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I decided to wait a bit on my Ant-Man review because I am in the unique privilege of not running a film-focused website, so I don't need to meet a deadline or rush it out opening weekend. So I don't. Which makes me happy! This makes this clickbait, you're here because you want to be stuck in the Quantum Realm with me and talk about Ant-Man, and that also makes me happy!
It also means I get to be a little spoilery (but not yet!) and maybe a little more thoughtful, so I'm hoping to apply that freedom now to perhaps the most plain, by-the-numbers Marvel Studios movie in some time, and explain why.
First, to those like me who idiotically keep meticulous track of how Disney Summer Sausages -- I mean Blockbusters are made, you know that the original Ant-Man was a bit of a hodgepodge. And if you don't, you may still have among an array of feelings on the film, but generally, the first Ant-Man film was well-received, a modest hit by Disney-Marvel standards, and an overall good time.
Ant-Man (2015) blend of nine years (!!!) of pre-production visualization from action auteur Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs The World), quick revisions from comedy directors Adam McKay (Step Brothers), Peyton Reed (Yes Man, and the eventual director of both Ant-Man & Ant-Man and the Wasp), Paul Rudd, and Earth's largest entertainment company in the midst of building cinema's first extensive long-form storytelling structure through the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Something had to give (and we'll always be a little sad for it, Edgar), and what was left was a tonally bipolar but ultimately inventive, charming film that serviced the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, but may be a weaker film for it.
Now, with a more singular (or at least less chaotic) vision for this year's Ant-Man and The Wasp, did the stability help the film? Especially after the dour note Avengers: Infinity War left on? Well, sorta!
Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Peña along with the entire X-Con gang return for the sequel. In fact, it seems as though everyone but the antagonist from the first film returns, and that's kinda different from most Marvel movies. Now that there are 20 of them (yes, 20), it's apparent some of them carry certain patterns, traits, and tropes. And even among continuations like Iron Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the most sequel-feeling of all the Marvel films.
That's because it's very much 'more of the same, but better', unlike the drastic departures in tone and feel between the Captain America films and Thor sequels. Ant-Man and the Wasp decidedly, and perhaps tragically, is not balls-to-the-wall insane or inventive like Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok. And had Marvel obtained its 2017 confidence when Ant-Man was in production, it would've likely produced a more memorable result in the process, with or without Wright at the helm.
But even with the global dominance of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel and director Peyton Reed chose to remain...small, instead focusing on the tone of 90s VHS Disney Family Chase Films™️like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids or Escape From Witch Mountain or even Tomorrowland. It's the kind of high-concept sci-fi that isn't entirely well-executed, but simply delectable to me because of the sheer inventiveness that can arise when creative people are given hundreds of millions of dollars to make crazy unbelievable things all the more believable.
I call Ant-Man and the Wasp a mediocre Disney sci-fi film as a term of endearment; it's among great company like The Black Hole, Tron, hell even this year's A Wrinkle in Time had some great ideas even if they didn't quite make it to screen. Even in all its weird gross corporate-ness, Disney still is giving super creative minds the ability to manifest super creative ideas into existence. Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn't quite reach the wildly creative set-piece heights of Edgar Wright's contributions to the original film, but it's still a worthwhile family trip to the cinema, and those will always be in short supply.
Mild Spoilers Ahead
No one dies in Ant-Man and the Wasp. At least not before the first set of credits roll. Being that this takes place during the events of Infinity War, the first post-credit scene serves as a morbid cliffhanger, meant to catapult us into 2019's still-untitled Avengers 4. Obviously we're all first in line for it next year, but I can't help but feel a sense of time-wasted after watching the film. Yes, I knew something to this effect would take place. But, why work so hard to make an intentionally palate-cleansing fun film, only to virtually undo it by killing 3/4ths of the main cast, however temporarily?
It's a minor quibble, and obviously somewhat necessary, but in terms of audience experience, I think that scene in particular did a mild disservice to the rest of the film. Perhaps teasing the looming nature of Thanos' Snap would've given the film and ending a better sense of satisfaction. It just doesn't sit right with me.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
At the intersection of Atlanta’s booming film industry and the diverse, grassroots creative efforts of its citizens is the Atlanta Film Festival. In its fourth decade, the festival (which is one of only two dozen Academy Awards-qualifying festivals) was stacked this year with nearly 200 films and a cumulative 25,000-member audience throughout the ten day affair.
