Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness


J.J. Abrams
Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
132 min.
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

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Source Material

Four years after J.J. Abrams popular reboot of the Star Trek franchise, his latest vision once again takes us to familiar places, some of which we may not even realize we’ve seen before.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. That’s the phrase that too often precedes an aged joke that has been making the rounds in one form or another for several decades. These anecdotes, knock-knock jokes and assorted bits of humor aren’t necessarily as funny as the teller believes and are often followed by a series of groans. But there are still those who’ve never heard the joke or still laugh even though they’ve heard it before either because there’s nothing better out there or they simply don’t have the imagination to envision something better. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness embodies that phrase. It takes us familiar places, without much in the way of originality and public laps it up, not because it’s good, but because it’s better than some other junk out there and they believe this is the best that can be done.

In 2009, Abrams introduced the first reboot of the classic Star Trek characters with new faces in old roles and a new timeline to permit the producers to do whatever they wanted without having to answer to a well-established and rightfully well-regarded canonical history. Abrams carefully whittled away what made the property great, a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, a series of TV shows and movies that took the pseudo-Utopian future and crafted compelling adventure stories and witty asides that stoke the imagination of young and old viewers alike. Yet, he did so by creating a whiz-bang space action saga that cracked wise, including one-liners carefully selected from years of fan worship to tweak the right emotional response from hungry fans and never once crafting something unique or visionary. It was all old-hat, scenes, adventures and dialogue that we’d seen before.

After Star Trek, Abrams took a break and created the Spielbergian homage Super 8, which again provided enough thrills to delight audiences while hiding his inability to craft films that weren’t part-and-parcel direct copies of other films. The only visual distinctiveness he added to either of his prior projects was an obsessive and obtrusive use of manufactured lens flares. Yet, his movies made money and critics seemed to adore him in spite of these flaws and thus continues the Abrams vision of Star Trek, a film which suffers from all of the frustrations and frailties of his prior two films and is saved entirely by a solid slate of performances from an admittedly talented cast.

This time out, Abrams’ brood of writers, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof, went deeper into Star Trek canon and pulled out one of its most formidable opponents. And if you haven’t already been spoiled by this fact, you might want to stop reading now. Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch) was a genetically enhanced human put into a hyperbaric chamber to sleep for 300 years. Awoken by a war-hungry admiral to help create a battle-heavy starship that would make them the dominant force in the Alpha Quadrant, Khan (incognito as John Harrison) escapes and executes a series of brilliant, but stylistically under-emphasized, machinations that result in the death of of Kirk’s (Chris Pine) mentor (Bruce Greenwood). Seeking revenge, Kirk accepts Admiral Marcus’ (Peter Weller) to bring the Federations wrath down on the terrorist, threatening him with newly designed, long distance torpedoes that lead to a sudden stand off with Khan who surrenders to prevent the use of said weapons.

There is only one plotline at play here and it plays out mostly as expected. Cumberbatch is a terrific actor, but he’s saddled with some ham-fisted dialogue and generates a tear or two that seem out of character for the man portrayed in the rest of the film. Cumberbatch tries to add depth to a two-dimensional character, a villain whose only purpose is to pique the curiosity of admiring fans and wipe away all memory of the weak villain of the first film. Can you imagine what a talented screenwriter could have done with the duality of the Khan character and how conflicted and sympathetic he could have been? I certainly could, but in the hands of Orci, Kurtzman and, especially, Lindelof, that doesn’t really matter as long as they have a detestable bogeyman.

Which highlights one of my biggest problems with this latest reboot of the vaunted franchise. In spite of interviews that have clearly shown Abrams’ initial unfamiliarity with the Star Trek universe, the core Trek fan is an integral part of the marketing and success of this franchise. Paramount seems more interested in making money than they do staying true to it. Consider this: in the run-up to the 2009 film, Abrams and Paramount wanted to force CBS, who owns the rights to the original TV series, to pull all existing toylines from the market so that there was no “confusion” between the original series characters and the new ones. Those old toys still made millions for CBS and they weren’t willing to wipe them out of existence, keeping a part of the original flavor alive in the marketplace. Abrams was reportedly disgruntled over this and scrapped many plans he had for ancillary projects, including series reboots and other projects to bolster his monetary stake in the series. It highlights the issue I have with Abrams in this property.

