Star Trek: Into Darkness Condemns Trilogy To Obscurity

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  • Science Fiction

Star Trek 09 is by no means a great film. It’s a valiant and often times enjoyable effort that sees Abrams and company attempt to recapture what made Roddenberry's vision so singular whilst adhering to the obligatory cues required to make an accessible blockbuster in the 21st century. The cast do serviceable jobs portraying heightened angsty iterations of the admittedly one note characters the general movie going population know mostly by osmosis, and the slow atmospheric pace of the television show is tweaked considerably to more closely resemble the sleek digestible brand of sci-fi made popular by Star Wars .

Because of that, the story doesn’t feel like the serialized explorations of STTOS , but the clever way in which it effectively reboots the franchise without eradicating its long and celebrated history sorta makes up for it. All in all, the first film excelled as a summer blockbuster, fared competently as an adaptation, and served as a promising send off to what would ultimately be a culturally unremarkable trilogy.

That’s the odd truth of it. Even in the context of Star Trek fandom, the Abrams trilogy seems to have gotten left behind in terms of impact, despite finishing relatively strong. Could it be that its divisive middle chapter aged poorly in the short years since its release? Enough to cast a shadow over the once well regarded franchise ?

If so, it would be more than a deserved fate in my opinion. Into Darkness doubled down on the action movie tropes it occasionally leaned on in the first film, effectively abandoning the Star Trek tropes that tempered its charm. The cast was just as serviceable as they were back in 09, except this time they had less to do and say. Kirk’s devil-may-care ladies man routine made him seem stagnant, Spock's duality, which was aggressively uncharacteristic even in the first film, was exasperated by the continuation of his and Uhura’s hackneyed love plot. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an admirable performance that is wholly blighted by the misguided decision to retread Wrath of Khan, i.e the film that is widely regarded as the stand out best in the entire series.

What appeared to be an attempt at making elements of the television show more intelligible for general audiences in the first film, morphed into out right contempt in its sequel. Its tone and timbre is defiant. It seems to say “Anything you can do I can better.” Which is a starkly different mission statement than the star truck unostentatious one delivered by the very same Abrams in The Force Awakens. It puts a bad taste in your mouth. It reads as a soulless bastardization of a work perhaps not quite understood by the filmmakers. That isn’t exactly an unforgivable offense in and of itself. It is possible to adapt another creator’s vision competently without having absolute reverence for it, see X-men 2 or even the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.

What makes Star Trek Into Darkness’s lack of regard for its own source material so vulgar is the half hearted way it implements cheap references to make you think the contrary. “Look nerd, it's a tribble. Live long and prime directive, you fucking four eyed pigs.”

While I didn’t leave the theatre hating the film, I did feel somewhat disinterested in where Abrams and friends would take the Enterprise next. Clearly I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, as evident by the underwhelming box office performance of its vastly superior sequel Star Trek: Beyond.

The first two entries were simply not Star Trek movies, it’s moot at this point. Star Trek Beyond doesn’t quite get there either but it comes the closest and has the most fun trying. Simon Pegg crafts a screenplay so refreshingly dissimilar to the standard action fare of its predecessors it at times feels like a soft reboot. Spock and Uhura's love bleh is nixed early on, Kirk actually exhibits leadership skills, and the plot is permeated with the kind of cosmic ethical dilemmas prevalent in both Next Generation and TOS. Unfortunately this all seem to come a little too late.

To brand Beyond a complete and utter bomb would be an overstatement, but the film made considerably less at the box office than Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness . Is the latter to blame? Almost certainly. The backlash against it has been surmounting steadily every year since its release. Trekkies scorned the film for many of the reasons I mentioned earlier, and i think the general movie going public simply had a tough year that year.

Between Man of Steel , World War Z , Oblivion and Fast and the Furious 6 , it’s quite possible that in their mind, Into Darkness got lost in a sea of the kind of loud dumb action romps Abrams, Lindelof and Kurtzman were so eager to abandon the true nature of the property for.

Into Darkness isn’t an awful film, nor is it the worst Star Trek film, but its shortcomings are of the variety that puts a sort of unfortunate pall over the previous and subsequent entries in the franchise. It's the sort of mean spirited distortion of a property we’ve progressed passed. The days of directors for hire taking on things like Batman cause “why not” are long gone. Genre fans have platforms and they're vocal. They effectively decide what gets made and to a certain degree by who. So before you sign that contact to adapt “fill in beloved property here,” you better be one of them, if not go home and do some research cause these wackos will bury you and your million dollar hack job. Good Luck, Star Trek: Discovery, we’ll check back later this year.

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