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Has Star Trek Changed Its Mission?

into darkness5

A lot of things explode in Star Trek: Into Darkness: London, Starfleet, ships, torpedoes, Klingons and, at one point, a guy’s head (technically, we only hear his skull crack, but we’re meant to imagine the gore). The question buzzing around the Internet right now, and raised by Spinoff’s own Katie Calutti, is whether this Star Trek franchise, under the guidance of J.J. Abrams, has become more about nifty explosions and less about exploring strange new worlds with a cast of interesting people. Scotty asks the question straight out: “A military organization? Is that what we are now?”

Warning: Spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness follow.

The film is supposed to be an allegory for the pre-emptive strikes launched after 9/11, and Into Darkness is dedicated to the veterans who fought in wars after those attacks were carried out. So while Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) is supposedly the movie’s big villain, he’s really only reacting to the movie’s ultimate villain, Admiral Marcus.

Marcus, who wants a more militarized Starfleet, complete with drones, mega-warships and all-out war with the Klingons, uses Khan to build his might. When Khan goes rogue and starts blowing stuff up, Marcus sends Kirk and Spock on a suicide mission to cover his tracks. It’s a not-at-all-veiled metaphor for the justifications the Bush administration made in the march to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

into darkness4Unfortunately, metaphor and allegory are different. A metaphor is a simple “this is like that” equation, while allegory comes from the Greek “to speak different.” Allegory requires that you have something important to say, and have hidden it behind signs and symbols. While Into Darkness gives us an effective metaphor for the wages of total war, it’s unclear what we’re supposed to make of all this fuss. Abrams asks a bunch of questions, but he never really allows his characters to fully explore them. It’s not that I need to be told what to think about drone strikes, but there isn’t enough room between explosions to hear why Kirk is initially for them, and Spock is dead-set against them. Star Trek goes into darkness, but forgot to bring its flashlight.

Watching this film, I was reminded of two episodes of Star Trek that deal with dark themes: The Next Generation‘s fantastic “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” and Deep Space Nine‘s “In the Pale Moonlight.” In “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a temporal rift causes the Enterprise C to jump forward in time and change Starfleet’s future. We witness what Starfleet would be if peace had never come between the Klingons and the Federation. The Enterprise is a military vessel, and the Federation is in a constant state of war. We learn self-sacrifice is the key to peace, and that without it we are all lost. “In the Pale Moonlight” follows Captain Sisko’s thought process as he attempts to win the Romulans as allies against the Dominion. Sisko is pushed into doing immoral things to secure victory, and is deeply disturbed by his own actions. The episode asks whether every sacrifice is worth making — particularly if it means sacrificing your own moral code.

Those two episodes are far deeper, far richer than anything Abrams has brought to the screen. They represent what Star Trek has always meant to me: Very good people floating in a tiny ship in a strange part of space, forced to make decisions based upon their own moral judgment. Big space battles don’t even enter into it.

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESSOf course, if you’re going to make a Trek film, you do have to put in a few space battles. It’s a fine line between ratcheting up the action to make a story movie-worthy and glorifying violence. Gene Roddenberry famously objected to increased militarization in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Unfortunately for him, however, Khan really works as a Trek movie: The violence had been building since Khan was introduced in “Space Seed.” Plus, Leonard Nimoy’s Spock and William Shatner’s Kirk are trusted men; we know their capacity for self-sacrifice, and their desire to do good. When Nimoy tells us the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, we honestly don’t believe him. When Chris Pine gets to play the same scene in Into Darkness, I found myself thinking, “Oh, let him die, it’ll give him a dose of humility.”

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There is a look that all captains have that Pine hasn’t quite mastered — it’s a weird blend of self-doubt and self-assuredness that happens when they have to do something morally abhorrent, but also entirely correct. On Shatner, it’s a slight curl of the lip. On Stewart, it’s a nostril flare. On Janeway, a narrowing of the eyes. And on Sisko, it’s usually pounding the table and hurling a baseball across the room.

