Two weeks ago, I was off from work on a Tuesday to deal with some personal matters. To take the edge off, I decided to pop over to the local Carmike Cinemas and catch a matinee of Star Trek: Beyond.
I was not terribly fond of J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot. Further, I absolutely abhorred its sequel Into Darkness and among my circle of friends, I was not alone in that sentiment. When early reviews for Star Trek: Beyond were surprisingly effusive from those very same friends, I thought I’d give it a chance—and I’m glad I did.
Finally, they got it right.
Star Trek: Beyond, while not perfect, is a grand adventure that allows generous screen time to each cast member. The story was well-written, although it’s another variation of “we have met the enemy, and he is us” that seems to plague Starfleet in some of the previous films such as Undiscovered Country, Insurrection, and the aforementioned Into Darkness. I won’t give away spoilers, but you’ll understand if you see it.
The pacing, action, and humor were impeccable and the tribute to Leonard Nimoy and the original cast was a fine touch. Even if the last two films didn’t do it for you, I recommend Star Trek: Beyond. As both a writer and a loyal Star Trek fan, collector, and convention attendee since the late 70s, I actually walked away from this film feeling buoyant, as if the weight of my recent personal stresses had been lifted, if only temporarily.
After that, things got weird…or should I say strange. Last week, my wife learned about the new eight-episode Netflix mini-series, Stranger Things. I hadn’t heard one peep about it until we sat down to watch it and I was instantly hooked by this atmospheric science fiction thriller.
It’s 1983 in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. Led by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), the Department of Energy conducts mind experiments on an 11-year-old girl named, appropriately, Eleven (deftly portrayed by Millie Brown). At the same time, Will Byers, a boy of similar age, goes missing. His frantic mother (Winona Ryder) and older brother (Charlie Heaton) are convinced that Will is alive, but their search leads them to bizarre and horrifying territory.
The two plots intersect in a story that channels everything from The Twilight Zone to E.T. to The Goonies.
Although much darker, Stranger Things is comprised of many of the same tropes and story elements as J.J. Abrams’s Super 8 (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Both focus on the adventures of a group of pre-teen boys and one girl, clueless parents, an alien creature, and a secret government project.
Stranger Things is not only privileged with brilliant casting, but the 80s styles, music, and pop culture references were crafted with a respectful nostalgia for the time period in which I grew up. I look forward to season two!