Thoughts On “Star Trek Into Darkness”

It took a bit of doing after finding out that my favorite theater was closed, but we did manage to attend a showing of Star Trek Into Darkness last night. The problem was finding a showing that was “just right” and gave us enough time to get there but not so much time we’d be walking out of the theater at 2:00am on a work night. The answer turned out to be a 9:00pm show at the El Con theater which is clear across town from me, but whatever.

Harkins Theater, I miss you already.

Anyway, let’s talk about the movie. In fact, let’s talk about the movie after a page break, because there are going to be los spoilitos in this post. That’s Spanish for the spoilers, fyi.

If you’re looking for a short review, it is this: the movie is good. Very good. It has far fewer egregious plot holes and fridge logic than the first movie. That’s not to say it didn’t have any logical problems, just that they weren’t as distracting. Maybe they will be on repeat viewing, I don’t know.

I’d like to address a few things about the story itself and why Into Darkness has been referred to as Star Trek: Wrath of Ret-Khan (not my joke, by the way, it’s from the linked article).

Okay, so if you read the article in the previous paragraph, you know that some people (or maybe just that guy) didn’t like the movie because the second act was basically Wrath of Khan remade in 2013. Here’s where things get really spoiler-y, if you ignored the warning after the page break.

So, big surprise, it turns out that John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is actually Khan (dun dun dunnn). In the climax, we have a new version of THAT scene from Wrath, except that Kirk and Spock have switched places and now it’s our captain who is dying. Spock even screams what might be the most famous scream in all nerd culture. Fan service all around!

From the article:

You don’t get to remake That Scene.  You can’t, because what that scene means has been set up by years of episodes and a movie, and it has special significance.  The fact that it’s now Kirk in the chamber and not Spock doesn’t change anything, and when Kirk dies we already know that it’s not permanent.  It’s just an opportunity for Abrams, Lindelof, Kurtzman and Orci to shove fan service down the audience’s throat.  There’s no special meaning or weight to it, and when Spock screams “KHAN!” at the top of his lungs, it feels like an insult.  It feels like the filmmakers think so little of STAR TREK and the fans; that all we want to see are the same stories over and over.

I disagree and here’s why. In my opinion, trying to use a remake to tell a completely new story is a fool’s game. You can’t do it. If you want to do something new, use new characters. People keep coming back to their favorite stories because there was something, whether it was a character, a setting, or a poignant scene, that grabbed them. It doesn’t matter what that something is; what’s important is that they grabbed on to that something and made it part of themselves.

When a piece of fiction becomes your favorite, it becomes part of you. When you choose to elevate something above other aspects of popular culture, you’re making a statement, even if only to yourself and only subconsciously. It becomes part of you. You identify with it, even if only to a small degree. If Spock is your favorite, it’s because you like what Spock represents. Maybe you see yourself as having the same traits or maybe you wish you had the traits of that character.

This is why remakes are tricky. If you take it too far, suddenly you’re trying to tell “your story” with “my character.” Fans feel like they own their versions of the characters that you made. Of course, legally, the creator owns it, but I’ll refer you to Exhibit A of The People vs. George Lucas for an example of what happens when a creator ignores the assumed ownership of the fan base.

I think Into Darkness finds the right balance between going in a new direction while hewing close to the source. The fact that New Kirk doesn’t have any past history with New Khan doesn’t lessen the impact of the reveal of Khan’s identity, because we know who Khan Prime was. We know what’s going on, even if Kirk doesn’t, and the previous of Nimoy-Spock in both movies turns what would otherwise be a fan-wank theory into canon. The previous Star Trek movies did happen. When Quinto-Spock asks Nimoy-Spock about Khan, that’s a direct confirmation of this very meta-level consideration.

Anyway, it’s all moot: one person’s “sacred cows” is another person’s “staying true to the source material.” For me, it was fun. It was enjoyable to see the new take on the classic movie; I found that placing Kirk and Spock on different sides of the glass preserved the integrity of the original while still doing something new and interesting. Maybe that’s the writer in me. Maybe I’m getting off on seeing the story told a different way, the same song with a new band. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch’s badass baritone voice gave me shivers. I could listen to him read a phonebook with that voice.

So, before I get to 1000 words and make this post officially “too long to read,” I’ll sum up my rambling: I liked Star Trek Into Darkness and I think you should go see it.

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