A Star Trek hero needs enough of a beat to give us that look, to tell us that this big explosion coming up deserves our boos as well as our applause. That no act of violence is to be taken lightly, no matter how awesome it looks. That look is the signal that we should trust our captain, that we should forge ahead anyway. A lot has been made of the new military uniforms, the new weapons, all the military might that has been added to the Trek universe. But to me, it’s the missing element that matters: Without characters who feel genuine, and genuinely driven by a moral compass, it’s hard to follow anyone Into Darkness.


  • Jeff

    So what your saying is, you didn’t watch the movie, because it was full of moral choices. Like the morality of killing people without trial in another country with a drone… err torpedo.

  • Dandru

    Sow what YOU’RE saying is that you’re socially inept and have no idea how to have intelligent discourse without insulting a writer.

  • Zach

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to vociferously disagree on this. What the two rebooted films have done nicely is to take the moral choices/thematic exploration would be done via dialogue in the television series’, and make them implicit in the action and plot movement rather than having to discuss it (literally people as ammo, the dark and perverted Enterprise, etc.) . It makes it easy to miss the “Trek”-iness of it (and in fact the elements that are patently NOT Trek are emphasized), but the whole arc of the film was to create a philosophical challenge to Star Trek as we remember it (the invocation of Section 31 is an clue as to what’s actually going on here) and allow the crew to earn the tone of the original series via struggle–the announcement of the “five year mission” was like a weight being lifted, we knew what Trek was for knowing what Trek isn’t. Light shines brighter for knowing the darkness.

    The thematic underpinnings of it are like Sisko’s “saints in paradise” speech and Zero Dark Thirty had a baby–just because it’s dark Trek doesn’t mean it’s not Trek.

  • Comic Book Cast

    anyone else want to put their thoughts into this, in Wrath of Khan when SPOILERS Spock Sacrificed himself for the crew and him and Kirk share that moment it was powerful, emotional, and the humanity really showed. We saw in their eyes the history, the decades of friendship the tho have built and the respect each has for one another. in Darkness they switch it But the impact is not there, Spock and Kirk have been friends for how long? 2 years max? and he is resurrected in less then 5min. The impact was lost in every possible way. Anyone?

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    I don’t think there’s anyway anyone who makes Trek can ever win on this. They’d be called out for either being too heavy-handed (i.e. preachy) or not going far enough.

    And Sisko never pounded a table (or at least no more than anyone else did), and he certainly didn’t threw a baseball across a room unless it was to someone he liked.

  • Lyle

    I think what we see here is how times have changed, and so has Star Trek.
    I recall not liking Next Generation at first because the tone of the show had changed. I soon realized that the original series was set in a world where the United States was not the most powerful country in the world, and that reflected in Star Trek. In the original series, the Enterprise was an exploratory vessel that kept coming across civilizations that were more powerful than us, and the crew had to use cunning and diplomacy to survive it all. The thing I enjoyed about classic Trek was that sense of danger that really didn’t exist in Next Generation.
    When Next Generation appeared, our world changed a lot. Suddenly, we were the most powerful nation on earth, and the show reflected this. The Enterprise basically became a giant Winnebago where we traveled from place to place well aware of our superiority and comfortable with the fact that we were safe. In fact, we were so safe, we even brought our kids with us.
    Now, our world has changed again. And, 9/11 was a big reason for it. Suddenly, we are in a world where people want us dead, and no amount of diplomacy will fix the situation. Khan is a great metaphor for this, because he is a man who has constantly been screwed over by our government, and, you expect him to trust Kirk? And, the true villain, Admiral Marcus, is so sure he is right that no amount of arguing will dissuade him. I think it is an advantage that this is a young Kirk and Spock living through this, in that they are just now learning where their morals lie. To expect them to be as morally upright as the previous captains mentioned is kind of ridiculous.

  • Rick Diehl

    They made an overtly intellectual Star Trek film once, it was called Star Trek: The Motion Picture and it was terribly dull. The various series had plenty of room for broader, more thoughtful stories, but as films, it’s pretty much been big adventure stories the entire time. This latest one was far more interesting, far more entertaining and most importantly far more thoughtful then any Star Trek film in 30 years. It was by far a superior film to any of the other films in the series with the possible exception of Wrath of Khan.