Abrams has admitted in the past that he is a Star Wars fan and his sci-fi interests are more closely aligned with that property. What he did with Star Trek and now Into Darkness is turn the series into an action-heavy, plot-marginal rendition of Star Wars using Trek characters. The reason episodes like “Balance of Terror,” “City of the Edge of Forever,” (both from The Original Series) “The Best of Both Worlds” (from The Next Generation) were such compelling episodes was that they blended action with sci-fi elements that have defined the core of what makes the genre so compelling. We may not be alone in the universe, but the potential for metaphorical comparison with events and people is endless.

Trek has come to define what it’s like to push freedom, individuality and independence. It featured black, Russian and Japanese characters at a time when all were facing persecution in the U.S. The show generated the first interracial kiss on television, explored ideas of social justice and the dangers of ignorance while ushering in the modern era of technology like iPhones, sliding doors and now replicator technology, that wouldn’t have been possible without its forward-thinking ideas.

Yet, in a time with movies like District 9 and Moon creating moral imperatives and asking questions Trek once delved deeply into, it’s all the more dispiriting that Abrams has chosen to take this franchise to places its already been and regurgitate that which may be popular, but isn’t terribly inventive. I warned previously of spoiler material in my review, these next few sentences will reveal a climactic scene in the film. If you don’t want this ruined, do not read the rest of this paragraph. You can pick back up in the next. Take for example scenes late in the film that replicate elements from 1982’s Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. At the end of that film, a failing warp core sends an emotionless Vulcan into the radiation-heavy chamber to stop the imminent breech that will destroy the ship. As he lays dying, he places his iconic Vulcan hand against the close wishing Kirk a long and prosperous life. These scenes are reversed and injected into the final moments of the film, further demonstrating how Abrams can’t even create new moments without pulling what has worked in the past and using it again. It’s what he did with Spielberg’s work in Super 8, so we shouldn’t be surprised it shows up again here.

As much as I want to applaud the work of the cast who do a fantastic job impersonating characters that are part of the cinematic consciousness. As much as I want to stand up and cheer at the exciting and stirring action sequences. As much as I want to thank Cumberbatch for doing everything he can to infuse Khan with the kind of humanity Ricardo Montalban did in the original series and again in the film. I cannot do it. I gave the first film credit for being an exciting science fiction film that just happened to use Trek characters and otherwise hardly resembled the great franchise.

This time, I’m not going to celebrate more of the same. Sometimes, it takes real courage to take something in a new direction, but claiming that’s what you’re doing and not delivering it, but just redoing everything that’s gone before only showcases your limitations as a filmmaker. Apart from his ability to bring together fantastic actors and pay for top-notch visual effects, Abrams is unable to do anything more than ape his predecessors. His work is no more impressive than the likes of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich. The distinction here is that Abrams, and those critics who enable him, believe he’s a magnificent director, yet generates mediocre work. At least Emmerich recognizes that his work isn’t high art and he embraces that distinction, making his films distinctly more enjoyable, at least if you don’t permit yourself to believe the hype.

Star Trek: Into Darkness may seem like great entertainment, but if you break the film down into its basic parts, you’ll discover that there’s not a single original idea or execution to be found. You can put a mink coat on a sow, but that doesn’t make it anything more than a sow in a mink coat.
Oscar Prospects
Guarantees: Visual Effects
Probables: Makeup and Hairystling, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing
Review Written
May 24, 2013


Add a Comment
  1. Wesley,

    I enjoyed your review.

    I’ll comment a little on the last 3 paragraphs.

    In short, I couldn’t agree more. I was ready to put this movie right at the top with TWoK and First Contact as the franchises best until that horrible ending. I had even accepted “Khan”. As good as both these movies are, we both know that there are gaping plot holes in each, but it was how they told the story that makes one look past the “bad”. Both were original.

    A little snippet from my movie review (amateur here):

    “The problem is the writers just don’t get it. They played the standard reboot theme of taking literary license with past production to the point of “WTF”. Spock is still Spock. Nero’s incursion shouldn’t change that. Uhura shouldn’t change that. (Oh, if it’s not painfully obvious now, the Spock/Uhura thing needs to stop.) I understand the need to give Uhura more, but please don’t do it at the expense of McCoy. He’s too important here. Star Trek isn’t Batman, or The Hulk, or Star Wars. It’s not a place to “play”. Star Trek has always been more than those. I hope the writers for the next installment take that to heart a little more than they’ve shown in the first two. The crew is assembled. They’ve been through hell a couple times. Let’s use our imagination and create something fresh and new, something we can dream about, something positive. Pop-corn block-buster with lots of action – sure. But it also has to be a “Star Trek” movie. Make it “Trek” and you will be heralded. I want to take my kids to the next movie and I want them to learn something about life without seeing someone squeeze someone’s head until it bursts.”