Aside from some big-name films headlining the festival like Jason Reitman’s Tully and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade (my personal favorite from the festival), AFF17 placed a particular spotlight on its inclusive line up, where 70% of the films in the festival were directed by a woman, person of color, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or all three. In other words, the minorities were the vast majority in the Atlanta Film Festival, and that feels really good.
To highlight their LGBTQ+ stories and characters, they featured them in the #PinkPeach category. Each of these moving, queer films featured accompanying short films, which were also very queer themselves.
Directed by and starring Arshad Khan, Abu is a story as old as time, but told in a quasi-documentary fashion. As the Atlanta Film Festival describes it, “Using home videos and classic Bollywood films, Khan crafts an intimate portrait of his Pakistani-Muslim family grappling with the realities of having a gay son in a modern world. Torn between sexuality and religion, tradition and migration, a gay son and his father test the boundaries of love, home, and the meaning of family.” It also screened with the fifteen minute short film Ablution, another touching story about a disabled Muslim father reconciling the coming out of his son.
How can I see it?
Abu is currently slowing being released in theaters nationwide, but currently only in very select cities.
“Having recently embraced her own identity, Sid, a transgender woman, finds herself tangled in a complex web of expectations and aspirations when she discovers she has a 14-year-old son. With new relationships adding to the struggle of culture, religion, and romance in Sid’s journey to acceptance, everyone’s in for a wild ride. Venus also screened with the short film Umbrella, directed by Rhys Ernst. Against the backdrop of rising anti-trans legislation, Umbrella chronicles the stories of four transgender individuals across America united in their passion to create change.”
How can I see it?
Venus is making the rounds at festivals internationally, but no word yet on public distribution.
“All throughout the United States, there exists a vibrant and mythical subculture dedicated to the existence of real life mermaids. In the exploration of the history and present of this peculiar passion, Mermaids takes us on a journey into the lives of five incredible women who spend their free time, and sometime work hours, donning full-size tails at pools, beaches, and bars. In watching them transform into the sea-creatures of their dreams, we gain beautiful insight into the complicated lives of women who differ in every way but are drawn to the same ideal of unearthly beauty and freedom.The film also screened with the short Pink Dolphin, a story about the one and only Pink Dolphin living in the ocean looking for his companions and trying to survive from the assaults and taunts of other sea creatures.”
How can I see it?
Mermaids is now streaming everywhere movies are sold, and is available on blu-ray and DVD.
Lean on Pete
Although Lean on Pete isn’t particularly queer, you’re likely familiar with director Andrew Haigh’s previous, very gay work such as the classic romance film Weekend and the HBO show Looking, which ran for two seasons and a feature-length finale. Pete is a road trip movie, but with a horse. It tells the story of a young man and an aging racehorse named Lean On Pete in search for a new home. Starring Charlie Plummer and Steve Buscemi, this
How can I see it?
Luckily, Lean on Pete is distributed by A24, and is now playing at Tara 4 Cinemas in Buckhead.
Lastly, it was the Trans* community that stole the whole festival. In fact, Man Made made its premiere at AFF 2018. It made such a big splash, it was awarded Best Documentary. Locally made in Georgia and directed by T Cooper, Man Made is about the world’s only all-transgender bodybuilding competition. What precedes this triumphant moment for four trans male bodybuilders are a set of personal and diverse journeys taken on the path to self-identity and empowerment. Told through the intimate and honest lens of a trans filmmaker, this documentary intertwines the nuances of manhood, the drive for social justice, and the competitive desire to forge our own paths and be our personal best.
How can I see it?
Man Made is making its festival rounds for the next several months, but keep an eye out for a more wide release later this year!
The Atlanta Film Festival is a wonderful experience where your involvement whether as a viewer, volunteer, or filmmaker could make an impact on a person’s life and artistic perspective in some way. If you missed it this year, or didn’t see enough (like me), make it a priority. Celebrating culture, art, and diversity though our strongest storytelling medium will never not be important. You never know, you may get inspired to go out and make something for yourself.
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content for TylerScruggs.com and other publications, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).
American Animals director Bart Layton is a documentarian. A peep over at his IMDb page reveals that, despite a pretty extensive filmography, this is his first narrative feature. However, he brings his documentary skills to the table in an impressive way. And while it's something I haven't quite seen before, it's not quite enough.