  • mikefly

    Don’t forget though that with Vulcan gone, their voice of reason and temperament in the galaxy is also gone. That’s part of the reason why I really loved the what the first JJ film was setting up – a different timeline where different themes and choices can be explored.

    Militarization is definitely a theme that is relevant and important in this new timeline and points us towards some amazing Klingon interaction down the road. I wouldn’t mind seeing, in the next film, the path that needs to be taken to reach that peace with the Klingons – we could use the metaphor in our world to figure out how to put aside our petty squabbles over economics and religion – to me, that’s what Star Trek is about.

  • Jim

    I agree completely that it did not have the emotional heft of the scenes in Khan, but how could it? The reasons you mention are enough, they have not been friends for very long. In 1982, it seemed like that really was the end of Spock and it was very powerful and moving, with a real sense of loss.

    But that wasn’t the point of the scene in Into Darkness. We knew Kirk wasn’t going to stay dead. The characters didn’t know that, but the audience did. They were able to use that scenario to ellicit the acknowledgement of friendship from Spock, something Kirk had been seeking since the beginning of the film. That’s what it took to get the green-blodded bastard to admit he had a personal connection to Kirk that went beyond duty.

    As to the other issues raised by Katie, I don’t completely disagree that action is completely dominant over the intellectual discourse, but I did not find any questions about motivations or changes in motivations unanswered.

    When Marcus sends the Enterprise on its secret mission, Kirk is in a rage and wants bloddy revenge. Spock and Scotty point out the problems inherent with their mission and his current mindset and he eventually agrees with them. You can see in his eyes that he is listening, but he wants blood. I’d rather see it played out the way they did here than listen to Picard ramble on for 10 minutes and come to the same conclusion – though Picard would have never considered sating his bloodlust, unless Borg were involved.

    But I prefer action over philosophy in these movies. The series did an excellent job covering those bases in all their incarnations. They also had hundreds of hours (combined) to do so. We get just over 2 hours of Trek every few years now. I really do want to see them tackling a big threat and demonstrating why they’re the best crew in Starfleet history and have a good time watching it unfold.

    I would have preferred they not Khan at all and had done something original, but I enjoyed Cumberbatch in the role and thought the movie was a lot of fun. Flawed, definitely, but the good far outweighed the problems.

  • NeronWillRise

    I’ve seen every episode and movie of every incarnation of Trek and as a long time fan, I disagree.

    Why do people feel this need to retroactively paint TOS and older Trek with this rosy nostalgia? It was ALWAYS about action/adventure and fist fights. They simply didn’t have JJ’s budget. To act as though that hasn’t been a staple of Trek up until maybe TNG, is foolhearty. So basically you’re penalizing JJ for putting a few dollars behind the franchise for the first time.

    People are doing exactly what they accuse JJ of doing. They’re getting
    distracted by the explosions and phaser fights instead of seeing what
    the movies are really about. You may argue that you didn’t think it was
    executed well (I think it was), but you can’t act as though the ideas
    aren’t there.

  • Gil Triana

    The film was thoroughly enjoyable and the treatment Abrams has given is both what is needed for a Star Trek “movie” and no more than I would expect from the man especially after seeing his bit on “The Daily Show”. He makes what he likes, which is good because it means he will put an honest effort into the work.
    Now, that said, what we (fans) want of Star Trek is what can only be delivered on television where cerebral material has a chance of at least being made in bulk. Sadly today’s movie audience is not going to dump 1billion dollars going to see a movie that makes you think and so studios will avoid it like the plague or make sure they have some safe action films to make up for losses.
    The best we can hope for outside of the movies would be a TV series that runs only 6-10 episodes a season running 60-90 minutes each where we can get good stories and decent production quality.
    Since this would not be consistent with American format it is unlikely we will see this happen. Instead we would get an hour show with 22 episodes, cut corners, lower budget and fist full of filler episodes leading to a forced cliff-hanger.

