Summer Star Trek Blog-a-Thon: ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Into Darkness’

StarTrek_2768178bAlthough Star Trek has been a part of pop culture since the 1960s, in the mid-2000s the franchise hit a rough patch. The most recent TV series, “Enterprise,” had been cancelled, and the last Star Trek movie in theaters had performed poorly at the box office. The franchise needed a shot of adrenaline, and it received one courtesy of J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot, simply titled “Star Trek.” The film brought back the Original Series characters but featured a plot with a time-traveling element, setting up an alternate timeline that allowed film makers to change the characters’ destinies.

Over the weekend, I re-watched both “Star Trek” and its 2013 follow-up, “Into Darkness.” Here’s some of my brief thoughts on both:

“Star Trek” (2009)

To me, this film is pretty much flawless. Although it’s action-packed with dazzling special effects (that first full-on shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the space dock is still breathtaking!), I feel like most of the focus is placed on the characters. The new actors do a great job honoring their Original Series counterparts and while also bringing their own touches to the characters, allowing them both to pay homage to what’s come before but also re-imagining these well-loved characters in an interesting way. Another thing I appreciated is the use of humor in the film; the Original Series is a fun TV show, and J.J. Abrams captured that same spirit. And of course, one of the most important highlights is the extended cameo from Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock; his presence helps pass the torch to this new generation of actors.

I could probably keep gushing on about this film, but I’ll stop myself. 😉 It’s one of my all-time favorite movies and it’s probably the single movie I’ve watched the most times (I lost count after about 15). However, I do know that some Trek fans have mixed feelings about the reboot films, and I’ve even read comments from some who feel that “new Trek” fans aren’t even real fans.

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot film, though, because for me it was the gateway to the rest of Star Trek. Even though I had watched Star Trek reruns as a kid, it never really clicked for me, and I’d always been more of a Star Wars fan. I actually went to see the 2009 film because some friends of mine who were really into Star Trek wanted to see it and I thought the trailer looked “interesting.” However, walking out of that theater I felt exhilarated. I started going back and re-watching the TV series and movies featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the other Original Series actors, and I fell in love with them too. I started really understanding the magic of Star Trek.

I think it’s great that these films are introducing a new generation of fans to Star Trek, and it’s possible the success of these films helped make the upcoming 2017 TV series happen.

“Into Darkness” (2013)

Although J.J. Abrams’ follow-up “Into Darkness” was also well-received by critics, it was a bit more polarizing amongst fans due to Abrams’ gutsy decision to play around with a favorite Trek story arc: the rise and fall of vengeful super-human Khan.

A quick refresher on the plot: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a terrorist named John Harrison who is on Starfleet’s most-wanted list after bombing a building. Kirk and his crew are dispatched to find Harrison, only to discover he’s actually a super human named Khan. They also learn Khan isn’t the only villain at large; the revelation about his identity also uncovers corruption at the highest level of Starfleet. With the Enterprise left crippled and stranded in space, Kirk must to do the right thing — and make the ultimate sacrifice — to save his crew.

I actually really liked this film, even though it sometimes gets a bad rap. I don’t mind the retelling of the Khan story, especially since Abrams takes the character and the story in a new direction. I think it’s more of a re-imagining than a rehash. However, I think this film would have worked just as well if they’d simply let Cumberbatch play an original character named John Harrison with a grudge against Starfleet. There’s enough going on in this film that you don’t actually need the Khan element to make it work. I liked the film’s message that we have to be careful not to create our own demons.

Chris Pine gets to show off more of his acting range in this film, as Kirk begins to face some of the consequences of his actions. After bucking the rules too many times, Starfleet takes the Enterprise away from him — and Pine makes you feel the gut punch of that loss. I also liked how they switched up the famous scene at the end of “The Wrath of Khan,” where Spock died saving the Enterprise crew, and this time it’s Kirk that dies. I felt that both scenes show the power of Kirk and Spock’s friendship, and they demonstrate that both are equally willing to die for each other and their crew.

So, what do you think of the Star Trek reboots? Love them? Hate them? Somewhere in between?

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12 thoughts on “Summer Star Trek Blog-a-Thon: ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Into Darkness’

  1. I like your point about how the reboot is great for introducing a new generation of fans to Star Trek. Abrams did a good job of translating Star Trek to a mass audience. Perhaps one of the drawbacks of the original films is that they weren’t big summer action blockbusters like the reboot to reach a wider audience. I think it’s interesting how Abrams took the elements from Wrath of Khan and tried reworking it as Into Darkness. I think he had more success taking the elements of A New Hope and reworking it as The Force Awakens. Great post!

  2. I am also a big fan of the 2009 film, but to say its flawless isn’t quite true. There are some issues, namely with the very forced feeling spock-uhura relationship, and the clunky dialogue around the scene where they are describing the alternate timelines idea.

    • I have heard others raise those same points, but they personally didn’t bother me too much. But it’s also fair to say this movie has a pretty strong nostalgic pull for me since it was the movie that made me fall in love with Star Trek. 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This reboot, I felt, turned out better than what I thought it wld be.
    Liked Nimoy’s cameo – helped latch this reboot into th ole established franchise.
    Will I watch th new 1 this weekend? Not sure (I am depending on boxofficebuzz’s review to guide me! 😉 )Live long and prosper

  4. First, great reviews – as always.

    Regarding your statement, “I’ve even read comments from some who feel that “new Trek” fans aren’t even real fans,” this is a pet peeve of mine.

    “Gatekeeper” fans (of anything or anyone) who think they can determine who is and is not a fan. Of course, they always seem to be automatically “in.”

    I’ve been a Star Trek fan practically my entire life. When I first started watching Trek, I wasn’t even in school yet. All that existed was the original series and the animated series – both already cancelled.

    Since then, of course, there have been four more series and over a dozen movies. Some better than others. One series I cannot stand, for instance, is Star Trek: Enterprise.

    It turns out that my tastes do not dictate those of the world, so that show has its fans, of course. I consider them as much “real fans” as I am.

    There is a certain segment of Trek fans that seem to direct a lot of jealousy/rage at the Kelvin Timeline and those who enjoy it. I personally don’t get it. To me, it is still Star Trek – just painted with a different, fresh set of brushes. And the characters feel the same to me. I believe they are who they are portraying.

    Sorry for blowing up your comments section with my long-winded thoughts on one sentence out of your review.

    • Thank you for stopping by, and thank you for sharing your views! I feel the same way about Star Trek. It makes me sad sometimes that fans police among themselves who is and isn’t a “true fan” (I’ve seen this happen in other fandoms too). I personally really love the new Trek films; they are what got me into Star Trek. Because I saw the 2009 reboot and loved it so much, I actually went back and started watching the original films and TV episodes featuring Leonard Nimoy and the other original cast members and thought, “Wow, these are awesome! I just really love these characters!”

      So it makes me sad when I see comments online from people who say fans that like the J.J. Abrams films are fake fans and don’t get Star Trek. It’s definitely okay not to like a certain iteration of Star Trek (I actually have a friend who doesn’t really care for Next Generation; she really prefers the Original Series crew). But I don’t think fans should put down someone who likes something they don’t.

      I really liked your statement: “To me, it is still Star Trek – just painted with a different, fresh set of brushes. And the characters feel the same to me. I believe they are who they are portraying.” I feel like this new cast of actors — Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, etc. — really get the characters. The really honor the past while bringing in something new. I feel like they respect and appreciate what came before.

      Again, thanks for stopping by — it’s always fun to discuss Star Trek with other fans who love it! 🙂

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