Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness

Aw, crap. I was not a fan of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. (No, seriously, it was not good.) It was bad enough that J.J. Abrams wanted to turn Star Trek into Star Wars. (Not even good Star Wars. More like Attack of the Clones, except with incessant lens flare and a less interesting storyline.) Now he apparently wants Star Trek to be Star Wars‘ answer to The Dark Knight and  Inception. Don’t get me wrong: I loves me some Christopher Nolan. But one of the reasons I love the old Star Trek franchise is because it was distinctly Star Trek. Even when the The Motion Picture turned out to be Star Trek‘s answer to 2001: A Space Odyssey, it was still Star Trek. It could very well be that Abrams is trying to be all socially relevant, thoughtful, and darn-tootin’ optimistic while wrestling with tough questions (that is to say, Star Trek) while still delivering a smashing sci-fi epic, but this trailer doesn’t look like it. It looks like a potentially fun sci-fi epic, but it doesn’t look like Star Trek. At least, not to me. Even if Trek lost its way in the later years, as many fans would argue, there were still undeniable flashes of its core mission. I didn’t see any of that in Abrams’s vision. To him, Star Trek was a means to an end — the end being making a big, blockbuster outer space saga, rather than the end being making a great Star Trek movie. Now it appears that Star Trek is the means to the end of making a Christopher Nolan space opera. I think that’s something to mourn, if for no other reason than a Christopher Nolan space opera would probably be a lot more like Star Trek than J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars knockoff, which happens to bear the name Star Trek. Hopefully it’ll be good (unlikely), even if it is disappointing (inevitably). ☕


About tardishobbit

Reads. Writes. Watches movies. Occasionally stirs from chair. Holds an advanced degree in heuristic indolence. View all posts by tardishobbit

21 responses to “Trailer: Star Trek Into Darkness

  • Daniel Swensen

    Pessimism doesn’t suit you, Matt. ;)

  • technicolorlilypond

    I have to agree with Matt on this one. The film looks like utter and complete garbage. I would be furious except that I had no expectations after the first film Abrams came out with under the banner of “Star Trek.” I plan to boycott the film. I won’t watch any new Star Trek offerings unless someone with more loyalty to the Roddenberry vision makes them.

  • Alex M

    This is so spot on true. Whether you like the films or not, Abrams isn’t interested in the Star Trek franchise and that saddens me a little bit. However, they’re also bad movies in their own right and that doesn’t help.

    Not sure about boycotting them .. I’ll probably go and see the sequel, sometimes bad franchises improve, but the trailer didn’t exactly give me hope.

  • Adam

    Who has returned and why does he want vengeance?
    Also lowering Batman to compare w/ this, whatever it is just not awesome chuck.
    P.S. Star Trek is just not that cool anymore because everyone likes the new one and could careless about the old one’s. You should be like me and stick w/ anime it has better sy-fy in it anyway!
    For real this Matt guy doesn’t seem to know anything at all.

  • Sam L.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. The last film was bad, and linearly extrapolating from the last one through this trailer, it is clear that the next one will be far worse.

    I admit: I have given Rick Berman a fair share of grief over the years. The last years of Star Trek on TV were Not Good, and the problems were his fault. But he is looking like friggin’ Shakespeare compared to these guys, since he at least tried to keep the show on message. Even in Nemesis – a movie that certainly had problems – you had Captain Picard proudly saying “I consider myself an explorer”. That optimistic mentality is nowhere evident in the Abrams movies.

    In 1991, a few months after Roddenberry’s death, I remember reading in one of Peter David’s columns that even if the movies were to eventually depict a dystopian future where the Federation didn’t exist and Vulcans ate their young, people would still buy tickets to see it because it said “Star Trek” was in the credits. PD was joking then, but that is unfortunately pretty much exactly what has happened. The last movie should have flopped, but it was a success. I have no doubt this movie will be nothing more than an unwatchable action movie cliches covered with a heaping piles of nausea-inducing lens flare, but it will make a pile of money, and critics will laud it’s bold new vision and how Star Trek is “finally relevant to a modern audience”…despite the fact that this concept has literally inspired hundreds of millions of people all over the world for over four decades now.