  • Kymera

    Surely it’s not difficult to understand that, in a 22 episode season of stories, it is far easier to explore more thought provoking issues than it is in a couple of 2 hour movies? Bearing in mind that those movies *have* to cater for not just the hardcore fans, but for the average cinema-goer who barely knows Trek at all.

    Add to that, that there actually wasn’t that many episodes in the entire Trek run that went into such in-depth introspection. If people remember differently, then they should really go through the entire catalogue again and see for themselves.

  • Fury

    Star Trek has stopped being a thoughtful adventure into space and become a vacuous, style-over-substance pale, pathetic shadow of it’s former glories. I’d sooner watch The Motion Picture than watch Into Darkness. And why in the name of Kahless reboot the series if all you’re going to do is make a weak-ass copy of the most highly regarded entry of the previous series?

  • Jam

    The first 10 minutes of the first JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movie packs more emotional wallop in the form of George Kirk and USS Kelvin. I didnt cry to Kirk’s death in the sequel.

  • Ian Thal

    The problem, of course, is that the film really doesn’t make much sense.

    Admiral Marcus is a military strategist– if he is really so intent on militarizing Starfleet in the the face of a perceived Klingon threat to the Federation way of life– does he really think it makes any sense to start a preemptive war with only one warship?

    Khan’s motives as a terrorist really makes no sense– does he really think he could get the freedom of his people through his attacks? Does he have an ideology beyond his anger at Marcus? None that I can discern. One thing about terrorists in the real world is that they have an ideology that utterly rejects the society that they attack.

  • Spike

    “There is a look that all captains have that Pine hasn’t quite mastered”
    Such a stupid statement.

  • Chris Humphrey

    I guess you were watching different TOS eps than I was–the action was placed in well-written themes of abandoning blind faith (Who Mourns For Adonais?) paranoia during war (the first Romulan ep) Adult responsibility (Squire of Gothos) Prejudice and fear (Devil in the Dark), Sacrifice (City on the Edge of Forever) and on and on. Trek was not afraid to explore. But as Q said in ST:TNG’s finale–“It isn’t space you that’s your final frontier” and he tapped Picard’s head. THOSE stories made Trek, not just the BIFF POWW ZAPKA-BOOOM!! Those were fun though.
    And Tribbles. Definitely the Tribbles.

  • insideguy

    Yea true. But do most terrorist really have realistic goals? Some maybe do. But I would argue that most don’t accomplish crap except to kill a lot of innocent people.

  • Alex Witenberg

    Thank you for saying this.

  • Fourth-day Universe

    Did we read the same article? ‘Cause, at no point did the writer say “I didn’t watch the movie”. In fact, this article couldn’t have been written by anyone who hadn’t seen it.

  • Jack R

    You’re right, it’s not subtle enough to be an allegory. But remember, especially in the Original Series, the allegory technique was used, (not unlike the Twilight Zone) to sneak emotionally charge topics like racism, drug abuse, Viet Nam, and nuclear proliferation passed network sensors determined to keep everything light and fuzzy. Today, allegory isn’t as necessary as a plot device and they can be a little more in our face about things.. as they were in the Next Gen episodes you sited. But, while it may have been easy to lose the point amid all the action and the character/historical revisionism in Into Darkness, it actually does include Star Trek’s signature examination of a modern socio-political topic ( in this case, pre emptive military action and the sacrificing of principles in the interest of ‘public safety & security’ ) and explores the topic through to the end… And then Kirk’s speech attempts to serve as the summation of the argument (It’s bad, just as Ben Franklin warned us it would be..) and by the end, what we knew as the original, peaceful, 5 year deep space mission is finally underway. So, no, I would say the mission hasn’t changed.

  • Bill T.

    The next movie should be a story of how the crew of the Enterprise travels to that star that goes supernova in the first movie and keep it from exploding so that the original timeline is repaired. Title the film Star Trek: Reset.

