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.

Jaylah

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.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Marvel gets its heroic misfits right on the first try

Guardians of the Galaxy

There is no denying it: Marvel Studios has churned out a hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie before DC could treat the world to a big screen “Justice League” adventure. Director James Gunn was asked to deliver a box office smash with a relatively unknown product (to those who don’t read comic books), and he gave the studio a $94 million opening weekend. Not too shabby. The question still remains: Is it any good? Short answer: Yes. The longer answer is that Marvel played with fire in terms of language and content that could scare off those looking for “family friendly” fare. More on that later.

For those unfamiliar with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the team consists of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). While the whole lot of them are technically misfits and scoundrels, the audience knows that deep down each character has a heart of gold. They’re all heroes who don’t quite know it at first because their horrific and tragic pasts shielded them from acting upon virtues like honor, integrity and self-control. Their initial thievery and selfishness brings them together, but it is their slow-burn heroism that keeps them together. Their task: The Guardians of the Galaxy must save an entire planet from an alien known as Ronan.

Guardians of the Galaxy Gamora Peter

In order to avoid spoiling certain parts of the movie, I’ll try and explain everything that I liked and disliked about the movie by discussing the scene where the team officially forms:

Peter Quill: I need your help. I look around at us…you know what I see? Losers. I mean, like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have. Man, we have — all of us. Our homes. Our families. Normal lives. And usually life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it’s given us something. It has given us a chance.

Drax: To do what?

Peter Quill: To give a shit. For once. And not run away. I for one am not going to stand by and watch as Ronan wipes out billions of innocent lives.

Rocket Racoon: But Quill, stopping Ronan — it’s impossible. You’re asking us to die.

Peter Quill: Yes. I guess I am.

Gamora: Quill. I lived most of my life surrounded by my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.

Drax: You are an honorable man, Quill. I will fight beside you. And in the end I will see my wife and daughter again.

Groot: I am Groot.

Rocket Racoon: Oh what the hell, I don’t got that long of a life span anyway. Now I’m standing. Y’all happy? We’re all standing up now…a bunch of jackasses.

Guardians of the Galaxy is funny. It has heart. It’s irreverent. It sends a message that redemption is possible and that there are things that transcend the self that are worth fighting and dying for. Overall it succeeds in all of those aspects, but one of the virtues that is lacking appears to be prudence. Writer and Director James Gunn did a commendable job, but there were times where harsh language was used that was completely unnecessary for a film marketed on many levels to kids. Was it really necessary for Peter Quill to say “You said it yourself, bitch — we’re the Guardians of the Galaxy,” at a key moment in the film? Probably not. As a 35-year-old man with no children, I can shrug it off. If I did have a little one running around, I’m inclined to believe I’d have a very different opinion.

Guardians of the Galaxy Groot

And finally, there is the climatic show-down with Ronan. Once again, Mr. Gunn’s judgment seems off. In fact, there will probably be as many moviegoers who are as embarrassed over how it was handled as there were Iron Man 3 fans upset over how The Mandarin turned out. All I will say is “‘O-O-H Child’ by The Five Stairsteps,” and that there is a time for jokes and a time to be serious. My personal opinion — again, while I enjoyed the film — is that a very large ball was dropped during the creative process on that one.

If you get a chance, you should definitely check out Guardians of the Galaxy while it’s in theaters. Just don’t give the DC fans in your life too hard of time over the movie’s success.

Related: Marvel announces ‘I am Groot’ for Phase 3; DC scrambles for response