent example of America’s cultural hatchet men.

Variety reported Wednesday:

“Having already famously portrayed former President George W. Bush in various comedy sketches, Will Ferrell is now setting his sights on another former commander in chief.

Sources tell Variety Ferrell is attached to star as President Ronald Reagan in the Black List script “Reagan.”

Penned by Mike Rosolio, the story begins at the start of the ex-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander in chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

The script was so popular following its announcement on the Black List, an annual catalog of the top unproduced scripts in Hollywood, that a live read was recently done in March starring Lena Dunham and John Cho.”

Only to a sick soul does Alzheimer’s disease become an opportunity for knee-slapping good times at the local movie theater. Imagine the “fun” Mr. Ferrell could have if he found out Ronald Reagan was molested as a child or that a close friend of his died of cancer…

If you ever wondered why it seems increasingly harder for people to disagree without being disagreeable, then look no further than the anointed purveyors of cool within the entertainment industry — the Will Ferrells and Lena Dunhams of the world love to lather themselves up in the politics of personal destruction and then fling it around with drive and purpose. They claim to love America, but the reality is quite different. They lust for a world that is as sick and twisted as whatever it is inside them that makes dementia a launching pad for political attacks.

Update, Friday, April 29: It looks like the backlash finally got to Mr. Ferrell. He has now backed out of the project.

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas: A Conservative Review

John Cho and Kal Penn grew up, and it shows in the newest Harold and Kumar adventure; they no longer look comfortable in the roles. It's also hard to slaughter sacred cows when most of them have already been killed.

Is it possible for a conservative to review A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas fairly? Conventional wisdom says that such a task is something our liberal and libertarian friends could handle, but not so much the nerdy guy who has Reagan posters in his room al la Alex P. Keaton. Not only do I have those Ronald Reagan posters, here now is a fair-minded review of the newest Harold and Kumar flick.

First off, I’m not going to spend any time on how much of a hypocrite Kal Penn is. I’ve already done that. Instead of concentrating on Kal’s thin skin when it comes to his religion and his culture, I’d rather focus on Harold & Kumar’s biggest problem—there aren’t any sacred cows left to slaughter. Well, there is…but most writers and directors would rather not go there (I’m looking at you Kevin Smith).

When the first Harold and Kumar came out it tackled racial issues in ways that hadn’t really been done before. It had two cool minorities (politics aside) in the lead. It went places where other comedies feared to tread, and along the way it made Neil Patrick Harris cool again. It was certainly “fresh”, as its Rotten Tomatoes score reflected.

Then, with its second act it went South (literally and figuratively). While the writers thought it may have been “speaking truth to power” to go after red necks and George Bush, it wasn’t. It was just somewhat lame.

Now, with A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, the duo are back, but without a real sense of purpose. It takes a magical joint to bring them together for another adventure. John Cho’s well-to-do “Harold” must get a replacement Christmas tree for the one Kumar burns down, before his in-laws get back from midnight mass. If he fails, his Mexican father-in-law (spectacularly cast by Danny Trejo) might never warm up to him.

While this third installment rightly plays up the importance of friendship, the “offensive” jokes fall flatter than they did in 2004 because a.) we’re more jaded than ever and b.) the social commentary is tired and stale. Where have I seen a pedophile priest joke before? Oh yeah—everywhere. Why did it seem familiar when they made that joke about all Asians looking alike? Oh yeah—because I heard it about twenty years ago.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas includes a toddler that gets high, brushes her teeth with cocaine, and eats ecstasy. She “gets the munchies” and “tweaks out” on cocaine, but apparently even Kal Penn drew the line at child pornography (he might want to work for the Obama administration if a second term materializes like the 3D smoke in the film).

While it’s good to see Harold and Kumar together again, there’s a hint of sadness to it, as even the actors seem to realize the franchise has run its course. Sure, there’s talk of an animated series…but doesn’t that just prove my point? (Again, something to ask Kevin Smith about.)

Personally, I knew it was over for the franchise when I found myself looking more forward to the Neil Patrick Harris cameo than the actual movie. NPH doesn’t disappoint (does he ever?), and at this rate it’s conceivable that he’ll one day have his own vehicle with which to resuscitate Kal Penn’s sagging career.

How on earth did the newest Harold and Kumar get better reviews than the original? Probably because Kal Penn worked for the Obama administration and has a lot of good-will reviews stored up.