Blockbuster Review: Under the sea in 'Finding Dory' vs out of this world in 'Star Trek'

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With only a few short days left until the semester really gets started, this upcoming weekend could be the last chance to escape your new reality of papers, exams and late-night study sessions. So where do you go – deep beneath the waves to experience the bold and beautiful world of Pixar’s newest release, “Finding Dory,” or straight through the atmosphere to kick some alien ass in “Star Trek Beyond?”

Given the choice, I’d choose shooting blasters and dodging asteroids nine times out of 10, but not this time around. Despite its philosophical origins, the “Star Trek” series has amounted to little more than a bunch of Michael Bay movies set in zero G. Sure, it’s fun to watch Captain Kirk survive one mind blowing explosion after another for no reason beyond, well, being Captain Kirk, but good sci-fi isn’t just about being a smart ass in space surrounded by hot aliens with daddy issues.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely about that, but it’s also about asking big questions about life, morality and humanity’s place in it all in a larger, intergalactic setting that forces us to reevaluate the idea that one person, species or planet could ever be the center of the universe. “Star Trek,” at least in its most recent incarnation, can’t even get the audience to question whether or not Captain Kirk will survive his various misadventures – of course he will, or he’d be wearing a red shirt.

Beyond the decision to make Admiral Sulu “Star Trek’s” first openly gay character, a homage to actor and LGBT activist George Takei that you could easily miss if you happened to be reaching for popcorn at the wrong moment, the movie’s creators seem to have lost sight of what made the original show special. In its quest to appeal to everyone and offend no one, the series that featured one of television’s first interracial kisses, called out America’s involvement in the Vietnam War and even took on the concept of non-binary gender and conversion therapy has failed to make more than the shallowest of social statements.

A movie doesn’t have to be some arthouse flick to say something important, though. “Finding Dory’s” surprising depth (get it, because fish live underwater) is evidence enough that mass appeal and meaning can go together. Taking place several fish years after the original, “Finding Nemo,” Dory’s tale follows the perpetually forgetful blue tang’s quest to locate her missing parents – or rather, to remember where she left them.

Filled with familiar characters and inside jokes, the film definitely felt like a sequel, and literally jumped numerous sharks, but the ending was among Pixar’s tearjerking finest and took the conclusion of “Finding Nemo” one step further. Having learned to trust his son, who was born with a stunted fin, in the previous installment, Marlin goes on the learn that Dory – whose chronic memory loss amounts to a pretty serious mental disability – is just as capable of doing things in her own way.


Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.