The premise of American Animals is simple; best friends Spencer (played by the increasingly wonderful Barry Keoghan) and Warren (American Horror Story golden child Evan Peters), bored with their lily-white suburban lives at Transylvania University in Kentucky, set out to pull of an audacious art heist at their own school. It's equal parts The Social Network and Fight Club, but without the laser-sharp focus of either.
In an otherwise straightforward heist film, Layton through his documentarian eye, begins to warp the film by intercutting the narrative with interviews of the real-life felons. Not only that, the counterparts occasionally replace the actors with themselves. Through this, you're able to better understand character motivations, but the structure of the film never provides sufficient suspense, because it's predated on the spoiler that they're going to fail. Because while they're executing their clearly flawed heist, the real-life counterparts are talking directly to you about how stupid they really were.
Ultimately, American Animals doesn’t quite justify its runtime. The contributions of the real life counterparts, while technically impressive and quite entertaining, undercuts any momentum the film might have in telling its story. American Animals doesn't really have anything to say other than "Look at this, this happened. Don't do this."
Curiously, this is the first film released under the MoviePass Ventures label. Its parent company, MoviePass (the movie theater buffet service that can comfortably be described as ‘sketchy, but worth it’), purchased the film at Sundance earlier this year. Much like the heist that goes awry in American Animals, MoviePass is gaining traction as a stunt pulled on the whole industry. Personally, I’m very curious to see what effect its association with MoviePass has on the Box Office. Especially considering it’s not by any means a tentpole film that people would necessarily flock to the theaters to see opening weekend.
Simply put, American Animals is a movie to see with your MoviePass, but not much else.
American Animals - 3/5
American Animals is in theaters June 1st.
Mike Teavee was always my favorite character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Not just because of his relatable obsession with TV (and video games in the 2005 Tim Burton adaptation), but because of the peculiar way he obtained his golden ticket. He obtained it through deduction; through outsmarting the game and Wonka, observing the other winners and avoiding pitfalls, and I particularly love how it eventually led to his demise. Mike Teavee thought he knew every damn thing because he watched a ton of TV and knew how to navigate the Internet, and that got him pretty far, but not far enough. And as much as the premise of Ready Player One is reminiscent to the Chocolate Factory fable, Player One often rewards the geeky pop culture snobbery it purports to reject.
There's something universally relatable about Ready Player One's need to escape. Our hero, Wade Watts (played dryly by Ty Sheridan), along with what appears to be most of the world is escaping poverty and boredom through the OASIS, a virtual reality platform that allows users to live out their biggest fantasies and wildest dreams. It's popular enough to the point where IOI (pronounced eye-oh-eye), the Amazon-like 2nd biggest company in the world -- behind OASIS developers Gregarious Games -- sees it as an opportunity to suppress and monetize the already-poor lower class. And after the death of OASIS founder James Halladay (an almost underused Mark Rylance), an easter egg hunt begins for the pop-culture-reference-heavy and Wade Watts' Parzavel avatar has found the first clue in five years.
The whole story is quite timely, and it's probably what attracted Spielberg to the project. The once-and-forever king of blockbuster escapism has made a dystopian blockbuster about a generation of people who forge nothing but regurgitations of ideas of the past, often belonging to Spielberg himself. None of the characters, even the 'woke' rebellious ones, have a particularly large amount of creativity on any front, until they do. And if your head hurts right now, you should wait until you see some of the big action sequences in the film.
The movie's not bad. I'll say that. It's far from it. There's technical perfection that you would come to expect from a guy like Spielberg, but the film lacks an emotional crux that motivates, or even justifies, a lot of Wade Watts' decision making. Yes, Wade often does the right thing, but he's never really given a reason why he consistently Charlie Buckets every trap laid in front of him, or why he's constantly being rewarded for being the nerdiest dude in the virtual room.
Prior to its release, lots of negative buzz about the bro-y, Big Bang Theory-like toxic geek culture began to surface, but the film actually swiftly navigates away from that. Yes, there's a ton of pop culture references in Ready Player One, with large action sequence being devoted to a single classic horror film, but I was genuinely surprised at the respect and fineness it handled its previously thinly-written heroine and other minority characters. It should've been played up, if you ask me, but it definitely didn't feel like it was punching down at any one particular thing. And that's partially the problem.
