Screaming Through the New Star Trek Movie (spoilers)

First let me be up front about my prejudices. The current Star Trek movie is unquestionably the best of the group. Wrath of Kahn used to be my favorite. The rest range from breathtakingly poor to solidly mediocre (see RottenTomatos for their ratings of the ST films sans the current one). This is not just a great Star Trek movie, it’s just flat out great SciFi.

But a complaint. A biological complaint. Actually, this complaint could be lodged against any number of motion pictures. It annoys and frustrates me every time I see it. I don’t know how this started. I don’t know why it became standard fare on the big screen. Maybe some film historian could track it down and find its sources, but, holy cow, it drives me crazy. So this is a call out to every filmmaker out there. Stop the nonsense. Please.

What is it? What could drive me to the edge of sanity? First, remember, there are generally lots of biological sins in film. On the whole, however, I am quite forgiving. I extend grace as a rule. I smile and nod at the most egregious biological naiveties. Indeed, in most films I could almost be considered a saint. I am kind. But on this I draw the line. I can’t go there. Like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “If I bend that far, I will break.”

If you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading. If you want to preserve its sense of perfection, quit reading. But I’m about to ruin many movies so you may want to stop reading anyway.

Here it is: Predators don’t scream at their prey. They just don’t. Predation is a chancy occupation. Its success rates are low. For every prey you manage to grab around 75-95% get away. You’ve got to be stunningly quick on the grab. Predtors have evolved all kinds of mechanisms for holding onto those elusive quarry: claws, teeth designed for holding on, sharp beaks, etc. Predation is not something that allows you to stop and scream at your prey in order to give it a good scare before you make the grab. You grab quickly and hold on for dear life. You cause its death swiftly so it quits struggling. Bottom line: you seize and kill as rapidly as possible. You never, ever, ever pause to scream at it. Never.

Please Hollywood. Stop the nonsense.

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6 Responses to Screaming Through the New Star Trek Movie (spoilers)

  1. S.Faux says:


    Would you stop your screaming! Your are scaring your readers away.

    Hollywood is never going to discontinue misrepresenting predators. It is good business to activate the “fight or flight” nervous systems of the frightened audiences. The best movie ticket in town always gives a good autonomic buzz to its victims.

    Besides, have you not noticed that theaters are loud? Yet, we are sucked in like a school of fish. The theater is like a mouth and the seats are teeth. We just think we are there to be entertained, but the monster screams at us and then swallows. Then, when we leave the mouth cavity we think we are going home, but in reality we are just going further down the monster’s digestive track.

    You are right. Going to movies will never be the same. [Sound effects: theme music from Jaws].

    OK, I really need to go to bed.

  2. David B. Gonzalez says:

    I’ve noted this and it used to get my dander up. Then I started watching my two dogs “stalk” their prey. Idiots, the both of them. I will grant that their behavior is an artifact of vestigial pack behavior and highly selective domestication but something dawned on me:

    If I were going to shoot a movie with a big scary space monster/underground goblin/shark I’d definitely do it with a domesticated one!

  3. Bull Moose says:

    You are assuming the space nasties portrayed in these scenes are “predators” attacking for food.

    Could it be that they are simply defending their territory, and the scream is akin to a bear’s growl while standing on its hind legs, a gorilla’s scream while charging, a rattlesnake’s rattle, or a cobra’s hood and hiss?

  4. SteveP says:

    Bull Moose, Good thought. I discounted it though because of the protracted pursuit. (Although, my son is on your side and argued that very thing after my complaint). Bears is a good example though and I had not thought of that. In warning displays there is usually no attempt to capture the assailant though and it is usually abandoned after the warning. (Ok, Ok I know these are aliens so how big is the territory?). I like the thought, though and it would allow the movie to move up several notches which I really want to do.

  5. ujlapana says:

    Maybe the alien screaming is a spandrel. Not all features as they currently exist are optimized, right?

    I really liked the big red alien because it was so different. Most sci-fi aliens just look like humans with make-up on. I mean, what are the odds of that? We were almost all cephalopods, right?

  6. Jason C says:

    Watching Planet Earth (BBC) with my kids one day I saw killer whales (orcas) grabbing little seal pups, hauling them out into the water, and tossing them 50 feet or so in the air, repeatedly. It appeared as if it was great fun!

    Perhaps that race of aliens got off on seeing the fear in their prey’s eyes. Maybe it was just good fun.

    But, true, there definitely was no predatorial screaming by the orcas.

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