    What’s so very frustrating and I guess that’s how I feel about this movie, is they made themselves a clean slate for storytelling in a wonderful universe and chose not to be creative. We all (for the most part) accepted ST2009 because of the wonderful cast and new direction only to be disappointed after waiting for four years and getting a watered down TWoK.

    Seems to be the standard in Hollywood now-a-days.


      1. Sorry. I didn’t have anything to add, so I didn’t comment.

  2. The J.J. Abrams films are ultimately “Star Wars” movies with “Star Trek” characters. Are they a desecration of Roddenberry’s original vision? Absolutely. Do Abrams and his writers care about preserving Roddenberry’s legacy or spirit? No. Do they care about sticking to the franchise’s continuity, established through roughly 50 years of “Star Trek” lore and canon? No. Do they care about making a thought-provoking sci-fi movie which asks the big questions? No. Ultimately, are they a betrayal of everything Roddenberry stood for? Yes.

    But are they great “Star Wars” movies with “Star Trek” characters? Yes.

    Whenever I see a movie, I try to see if it works in more than one way. Abrams’ films are “Star Trek” in name only, but they are excellent action movies set in space. In fact, I think that they wouldn’t attract this same level of scrutiny if they were marketed as an entirely different franchise. Paramount’s need to give “Star Trek” mass appeal is infuriating, and I look forward to the day when “Trek” goes back to being “Trek”. But ultimately, I have to give Abrams’ franchise credit for doing what it does well. In the end, it’s a “Star Wars” movie with “Star Trek” characters, and a great one at that. It’s still a betrayal of all things “Trek”, but it works exceptionally well in its own right.

    A few months ago, I panned “Zero Dark Thirty”, mainly because Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal marketed it as “journalistic”, even though it took great liberties with the information at hand. I thought that the movie was a manipulative work of propaganda. I still stand by my latter argument, but I decided to re-watch the movie while ignoring the facts and enjoying it merely as a film. Since then, it has become my favorite movie of 2012 and one of my favorite movies of this decade.

    I feel the same way about “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness”. They’re nothing like the “Trek” of old; they’re more action-packed and a lot less intellectual. But they’re ultimately “Star Wars” movies with “Star Trek” characters. When you stop thinking of them as “Trek” movies or trying to connect them to past franchises, it becomes much easier to appreciate. If it wasn’t called “Star Trek”, I know I would consider it a great movie. So I just consider it a great movie, while realizing that it isn’t “Trek”.

    With Abrams more than likely being replaced by a new director, I hope to see someone with a greater appreciation for the series’ message take over. Perhaps Bryan Singer or Neill Blomkamp. With the ball still in Bad Robot’s court, however, things will probably stay the same, which is fine if the series sticks to what it does best. At least Abrams recognizes that he’s making an action movie. He never makes the fatal mistake Lucas made with the “Star Wars” prequels: trying to make them both political and action-packed.

    1. Can we stop pretending that Roddenberry’s vision and things he stood for and Star Trek are the same thing? star Trek was always colaborative work and it has stopped following Rodenberry’s ideals long time ago.

  3. The interesting thing about your review is that your are technically correct about what it is Abrams is doing with these films. But the majority of Trek fans, me included, are not put off by this approach to the material; most of us are loving it. I haven’t been to any cons lately or perused the forums, so I could be missing some information, but I haven’t seen fan backlash from Abrams direction.

    Your point about the “core” of Star Trek is well taken and deserves consideration, but there are a few elements that you are not taking into account. One is that since the original crew stopped making films, there has been exactly ONE decent, deserving, worthwhile Trek film made, and that was First Contact. All others have stunk. All TV series since TNG have stunk. Trek has been in a state of continual rot since Captain Picard and crew closed shop on TV and made for the big screen. Now that isn’t to say that a more genuine Trek film cannot be made, but it certainly strains credulity to suggest that Abrams should have just whipped one up. And since you brought it up, you might want to think more about what made all those Trek feature films popular, and it was a well balanced combination of sci-fi, action, and comedy. Which (original) Trek films were the most popular? Wrath of Khan and Voyage Home and maybe Undiscovered Country, all grounded heavily in action with much less science. Which ones were universally bombed? Star Trek The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier, both more brainy and visionary in scope and human spirit than any other. So going back across the Trek film landscape, it’s clear that audiences respond to more action and some comedy and less brainy science. Now I’m with you on steeping Trek with as much real science as possible, but we have to remember that this entire concept is sci-fi, not science. If we want films that truly explore where science can take us, it won’t likely come from Trek lore, or any sci-fi franchise.