As fun and well-orchestrated as the high-octane chaos can be at times (Spielberg manages to remind viewers of Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and the Star Wars prequels in a single frame -- often without any of those properties actually on-screen), I'm left with the sense that no one really learned anything, especially the viewer. The moral of the story is essentially 'Log off and go outside' without really (or at least explicitly) addressing why people aren't really up for going outside right now in the first place.
The main question when one asks themselves whether they're interested in paying money to see Steven Spielberg's bombastic, shameless CGI fest is whether they're willing to splurge for IMAX 3D. If not? Just wait. This movie, it feels, is going to either come alive or be forgotten in time. It's dense enough to justify analysis and second viewings, no doubt. The movie feels like a virtual reality experience and Spielberg ideally is crafty enough to ferment a deeper sense of meaning in his films over time. If you're like me and are willing to give him the time of day and see how he handles a blockbuster family adventure in 2018: splurge for the biggest, most immersive screen possible and just have fun with it. It's just a game.
Ready Player One -- 3.5/5
II wasn’t gonna talk about Spider-Man: Homecoming, really, because after fifteen years of watching superhero blockbusters, you begin to learn a little. You start to learn that the late-night high received from watching what was once merely played out via action figures and comic books and Lego-shaped dreams in your head was just realized on screen. It might just be high. You know that, yes, you can log onto Twitter dot com and hear a bunch of dudes in Texas “Well, actually” their way through dismantling all the things you thought were cool about the movie you just paid two Chipotle-burritos worth to see. And yes, this was probably a Frankenstein movie crafted first in a boardroom before any creative being laid hands on it. It can be so deflating to go online and feel the stark, harsh comedown of watching what you thought was a great movie, only to pick it apart afterward and critique it into Wal-Mart $5 DVD bin oblivion. All I’ve gotta say to that is WHATEVER, HOMECOMING WAS THE COOLEST SPIDER-MAN MOVIE SO FAR.
In preparation for Homecoming, I rewatched a few Spidey films. The original movies mean quite a great deal to me, I was a child when they were released. Though, that didn’t stop my father from taking me to each of the midnight showings back when those existed. We’d go to the now-closed Century Theatre in west Tucson; the kinda-dingy one right off the freeway, notorious for carjackings and a lack of security that was prime for movie-hopping. Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy will forever be “Capital-C” Cinema. The kind of Cinema that’s referenced into eternity. The sort of cinema that, when witnessed for the first time on a screen larger than life itself, evokes the feeling that you’re watching the newest thing that can exist at that moment in time; whether it’s 2002 or 2012. It’s the best thing Hollywood or anyone can produce at that moment, even when it’s not. Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a perfect movie, but seeing those POV shots of Spidey running, leaping, and swinging through New York on a giant IMAX screen was a joy to watch. Hundreds of people came together to create this. It was people’s job too.
I live in Atlanta, Georgia, where nearly every Marvel Studios movie has been produced since Captain America: Civil War. It’s where the most expensive movie production ever, Avengers: Infinity War and the untitled 4th film, is being shot only ten or so miles away. Though it’s very infrequent, Atlanta is mentioned or seen in much detail. Save for the beautiful ode to Atlanta Baby Driver. Watching these film in Atlanta, there’s a certain pride that takes place that wasn’t quite felt during my time in Los Angeles. During the credits we’re forced to sit through each Marvel movie in hopes for a teaser for future installments when the big Georgia Film peach logo appears, the whole theater erupts in applause.
However, despite having scenes in New York and DC, remnants of Atlanta remained in Homecoming, and that makes me so happy. Whether it’s a recognizable street corner or simply Donald Glover’s presence, the film definitely felt Atlantan. Combined with that, for the first time, the New York City Peter Parker’s growing up in is the same one I’ve been living vicariously in every summer for nearly ten years now throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
MILD SPOILERS FOR SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING AHEAD
In the cold open for Homecoming, the prologue that precedes the Marvel Studios logo and before we’re reintroduced to Peter Parker Post-Civil War, we meet Adrian Toomes, played by Michael Keaton in 2012, days after the events of the first Avengers film, who's been tasked with cleaning up the Chitauri mess left behind by The Avengers. Then, with all his financial eggs invested in the clean-up contract with the city, he’s undercut by Tony Stark’s federal Damage Control department. Though that doesn’t stop him from keeping some alien weaponry for himself, and thus the super-powered arms dealer Vulture is born.
