J.J. Abrams’ first two Star Trek films weren’t entirely about spectacle — they certainly dealt with some #issues and bigger ideas, but they were still glossy, big budget blockbusters at the end of the day. Although co-writer Simon Pegg has said that Star Trek Beyond goes back to the series’ roots — more fun, more interesting concepts — his co-star Chris Pine has a slightly more cynical take on the franchise.

It is entirely feasible to make a smart, fun blockbuster that’s more than just nice to look at (see Mad Max: Fury Road), but as Pine tells SFX magazine (via TrekMovie.com), it’s not as possible you think in “today’s marketplace”:

You can’t make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016. It just wouldn’t work in today’s marketplace. You can hide things in there – Star Trek Into Darkness has crazy, really demanding questions and themes, but you have to hide it under the guise of wham-bam explosions and planets blowing up. It’s very, very tricky. The question that our movie poses is “Does the Federation mean anything?” And in a world where everybody’s trying to kill one another all of the time, that’s an important thing. Is working together important? Should we all go our separate ways? Does being united against something mean anything?

We’ve seen hints of what Pine mentions above, and Lin has spoken a bit about it in interviews: The narrative of Star Trek Beyond explores the relevance of the Federation in such a diverse world, particularly when not everyone sees what they’re doing as heroic. That’s also relevant on a real-world political level, and it sounds fascinating.

But as Pine sees it, they’re sort of hiding this message-y stuff under CGI explosions and action sequences — the way a parent might hide veggies in the mashed potatoes to trick their kid into eating them.

Still, he kind of has a point in a broader sense, as blockbuster action flicks are typically a bit brainless. The focus is more on entertainment value than intellectual value, and again, achieving that balance is possible — if that’s your mission.

Star Trek Beyond hits theaters on July 22.

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