  • jim

    Funny, after all those damn preachy shows that finally drove the nail in the coffin of those same shows, Star Trek is fun again. To the person that wrote the article, my wife (the real star trek fan between the two of us) enjoyed the movie like she hasn’t the show in nearly twenty years. Different strokes.

  • Happily LS

    No, _that_ was a stupid statement and you didn’t even back it up. At least say why you think Pine can do it.

  • Andrew Ulrich

    Star Trek: New 52?

  • David Montgomery

    Yes, Star Trek has changed it’s mission. Thematically I don’t like it because Roddenberry’s vision was for a better, brighter future and there’s nothing really better or brighter about this version of ST. Conceptually, I do like it because how the new theme has developed – exploring in order to protect the Federation – has been organic and makes sense. It just loses some of the wonder and awe that it could have had is all.

  • Hyatt

    More entertaining than Star Trek IV? More thoughtful than Star Trek VI? Have you actually watched any of the Star Trek movies between WoK and STID?

  • David Montgomery

    “This latest one was far more interesting, far more entertaining and most importantly far more thoughtful then any Star Trek film in 30 years. It was by far a superior film to any of the other films in the series with the possible exception of Wrath of Khan.”

    I had to a wait a minute before typing because I was laughing so hard. Uh, no, not by a very very long shot. The new movie was entertaining but it was not better. The plot was simple, lacked a fully-developed third act, and by no stretch was what unfolded “thought out” since the entire thing was ripped from every other TOS movie. For a fully developed movie, look to Star Trek VI, the most political and more thought through of all the movies.

    ST:TMP was dull because as great a visionary as Roddenberry was, he was no movie director and he needed to keep his fingers out of the movie. The central idea of that movie was sound, but staring at (at that time) cutting-edge computer graphics isn’t a movie.

  • David Montgomery

    I agree. As this new theme has unfolded since the new time line concept was introduced has made the movie(s) relevant to the 21st Century. However, did they have to jettison everything from the TOS theme in order to do that? I’m asking srsly because as relatable as the new movies are, they are hollow. I recently watched ST(2009) before seeing the new one and while it is still a very entertaining and inventive movie, there’s no wonder, no real hope in humanity. It comes off as more of a perfunctory “let’s go shoot some bad guys because that’s what good guys do” mentality.

  • David Montgomery

    My god, thank you. I sat there when the credits were rolling trying to justify in story why these characters did what they did and I just couldn’t find a way to voice it succinctly.

  • Rich

    Seriously I don’t know what people were expecting. Television series have to be more about the ideas because they can’t afford twenty plus helpings of forty five minutes of stuff blowing up. Films have to be more focused in what they choose to do because they don’t have time for anything else. An Abrhams Star Trek film was always going to be about stuff blowing up, lens flair while some how hitting all the right beats. However the film did pay tribute to those elements. Also I don’t see what was confusing about the message: retreating to militarism out of fear bad, now lets get back to blowing stuff up.

    No the mission hasn’t changed, this is a great Star Trek *film*. To focus more on the talky sci-fi stuff it has to get back on television and Abrams isn’t to blame for Star Trek on Television dying. By his own account he actually wanted to tie in the films to a ongoing show but CBS was being too difficult. I’d take his account with a pinch of salt but still he’s not stopping Star Trek from returning to TV.

    It’s a well put together film that hits all the right notes and if it’s not the Star Trek you want well it was this or nothing and the disgruntled Trek fans (which is by far not all Trek fans) are pointing their fingers in all the wrong places as to why that’s the situation. On top of that these films are doing more to increase interest in the show than pretty much anything in the decade that proceeded them.

  • darthtigris

    So glass half empty. I was worried when I went to go see this because of some of the things I read and then left the theater quite puzzled as to why they were not able to enjoy this like I did.

    I think I know why: they didn’t WANT to. They’re not able to be objective about it. This film failed before they even saw it.

    For the record, I remember going to see the two Matrix sequels that attempted to entertain but, even more so, wax philosophical. And the masses HAAAAAATED IT! I loved them and the bravery of going there, but I seem to be in a minority.