    So what Abrams really did with these films is preserve a long standing franchise of characters from death, and that was a real possibility. TNG was going nowhere on film and it’s successors, Voyager, DS9 and Enterprise were non-starters. So Trek was as close to becoming obsolete. In my opinion, this was the ONLY way to revive it. And the only way to make it palatable to a generation of viewers who don’t know a Tribble from Harry Mudd is to create a film that would appeal to their taste. It only makes sense to me that going back in time to revisit characters from future-yester-year necessitates we encounter some of the original show concepts/set pieces. Completely ignoring them would make far less sense to me. My guess is that the 3rd and 4th films in this series will embrace more original concepts and expand the scope while still touching on familiar territory. Beyond that its possible that the horizon is endless though we all know that after that 4th film, the franchise will likely be refreshed again with actors and directors looking to make their mark on the material.

  4. Not sure what to say…you are upset that the director used what? 10-15 minutes of recycled/throwback material? Khan? Thats like saying that Batman shouldn’t have the Joker or Scarecrow. What you refer to as “regurgitating the past” is paying homage in its own way. Perhaps if you were a fan of TOS you would catch the sheer amount of cross reference/inside jokery that both movies used. Maybe use google if you need some reminders? Stay classy.

    1. Actually, I AM a fan of the the original series and the continual cross references are idiotic but miss the entire point. Here’s a guy who said he wanted to take things a new direction and re-invent Star Trek, yet he devolves into little more than regurgitation of the past. The Star Trek universe is vast and he decides to go after a protagonist who was already done perfectly, not once but twice. This wasn’t a continuation of those stories like Wrath of Khan was to “Space Seed.”

      And Star Trek isn’t some comic book. For decades, comic books reboot, restart, refashion and otherwise manipulate themselves so that they are fresh for new audiences and any real comic book enthusiast will tell you that some of those reboots suck. The Joker or Scarecrow (who was BARELY used in the latest franchise) would appear frequently in the comic books, a regular foil for the hero. They are recurring characters and villains. And if we must refer to Nolan’s Batman, then let’s be plain. Nolan not only went a different direction, he jettisoned much of what had been done before and created a very complex, compelling story out of it.

      Yes, he used the Joker, but he made the man a complex, compelling character of intense depth and psychosis, matching perfectly nearly every incarnation there ever was of the character. The Khan in this new Star Trek bears little resemblance to the one embodied by Ricardo Montalban who was a charming sociopath who had layers of depth and while he may have been a villain, you actually had compassion for him. As good an actor as Benedict Cumberbatch is, his version of Khan was depth-less, manipulated by a screenwriter and filmmaker into someone little more than a sneering, mustache-twirling maniac. Yes, he was genetically enhanced like the original and had superior planning intellect like the original, but there was no soul to his depravity. Everything was a manipulation and nothing was even remotely human. Montalban had that.

  5. I think your two stars were generous. I am not a trekkie but my older brother is and I grew up watching the original series. My impression of this reboot is they are doing a lazy rip-off of the original characters etc without getting at the essence of the old show at all. Star Trek was essentially serious, yes there was banter and light comedy and action but at heart it was a show for adults. The reboot is trying to be, as you said, a more accessible ‘star wars’ version that will appeal to kids and women as well as the trek base and I think it just adds up to a mess. The supporting characters are caricatures of the originals, Scotty is buffoonish and Checkov is hapless. Sulu has ‘up and coming captain’ written all over him, too much so. Kirk, as we are told again and again, is reckless and daring. Spock walks around with a pinched expression most of the film and is simply the butt of jokes. McCoy is treated as an annoyance with his medical probes. In general the characters were trivialized, I thought.

    regarding your point about recycling old ideas I agree though I’m more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt and say it was a well-intended but overly obvious attempt to pay homage to the original. The result though was tiresome, at least to me. In general I knew everything that was going to happen before it did.

    the attempts to add contemporary relevance (torpedo = drone) were not followed through, and the plot device of having the real bad guy be on our side instead of the other side is treadworn moral relativism imo. regarding the new warship, I hated it, secretly building a new starship five times the size of the old and staffing it with a crew of a half-dozen people seemed silly, and making it black inside like the death star was dumb. In general I don’t believe the writers made a serious effort to make the technology and the action believable, which is an important element of science fiction. No this was an box-office driven action film using characters and plot borrowed from a science fiction series, nothing more, with way too many attempts to go for the audience’s heart.

