#745 – Review: Star Trek Into Darkness
I ranked my favorite Star Trek movies but realized I hadn’t watched a lot of them for a long time. I am watching them again in chronological order and sharing some of my thoughts after a fresh viewing. Maybe some of the movies will have a chance to move up my list after watching them again.
This week I watched Star Trek. This week I watched Star Trek Into Darkness.
I’ve already reviewed Star Trek Into Darkness. I saw it in the theater last May and have watched again numerous times. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness initially and that hasn’t changed with subsequent viewings.
There as been a lot of backlash against Star Trek Into Darkness. At a Star Trek convention earlier this year it was voted as the worst Star Trek movie of all time. Apparently no one at the convention had seen Star Trek: Insurrection.
While I don’t think Star Trek Into Darkness is a perfect Star Trek movie, it’s still entertaining. In my original review I also wrote that it has a lot more heart than its slickness and lens flares would suggest.
Here are some additional thoughts I’ve had about Star Trek Into Darkness since I first watched it. Major spoilers are on their way so, if necessary, proceed with caution.
Even seven months after its release, Star Trek Into Darkness is still making news. Recently J.J. Abrams admitted that they shouldn’t have tried to keep Khan’s role in the movie a secret. Abrams said that they were trying to avoid alienating new viewers who might have been alienated by the inclusion of an old villain. A lot of the animosity towards Into Darkness is directed at its parallels with The Wrath of Khan. A lot of fans wish that Abrams and company had left The Wrath of Khan alone instead of poorly mimicking some of its best parts in Into Darkness.
In spite of its similarities, we shouldn’t compare Into Darkness with The Wrath of Khan. We should instead compare Into Darkness with “Space Seed,” the original series episode in which Khan made his debut. The power of The Wrath of Khan was in the relationship between Khan and Kirk. Khan was filled with 15 years’ worth of vengeance and Kirk needed to protect his ship and crew against that hateful tide. Khan and Kirk didn’t have that relationship in Into Darkness, which immediately removes the central conflict that made The Wrath of Khan so great. Like “Space Seed,” Into Darkness shows the initial relationship between Kirk and Khan. We see them playing mind games with each other, attempting to out maneuver each other and eventually coming to all out conflict. Into Darkness does a great job of highlighting the volatility of Khan and Kirk’s relationship and subsequent fallout of that initial meeting, again much like “Space Seed.” If Khan returns in a future Star Trek movie to take his vengeance on Kirk, then we can draw comparisons to The Wrath of Khan because that movie will be founded on the same conflict and relationship.
Kirk and Spock
Now that I’ve watched more of the original series and rewatched all of the original crew’s movies, I can see that so much of they’re success was based upon the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Of all the great things that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness have done, they really nailed the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Even after only two movies I fully believe that Kirk and Spock would go to any length for each other. Kirk violated the Prime Directive to save Spock and Spock risked his life to capture Khan so Kirk could be saved. There may be new actors, there may be a new Enterprise and the bridge might look like the Apple Store, but the friendship between Kirk and Spock still stands at the center of Star Trek Into Darkness and this new Star Trek universe. And that is exactly how it should be.
Admiral Marcus vs. Gene Roddenberry
There’s a lot of inherent tension between Star Trek movies and Star Trek television series. Gene Roddenberry’s original vision of an advanced humanity exploring the galaxy is best suited for television. The stories that can be told over the course of a season of television are very different from those that can be told in a single movie. The depth that television provides often gets lost in the frantic pace and larger action sequences of a movie. My favorite episode of The Next Generation, “The Perfect Mate,” would make for an incredibly boring and unsuccessful movie.
I think this real-life tension is mirrored in the tension between Kirk and Admiral Marcus. Admiral Marcus wants to push Starfleet beyond the principles and ideals that make it so great. Kirk wants to keep Starfleet grounded in those prcinciples, embracing its past. In Kirk I see the spirit of Gene Roddenberry, trying to keep Star Trek rooted in its ideals of exploration and the indomitable human will. In Marcus I see the specter of Hollywood executives, wanting to make Star Trek something it’s not to please the masses and turn a profit. While Star Trek Into Darkness is a mix of the spirit and the specter, it has a lot more of Roddenberry’s heart and vision in it than some would like to admit.
I really do like Star Trek Into Darkness and, as evidenced by this post, feel the need to defend it. I understand that some people just won’t like the movie for a number of reasons. But to dismiss it as “not Star Trek” or an “affront to Roddenberry’s vision” is ridiculous. It may not be your favorite Star Trek movie but it is definitely still Star Trek and a fine continuation of Gene Roddenberry’s wagon train to the stars.
What are your thoughts about Star Trek Into Darkness?