    Movie going audiences in general do not want to have to think like that and resent when it’s attempted in what they perceive to be a popcorn movie. Instead of condemning the creative staff behind the Trek reboot for this, I appreciate their recognition of it. Thanks to that insight, they will help keep Trek alive instead of having it be remembered as a once great property that petered off horribly with Enterprise and Nemesis …

  • MR

    Yeah guys… sorry… I know that the Multitude seems to have enjoyed this film, but it really isn’t very good. Once you get past the special effects and focus on the story, you realize that it is a tremendous cut-n-paste horror show that is so full of holes that I am amazed that anyone who would consider themselves a “writer” would actually WANT to put their name in the credits for it.

    I keep seeing people glad-handing Abrams and telling him what a “visionary” he is and how he “saved Trek” – all while he continues to have interviews in which he says he is not a Star Trek fan and prefers Star Wars. That is really just an insult to anyone who is a true fan of this property.

    You know what Abrams’ legacy of Trek truly is??
    He managed to turn Star Trek into a sci-fi version of The Expendables.
    Lots of explosions and action – almost no intelligent storytelling involved.

    And that is the truth.

  • NeronWillRise

    Nope I was watching the same eps as you. STID had action with the theme of over-militarization, terrorism, and losing yourself to best your enemy. LIke I said, you might not like how it was done, but it’s there. Just because there’s more bright lights doesn’t mean there’s less of the other stuff. In case you didn’t notice, they didn’t explore in the movies. EVER. It was always about something else. So why expect the mechanics of a TV show in an even bigger budget movie?

  • Hypestyles

    I think going back to the original deal to reboot that was struck with Abrams, he promised that he wanted to bring things more closely aligned with “Star Wars” thematically in terms of being action driven. Thus, I think the dramatic themes of the original show were of a secondary, or tertiary, concern. In the new Trek, Kirk, Spock and crew are now action superheroes, more or less: James Bonds in the 23rd century. Even the first theatrical Trek film was derided as being too ponderous. I’d still like to see a new Trek film where the climax wasn’t about potentially blowing up/crashing the Enterprise; we’ll see.

  • Brodie

    Really the constant talking about everything on Star Trek is ridiculous–a healthy debate and discussion is good for you, but there is a limit. Deeply moral (and affecting) choices can be made without discussing every little thing, the follow up can even be much more intense and meaningful.

    Let me know when Star Trek has anything even approaching John Crichtons decent into madness and the choices surrounding it, or the morality of Farscape in general. Luckily, with these movies it looks like we’re moving closer towards something more flexible and interesting for the Trek universe.

  • Kurt Weldon

    Here’s the real reason the impact was lost: The instant Abrams starts to play out the twist on Wrath of Khan, you know exactly what is going to happen. Kirk won’t really die because Kirk CAN’T really die – and there’s only one way for him not to really die. The term isn’t usually used to mean this, but in that instant, the ‘fourth wall’ is truly broken. You’re taken completely out of the story and instead into the machinations behind it. And at that point, one finds oneself wishing Abrams would just get on with it.

  • qnetter

    You all seem to forget a basic truth: Roddenberry didn’t make STAR TREK talky and moralistic because he was a sage. He did so because, as with all 5os and 60s television, the effects didn’t exist and the budgets were paper-thin.

  • DC Sheehan

    Hollow is the perfect adjective to use. I enjoyed Into Darkness, but overall was it ‘Trek’ or just a space adventure? It featured Trek characters but no Trek heart. And if there’s no heart, no soul, then you might make money but that’s all you’re doing.

    The most Trekkian part of the film was the first 10 minutes. Now that had heart.

  • Yusuf Alamo

    I loved, loved, loved this movie.

  • Fifolet

    I haven’t watched ‘into darkness’, and i don’t intend to so soon. I might give it a try if it airs on tv someday, but i’m not paying for a movie ticket. Therefore, i don’t know if ‘into darkness’ works well as a movie or not (for the record i think the first movie was just a big pile of dumb with action sequences filler). I do know however, again based solely on the first movie, that J.J. Abrams Star Trek is an abomination. It’s only Star Trek in name. In every other way that counts, it’s not.