From there, I knew we were in for something special. Warmed up from his fight with (most of) the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, high school sophomore Peter Parker (played brilliantly & charismatically by Tom Holland) is discontent with his life and eager to receive a call from Tony Stark. So much so to the point of quitting all of his previous passions and devoting all of his time to Spider-Man, even if that means screwing up more often than solving a crime. Meanwhile, Tony Stark’s mentorship is distant and restrictive, despite the clear patriarchal connection. And, the famous “With great power comes great responsibility” line is flipped on its head when great power mostly comes from great tech created in part by Stark’s genius.
There’s likely going to be a common criticism about the sheer levity of it all. Spider-Man: Homecoming’s most prominent villain isn’t quite Shocker or even the Vulture; it’s the 5 Spider-Man films that preceded it. Ditching the origin story or indeed any of the pitfalls that may make you say “Spider-Man movie X did it better,” what we’re presented is essentially a build-off of what you’ve seen told so many times before. Pulling a 180 from the needlessly brooding Amazing Spider-Man, the laughs-per-minute in Homecoming is almost untenable. It’s a straight-up comedy, with nothing like the terrifying moments in Sam Raimi’s trilogy (Jeez, remember that terrifying “finish your prayer” scene between Aunt May and the Green Goblin?) to bog down the film’s central mission: to deliver the funniest, most charismatic Spider-Man the silver screen has ever seen.
The hugely diverse cast is also definitely worth notice, too. Nearly every supporting classmate character in Homecoming is played by a person of color, there’s at least one openly gay role in the film, as well as most of Peter’s teachers. Never does it feel forced or unnatural. In fact, it’s the most natural-feeling cast of characters in a blockbuster in a long time; and that’s intentionally so. Spider-Man has always been the bridge between the everyman and the spectacular. Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like the most 2017 think you’ll see all year. Miraculously, everything about it feels current, timely, and fresh.
I’m gonna mention Donald Glover again, not only because I’m so proud of him and everything he’s worked for over the years, but because of the pivotal role he played in Spider-Man as an icon. Back in 2010, when Spider-Man 4 was canceled, a reboot was looming, and Community was at the height of its cult popularity, there was a Twitter campaign started you may remember — #Donald4Spiderman. It actually grew quite large, and posed an important question: why does Peter Parker need to be white? Couldn’t he be played by anyone? Andrew Garfield was eventually cast, but the problem remained, and Marvel Comics took notice. Seemingly starting the trend of mindfully-diversifying our heroes, Brian Michael Bendis (creator of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series — a parallel universe from the main comics) killed off Peter Parker and created Miles Morales; a half black, half Latino character inspired by Donald Glover. Miles is a 15-year-old poor kid from the Bronx who wins the lottery in two ways: he’s accepted into a prestigious science academy (the same we see Parker and co. attending in Homecoming) and, he’s bitten by a radioactive spider that may have crawled into the duffle bag of his villainous uncle.
Aaron Davis, played by Glover, mentions his nephew in the film, condemning the Shocker’s powerful and deadly weapons as too dangerous. He clearly cares about his family — a huge theme in Homecoming — and I’d put money on the fact that we’ll probably begin to care about his nephew too when he’s introduced into the Marvel universe sooner rather than later.
Marvel Studios films often face criticism that, because of the nature of the MCU, they feel flat and TV-like. Sometimes it’s in the way their shot, and other times because of the stakes that can sometimes fall short of threatening. Despite the comedic and lighter nature of the film, there are very distinctly dramatic and powerful scenes. It’s the Capital-C Cinema I was talking about earlier. Especially in the third act when Parker is put to the test by Michael Keaton’s terrific performance as Vulture. There’s a sense of devotion and power behind his character and his motivations, it’s palpable in Keaton’s famous micro-expressions. Motivated by family, Vulture ends up being one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kevin Feige said recently that 2019’s untitled Avengers film will be the conclusion to the 22-film arc that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building towards, with the upcoming Spider-Man sequel taking place mere minutes after the events of the film. Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is acting as the cornerstone for the future of Marvel, and it seems like a safe bet. There’s really no telling what Marvel Studios has to offer for years to come, but the train isn’t stopping anytime soon, even when Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, and company are reaching their final destinations. Even with the sometimes episodic nature of the MCU and after the sixteenth entry in the series, it’s still capable of evoking Capital-C Cinematic moments akin to Spider-Man 2’s famous train scene. This time, however, literally anyone has the potential to be behind the mask and inspire a generation. Even you.
