Many years ago I read a book called "All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek". It was a tongue-in-cheek look at how Star Trek's stories can be used to solve many of life's basic conundrums ranging from treating people fairly to keeping your phaser dry. Little did I know that one of Star Trek's key lessons would teach me about... Star Trek. Specifically, when to stay away from Star Trek.
The piece of insight to which I refer comes from the classic Star Trek episode "Friday's Child", wherein Scotty gives a piece of advice that has stayed with me all my life. After being duped by a fake distress call, he ignores a second one, sagely stating "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!" This insight into human nature has helped me time and time again throughout life. And so it will again in dealing with the upcoming Star Trek Beyond.
Beyond is the third film of the "reboot" made in 2009's Star Trek which was produced and directed by Lost creator and lens flare aficionado JJ Abrams. In that film, we were introduced to an alternate universe version of the Star Trek we all knew for decades. It had all the classic characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. – but they weren't quite what we knew from the earlier incarnation. And not in a good way, in this fan's opinion. And because those first two films used up all my good will – and patience – I refuse to give in to the temptation to give these film-makers another chance. For me, it's really just another opportunity for people who make, what is in my opinion, fundamentally bad films in general – and bad Star Trek films specifically – to make another buck off of me without delivering anything beyond overdone space battles that ultimately signify nothing but their inability to write a decent script.
Throughout the first two "reboot" films, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) we are given an all-new back-story to James Kirk which defines the direction for these movies. Instead of the smart and highly-competent starship officer which we were first introduced to in the original TV series, we're given a character who inexplicably goes from drifter to Starfleet cadet to First Officer instantly, simply because the plot needs it. There's ZERO logic to it – it simply happens. And that is, in short, the problem with the rebooted universe. Everything happens because the plot needs it to happen, not because it makes sense. Nothing makes sense!
"Flawed" should not mean "stupid"
I'll use the character of Kirk to illuminate the differences these new movies have introduced, much to my chagrin.
Throughout the run of the original series and the films that were based on that series, we're shown a Captain James T. Kirk (to me, Real Kirk) that could be obsessive ("Obsession"), selfish ("The Motion Picture"), impetuous (you name it), and arrogant (you name it, again). In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, his disregard for regulations opens the Enterprise to attack by Khan in the stolen Reliant. As a result, Real Kirk's ship is in tatters and crewmen are killed. It's one of the few times were Real Kirk's decision-making has lead to dire consequences. When he realizes what his actions have done, Real Kirk tells Saavik, "you go right on quoting regulations!" as a mea culpa. This is in stark contrast to the Reboot Kirk who makes one bad decision after another but faces no consequences. In Into Darkness Reboot Kirk's decision to let Khan out of the brig specifically results in the deaths of at least hundreds and probably thousands of people in San Francisco when the Enterprise falls out of the sky. Yet, he apparently gets no blame and keeps his command. We have no idea why. In that same film, Reboot Kirk also gets upset with Spock for telling Starfleet about his violation of the Prime Directive so that Spock could be saved. Apparently, he expected Spock to lie! Real Kirk would have assumed Spock would of course tell the truth and he, Kirk, would stand by his actions and accept responsibility for them. Real Kirk, for all his flaws, is a decent, honest man. Reboot Kirk is child-like, none too bright and is not deserving of his position.
Unrecognizable (silly) characters
Unfortunately, Kirk is not the only character to get tweaked. For some reason, Spock and Uhura become The Bickersons, a romantic couple that can't seem to keep their relationship issues to themselves. During a particularly dangerous mission, Uhura launches into a diatribe about how Spock is such a lousy boyfriend. Note to writers: having a female character rant about her boyfriend during a moment of danger is not showing us an empowered woman. Quite the contrary. In the original series, Uhura was always portrayed as a highly competent professional, not a love-sick teenager. Stick to that example, please!
Another unrecognizable character was Khan in Into Darkness. And by "unrecognizable", I mean literally unrecognizable! The character made famous by Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán was suddenly portrayed by the whitest of white guys, Benedict Cumberbatch. It made no sense whatsoever, but in a film that showed no ability to make sense, it fit right in.
Plots that make no sense (See? I told you.)
Both reboot films suffer from a total lack of common sense in their respective story-telling. While in command of the Enterprise, Spock decides that a rebellious Kirk needs to be banished to a harsh moon instead of simply being thrown into the brig. Why? Because it was a way to get Kirk onto a harsh moon for an action sequence after which he could meet Spock Prime who also just happened to be banished on the same moon. Wait, what? That makes no sense? No shit.
Then there's the "magic transporter", a plot device contrived to get characters from point A to point B that is, IMO, so incredibly stupid because going forward it negates the very basis of Star Trek – the need of a ship to go from place to place. It's used in both films, and the second time is even worse – ie: dumber! – than the first!
Add in crazy, blood-thirsty Admirals who have a model of their super-secret starship sitting right out in the open in their office, "magic Khan blood" that apparently cures death from that moment on, a super-smart Khan who can somehow design 23rd-century weapons of mass destruction but can't figure out how to thaw out his buddies frozen in their 20th century sleep units. He can even design a missile around them but can't wake them up! Riiiiight.
Don't get me started on the plot contrivances that yielded a mini "Wrath of Khan" redo with Kirk and Spock switching places in the story. "Contrived" doesn't begin to describe it. "Crap" does, though.
Enough is enough.
When the Harrison character in Into Darkness eventually revealed himself to be Khan, something snapped in my head. JJ Abrams had insisted that lily-white Cumberbatch wasn't playing Khan. Cumberbatch, himself, had insisted that he wasn't playing Khan. Only he was. But Khan COULD NOT look like Benedict Cumberbatch! He couldn't SOUND like Benedict Cumberbatch! That would just be stupid, right?
Correct. And so the straw that broke the camel's back snapped in my head and I no longer gave a damn about what happened in this silly, stupid piece of shit movie that was Star Trek In Name Only as far as I was concerned. It all played out in one silly action sequence after another, none of which made sense in any way but were simply woven together to get lots of things to go "bang" and to show pretty lights and explosions. It was the movie version of jangling keys in front of a baby. They don't require content, either.
I won't be missing out
I can hear you now. But, Don, you might miss out on a great movie!!" you're no doubt saying. But that's not possible, in this writer's opinion. There's a doctrine that states that fruit of the poisonous tree is tainted. And so it is with Star Trek Beyond. Any story that is based on the characters we've seen so far holds no interest for me. For me, it is not possible to have a good Trek film based on a Kirk that doesn't deserve his position and has displayed such poor judgement over and over. In short, it features characters that I just don't care about.
It can't be good since there are magic transporters that negate the need of a starship altogether and magic blood that has conquered death itself. The first time you see the Enterprise, ask yourself this: since they have the magic transporters, why is there an Enterprise at all? Will there be a line of dialog that explains those universe-shaking concepts away? I doubt it.
Given the way the first two films have gone, I can only imagine what piece of magical technology will be created to help the plot in Beyond. A Magic Tricorder that can tell the future?
If only that were a stretch.
I'll save my money. And my sanity.