    I’m happy that people are enjoying themselves, considering all the big bucks the movies are making. Good for them. I wish i could too. I’m not against crancking up the action a notch as long as it serves a story well, and i thought the casting choices for the reboot universe were pretty good, but calling it Star Trek is just wrong and disrespectful towards its creator.

  • JoeKoffee

    Hurrah, bravo, kudos! I could not say it better; in fact, I’ll just link and tweet this so that you can say it for me. I love Trek; I enjoyed STID, but Star Trek needs to be more, better, and deeper than simple, summer blockbuster SF.

  • GC001


    Chris was right.

    Whatever you’ve been watching, it wasn’t Star Trek.

    And yes, even in the other entries of the previous film series they WERE doing exploration — even in (God help us!) the Next Generation films.

    The fact that you can’t realize exploration can be CHARACTER exploration as well as PHYSICAL galactic exploration well that’s your failing, not the fans of the show who didn’t have to read the Cliff Notes or “let JJ explain it to them” (which is a joke btw). In that case, the other Trek films certainly WERE exploratory including the maligned Trek V, ST: Generations, Insurrection (the worst Trek movie previous to the JJ entries), and Nemesis.

    See, there’s this thing called “characterization.” Usually, the reason films fail is because audiences can’t connect with the characters and actually start to CARE about them. That’s an issue no amount of violence, gore, and effects can disguise or ignore.

    Before he forgot what Star Trek was about previous to The Next Generation, Roddenberry knew that… Certainly Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett, Jack B. Sowards, Samuel Peeples, Leonard Nimoy, AND William Shatner understood that fact.

  • Ian Thal

    Part of the definition of terrorism is that the attacks themselves are motivated more by ideology than practical considerations– essentially that they reject any sort of political solution as even desirable– terrorism, when effective, basically just kills people and maybe strikes fear into the survivors– but what really motivates them is an ideological belief that the people they kill deserve to die– even if it’s an attack on a restaurant. I really didn’t see this Khan’s motivations as being more than “this is what criminal masterminds do.”

  • odum

    I don’t think you’re quite right Anna – but very close. It’s not that these movies don’t have a moral perspective and message, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call it a “moral center.” It’s on the edges, almost as an afterthought. ST traditionally is about the allegory, you’re 100% right. In this, the allegory is tertiary at best, and as such its half baked. It’s only really there if you look for it and its done away with quickly (you could even go so far as to say the film seems a little embarrassed by it, like its contractually required hokum). I guess that’s a little better than not having a moral perspective, but not much.

  • clanwolf

    We should take into consideration that these characters are met by the public earlier in their career. They have yet to experience many crisis and dilemmas that define their wisdom in later years. Even in TNG, Picard became who he was due to the many tragedies that befell him. I think this teasing evolution is wonderful. It ensures sequels galore.

  • Brandon Y.

    He pounded and shattered the glass top of a table (or console) in… “A Time to Stand” I think. I agree with your first statement, though.

  • NeronWillRise

    No, Chris was wrong and so are you.

    Obviously there’s character exploration in addition to physical exploration. Had that been his intent, his point would be even less valid. Star Trek Into Darkness has no characterization? No exploration of the human condition and self? Ok, gotcha. I disagree and so do quite a few others.

  • Jesse

    The fourth wall was broken for me when new Spock called up old Spock instead of solving the problem on his own. I was accepting the film up until that point, but after that I soured.

  • Sam Robards, Comic Fan

    Into Darkness did seem a bit hollow to me. Yeah, it was flashy, had good action and good performances from most of the cast (I’m sorry, but Karl Urban almost seemed like a parody of Dr. McCoy in this one), but there was no heart to it. Yeah, they tell us that Spock and Kirk are friends, but we don’t see any real proof of that (with the exception of a scene they stole from another movie).