    regarding Kahn, I enjoyed the actor but question the characterization of Kahn, who basically was a more interesting and violent version of Spock. The original Kahn had charisma and was very much human, this guy was bloodless even robotic. The original Kahn was intelligent but inexperienced in the new technologies (although he found weaknesses to exploit), this guy may as well have designed them. He was far too powerful and far too competent with starships etc to be believable (even if the admiral gave him access). and why would technology 300 years old produce something superior to the current time? wouldn’t genetics have advanced? the only way it makes sense is if it was banned and forgotten, but if they talked about that I missed it.

    1. I do not recall them discussing it. I think they were hoping most would ignore it, or Trekkies would add their own historical knowledge. After the Eugenics Wars, genetic testing and manipulation was strictly forbidden. That did not stop them from experimenting. If you haven’t seen Deep Space Nine, it is revealed later in the series that Dr. Julian Bashir was part of a secret project to test new genetics programs that weren’t used for military purposes but for breeding out weaknesses and removing potential developmental disabilities. They discuss it on a few occasions in Deep Space Nine.

      That’s neither here nor there, though. The producers weren’t really that interested in explaining things (see Lindelof’s handling of Prometheus as a prime example of the “mystery box” idiocy) and I don’t think we’ll ever get more details.

      As for my star rating. I was torn on that. I had originally assigned it a 1.5-star rating, but while writing my review, I felt the good elements deserved some extra credit in spite of my overall disdain for Abrams and his “techniques.”

    2. Dean, the reason the new Khan was so familiar with the technology is because he helped design it. The eugenics used to create Khan produced a human that was far superior physically as well as intellectually, but apparently not emotionally. This is kind of a flaw in the idea from both the new film and the old Trek version, or maybe its just a subtle warning. At any rate, the original Khan quickly read and understood the ship’s technical manuals (in what appeared to be less than a day), which makes one wonder what kind of dumb-ass captain would hand over technical manuals to his prized space ship to a total stranger? That approach strained the imagination far greater than this new approach did.

      In WOK, Khan is seen as even more violent and unreasonable and blames Kirk for the (natural) explosion of a planet that ultimately caused his people to become helplessly marooned on a lifeless world. He blamed Kirk??? The guy who was completely within his rights to have killed Khan or at least put him back to eternal sleep? How’s that for dumb writing? And let’s not forget the obvious flaw of Khan/Checkov instantly recognizing one another even though Checkov wasn’t even aboard the Enterprise when Khan was first discovered. Lazy writing.

      My point here is to make it clear that NO Trek film is a perfect piece of artwork; they all have flaws, many of them quite silly. And I see the criticisms of Mr. Lovell to be equally silly.

  6. Regarding a spoiler you mentioned…

    *Don’t continue if you skipped the spoiler!*

    I don’t think the scene where Kirk is irradiated whilst realigning the warp core is simply a derivative piece thrown in by a mediocre director (as you suggest)… I think it’s more of a nod to the reboot being an alternate time lime to the original series where the Enterprise’s adventures have already taken place, and now will occur again but not necessarily in exactly the same way. Previously, Spock the Elder had promised his younger self he would share an enduring friendship with Kirk which would define them both – I thought switching Kirk with Spock and having the emotionless Vulcan (whom everyone has spent the movie teasing about being unfeeling) be the one to roar “Kaaaaahhhhnnn!” to be not only a nice homage to the original Wrath of Kahn, but stirring, symbolic of Spock’s actual concealed feelings and a way of keeping certain important events similar to the original stories but still shaking them up a bit.

    Yes, perhaps redoing classic material isn’t a brave directorial move, but maybe they just know the general audience prefers what it is familiar with…? There’s a lot of money on the line with big budget I.P. reboots these days, which may explain why Star Trek largely stays in touch with its roots. It’s supposed to be an alternate reality/ time line of the same thing though, so that also explains it too… (Boldly Going where it has been before).

    That said, I do agree with the bulk of your sentiments and review, I just think the derivative elements are there because they think the audience would want and expect them to be.

    1. They had already established a new world and adopted a new audience with the original film. The necessity of regurgitating the past was moot. The first film did not re-tell events from the original series or films, so they had already set themselves up to a point where they didn’t need to pay homage copy anything from the original franchise. They did. That shows a disingenuous belief that the audience would only return for what was familiar.