Buy Spider-Man: Homecoming [Blu-ray] on Amazon
Nobody was excited for Star Trek Beyond until like, a month ago. The first Beastie Boys-infused trailer hit, and it was hailed as the least-Star Trek thing to ever Star Trek, and the marketing and promotional push from about a month ago, along with the positive buzz have skyrocketed excitement, and it’s nice to see a film not outright bomb at the bomb at the box office, especially a good one.
Star Trek (2009) is one of my favorite movies ever made. JJ Abrams had crafted a movie I could watch that flick on a loop for days, and I have before. Seeing that movie in startling IMAX with my closest friends in Arizona is an extremely vivid memory of mine. Even the heavily criticized and admittedly problematic Star Trek Into Darkness was a bright and zippy romp that many forget came out the same summer as brooding and stupid blockbusters like Man of Steel and World War Z. I’m not here to talk about any of those movies, though cause they’re not movies that came out in theaters today.
One movie of relevance that came out the year the Into Darkness mystery box was revealed was Fast And Furious 6, directed by who would eventually be JJ Abrams’ post-Star Wars replacement; Justin Lin.
I like the Fast and Furious movies, not as much as others, but I can see their value. They’re movies about family. They’ve got muscles and cars and muscle cars and most of all, explosions. Justin Lin has a competent, logical eye for action and can make complex sequences intelligible, which is no small feat. Matching that with a return-to-roots, big sci-fi vision of space exploration shared by co-screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, and you have what’s actually a juxtaposition, and one that the film doesn’t make gel quite like the predecessors.
You may not have liked Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, but JJ Abrams and co. knew exactly what they were making and exactly how they wanted you to feel watching it.
Here, all the pieces are in play. We have an incredibly charming, impeccable cast, a three-dimensional villain played by the brilliant Idris Elba, and a fascinating new character named Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. Michael Giacchino returns to score the feature, and with it, he plays with his astounding themes in experimental ways, but seems to pulls back the reigns when things get too ‘weird.’ There aren’t any pieces like “London Calling,” a memorable song from Into Darkness.
What’s left is a promise from co-star and screenwriter Simon Pegg, the self-elected Star Trek Reboot spokesperson that the series will return to its roots as a space exploration series. With Beyond acting more in tune with The Original Series, acting as both an epilogue to the show and a launching point from it, taking place three years into their five year mission (if you could possibly care about continuity at this point).
Let me get this out of the way, the movie is good. Make no mistake of that from the pessimism in my voice, the film is fine. The story is there. The cast is there. The set pieces are there (including a mesmerizing third act), and the charm seeps through, despite an apparent desire to disregard the previous film and wrap up every x thematic loose tie the previous films could’ve created. The characters you see in Star Trek Beyond are the characters you love from the original series from th60’s, and that’s probably exciting to many of you. Kirk growing up without his father, a casualty from the Kelvin Timeline, made him an inherently different character than William Shatner’s character, and that was very interesting to me. I thought that was interesting to everyone?
Now, we have obvious visual cues that Chris Pine has been watching and emulating William Shatner’s mannerisms, his signature expressions, and I definitely felt that. Everyone suffers the same fate. JJ Abrams’ Flanderization of the cast has been reversed, and the Star Trek films are now simply big-budget episodes of The Original Series, and that’s probably the best move for Paramount, Star Trek, and everyone involved, but it teeters on boring, and it’s definitely not the kind of film JJ Abrams would’ve made. Though JJ Abrams got to make the film he wanted to make, it’s called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Let me reiterate: Star Trek Beyond is fine. There are jokes. There are thrills. There are IMAX 3D tickets available on Fandango. It’s without a doubt one of the best blockbusters you’ll see this year, and in the upper-echelon of films, you’ll see this year, period. It has a Rihanna song in it! There’s not much more you could ask for from a Star Trek film or any film for that matter. So why am I feeling empty? What am I missing? Is it lens flares?
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you’ll know it when you see it).