    In a universe that started off with a unique story that showed that anything could happen, why do a retread of one of the most beloved Star Trek films (and do it poorly)? While it’s ok to do homages or callbacks to other films, Into Darkness seemed almost like plagiarism at some points. I mean, when you rip entire scenes from another movie, you’re doing it wrong.

    One thing really bugs me, though: the Klingons being turned into cannon fodder (I won’t say anything about their design other than the fact that it’s hideous). Seriously, they deserved their own movie to show how awesome and fearsome they are, but they get mowed down by Sherlock Holmes?

    And why didn’t the Admiral use the destruction of Vulcan (an actual terrorist event) to justify his militarism instead of a maybe-boogeyman of the Klingons? It just seemed like a reference thrown in for reference’s sake that did nothing but seemingly denigrate a huge part of Trek lore.

    I could keep going, but it wouldn’t be good for me. Bah!

  • RunnerX13

    Read a lot of negative reviews but when I saw the movie people were cheering and applauded at the end. I’m sure that a lot of what you said was true, but I was to busy actually enjoying the movie to notice.

  • Ryan

    Well said, but I’d also like to point out a few things as I respectfully disagree with (while understanding totally where you’re coming from)

    In the last season of DS9 there’s an episode that’s very, very violent, Nog loses his leg in this battle. This episode was considered too violent to air in many countries (America was an exception). In addition, the borg or species 8472 are very violent in nature, while most of the gore is implied and done off screen (like head squashing). 8472 rips their enemies pieces violently while the borg graphically dismember their assimilated subjects.. we never see the dismemberment, just the screams.

    Violence aside, from my understanding of what Star Trek was about was the relationship between Spock, Kirk, and McCoy. The social messages and the religion-free view of the future were more of Roddenberry’s idealistic perceptions of the future.

    In the current films I feel like Abrams is attempting to tell good story and make reference to the past; however, I feel McCoy is being left out of the equation and it’s now primarily about Spock and Kirk. It may just be me who notices small things like this, but I can’t go more then a few cuts in the film without noticing some sort of reference to an TOS episode or film… This movie goes further, Section 31 is first mentioned in DS9. A lawless group of star fleet that’s above the law, does what is necessary to secure the safety of Earth and the Federation. They try to recruit Dr. Bashir in an episode and are really an unanswered enigma in the Star Trek world. Section 31 in this timeline is still created, but 80-100 years earlier? (i don’t recall when the exact time between Kirk and Picard, also I don’t recall a date being said for the origin of Section 31)

    In my opinion, Star Trek has evolved to the 21st Century. Big bangs and explosions and space combat are expensive for a TV series. Which is why they’re staples in each film. It’s commonly stated in interviews that they had to avoid 3D modeling and special effects and often recycled cuts episode to episode.. What’s actually most surprising is that the Enterprise didn’t crash in this film.. I believe the feature films go through an Enterprise every other film, so Abrams is actually being more conservative here than past directors…

  • Tony Laplume

    Don’t be a self-righteous idiot. Just because you say it isn’t there doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Years from now you’ll be using this movie in the same kind of condescending “criticism” of something newer.

  • Tony Laplume

    The death tease began when Kirk told Chekov that he’d be wearing a red shirt. In the end it wasn’t about someone dying but how these characters deal with it. That was the original point of the second movie. And that’s the point again, but without the sensationalism.

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    That’s why I said “at least no more than anyone else did.” Sisko isn’t the only captain ever to get angry and break something–Picard shattered an entire glass display of model Enterprises in Star Trek VII, for example.

  • dmman

    Trek has always been full of moral issues and criticisms of American society. Looking at the old series from the 1960s, we don’t recognize what a big deal it was to have a Black woman and a Russian as senior officers. Or what warnings the original Khan story told us about militarization and the military-industrial complex.
    I liked this movie precisely because it did go back to Trek’s roots. It told us “Hey! There are things wrong in our society we need to fix.” It can do it because it is Sci-Fi fantasy. If you find it preachy, then maybe the whole Trek franchise is not for you.