      I read an article about the original film’s writers (which didn’t include Damon Lindelof) wanting to avoid using Khan all together. Lindelof muscled in and forced them to use Khan but was given the condition by the other writers that they NOT tie it to the original film. Then, as the screenplay was being written, Lindelof basically manipulated things so that they did pull directly from the original film and thus we have a largely copies sequence of events. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say Abrams was entirely culpable of the derivation. But it was his responsibility to avoid overt reference to the original film and create a new vision. It goes back to my issues with Super 8, which was that he didn’t branch out from the familiar.

      Look at what Christopher Nolan did with Batman Returns and The Dark Knight. These were films using characters we were already familiar with, but twisted enough to make them new, exciting and intriguing. Even The Amazing Spider-Man shows a willingness to move to a different path while keeping things slightly similar to the first franchise (largely because that’s the original of Spider-Man, not because they felt they had to pay service to the fans, and I know a supremely devoted fan of the Spider-Man mythos, intimately familiar with its various stories, and he feels that the new vision is more faithful than the Sam Raimi version). Even the Hulk films took the character to new and diverging places.

      The idea that audiences MUST be force-fed things that are familiar to earn their dollars shows a genuine disdain for them and a notable lack of vision and originality. Having to constantly reference past films as an effort to avoid alienating your “new” fanbase is a cop-out answer by a director who hired a writing team that was dominated by a man with a lack of ideas. Once again Damon Lindelof has meddled in events where he wasn’t wanted or needed. I point you no further than Prometheus for continued examples of everything that’s wrong with Lindelof as a writer. Had Orci and Kurtzman not been involved, I fear the worst for what Lindelof would have done with it.

      1. Wesley, I don’t think its reasonable to compare the Trek films with those of Batman or Spider-Man. These are vastly different in many ways, as you noted in an earlier post. When you suggest that the film makers explore new territory, the only thing that keeps coming to my mind are the horrible plots of Generations, Nemesis and Insurrection. Could Abrams do better than that? I don’t know, but it’s my strong opinion that no man should ever go there again.

        1. I respect your thoughts on this matter even if I don’t completely agree with them. I don’t consider Generations a execrable experience. It was entertaining for what it was and launched what could have been a fantastic franchise for the TNG crew. First Contact was a brilliant exploration of what made Trek great. And I’d contend that Wrath of Khan and Voyage Home, both of which you cite, had a great deal more to say about life and the human condition than anything Abrams could ever consider.

          Here’s the thing. Science fiction isn’t about science’s impact on our lives, but is about a reflection of modern social troubles in a futuristic society that has moved past these ideas. Wrath of Khan speaks for and against genetic mutations and manipulation as a future tech and Voyage Home discusses the environment and its impact on the oceans and its wildlife. Yes, they had a focus on action and that’s perfectly understandable in a cinematic landscape, but it’s backing up that action with sound writing, strong acting and premises that made you think moreso than they made you go “ooh and ahh.” My problem with Abrams, his ilk and the plethora of directors who are mining our cultural history for their own monetary benefit, is that they don’t have much concern for what made the past great. They only care about what will put butts in the seats. They are beholden to their corporate leaders, not the actual fans that made the series what it is today.

          As to your assertion that nothing was good after TNG, there is a distinct subset of Trekkies who feel that Deep Space Nine was a fantastic show. While it didn’t go the Wagon Train in the Stars route, it did what great science fiction was supposed to do. It examined society from a futuristic perspective. Voyager less so and Enterprise was an ill-conceived idea that worked better in its first season than it had any right to. But any one of these were better than TMP and Final Frontier.

          I gave Abrams a chance. As someone pointed out to me after I decried his first Trek film, he needed to reboot it in a way that brought it back to life before getting back to what made Trek great. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Abrams had an opportunity to do something more, both exciting and humanistic, yet all he could manage was Into Darkness, which still remains unnecessarily removed from its core tenets.

          Yes, there are Trekkies, for lack of other sources to continue their fascination with the Star Trek movies have glommed onto the new series and supported it in spite of knowing it’s nothing like what it once was, but there are plenty of us who feel something else should have and could have been done. And I guarantee if you gave those Trek fans who had lost hope something different, something that better reflected Trek’s founding ideals, they would switch their admiration to that in an instant and likely jettison what Abrams has so far done as an inferior, even if necessary, betrayal of Roddenberry’s vision.

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