    I’m really, really worried about what has happened to optimism in our culture. In the name of “relevance” and “relatability” we now have had the Day the Earth Stood Still remade to end with a civilization-ending ka-blooey, Star Trek relaunched as a pastiche of gritty action cliches; Superman rebooted to be unmarried, angsty, and unlikable; a full television slate of genre shows that are largely just competing to be the most apocalyptic dystopia…the list goes on and on. Well, it has to stop. We’re Americans, and we’re better than this. I personally think that things aren’t really that bad and the solution to our of our problems is pretty straightforward, but I can absolutely guarantee that things have no chance of getting better if we continue this unchecked trend of national negative nihilistic navel-gazing nattering nabobism.

    • Daniel Swensen

      “…despite the fact that this concept has literally inspired hundreds of millions of people all over the world for over four decades now.”

      The last Trek series got canceled because no one was watching it. It embraced the classic Trek tropes. I’d say that’s a pretty telling commentary on its relevance. When people talk about being “inspired” by Trek, they talk about TOS and sometimes TNG. Making a new product in the same vein has been creating diminishing returns for decades. I think the new Trek is far from perfect, but it was time for a trip to a different well.

  • Daniel Swensen

    To make a more constructive comment — while I respect Roddenberry’s vision, I think it’s no longer reflected in the popular culture for a reason — it’s completely out of gas.

    I appreciate TOS for what it was, but revisiting it lately, it occurs to me that TOS basically had four plots… Kirk visits godlike alien on mysterious planet and murders / neuters it; godlike alien visits Kirk on the enterprise and is murdered / neutered; Kirk visits crazy Old West / 1940s / HistoryLand (usually a godlike alien behind it), and random stuff like the Tribbles episode that’s clever or amusing but has nothing to say.

    TNG aped this model a lot in the early days, running across its share of godlike aliens, but now they were mostly on equal footing. Rather than outwit the aliens with the power of love or whatever, they just adjusted the shield harmonics until the problem went away. Eventually they went their own direction and embraced fun but hypocritical storylines like the Borg (they use technology! Technology is bad! Mr. Worf recalibrate the phasers and use the main sensor array to create a WMD!) There were a few terrific exceptions like “The Inner Light,” but for the most part I found TNG’s exploration of humanity’s future to be facile, contradictory, and pretty damned imperialist.

    And then the hangers-on came, and the cracks started to show. I respect the idea of a Trek that embraces the spirit of exploration and optimism, but there’s a problem — 1) it’s already been done many times, and 2) it’s been done so many times that nobody cares anymore. Enterprise and Voyager were all about exploring strange new worlds and so on. They failed.

    None of this is to say I think the first NuTrek had much to say — it certainly didn’t, beyond being (like its predecessors) an interesting mirror of our culture. We’re in the process of re-inventing everything into a high-octane version of itself — if Abrams wanted to get really meta, he’d write about that. But all the Pioneer Spirit of Trek has already been recycled and re-hashed so many times that its assumptions are pretty much built into the setting: we conquered scarcity and went to space, we colonized the stars and learned to stop hating… a select few, since there was still plenty of war to go around in TNG even as they were claiming it a thing of the past. The fact that it depicts a future where we don’t destroy ourselves is plenty optimistic for me these days.

    But I’ll admit to being biased; my one true love of Trek is DS9, which actively challenged the smug assumptions of the Federation and forced it to deal with tough issues — issues that Roddenberry would never had allowed had he lived that long. I sometimes wish that Roddenberry could have made his vision of Spock shooting Kennedy come true — maybe then he would be a little less lionized whenever Trek comes up.

    Anyway, that’s just me. I liked NuTrek for what it was; but then I had my fill of “classic” Trek and everything it stands for over the previous 25 years.

    • Alex MAlex M

      Hasn’t the “generic action sci-fi” been done so many times as well? How is Abrams Star Trek a worthwhile addition to anything? That’s my problem, that it’s taking the name of Star Trek and stapling it onto a very bad generic movie. I could tolerate a shift in direction if there were logic or rationale for it other than pure dollar signs.

      Star Trek TNG may have had inconsistencies and problems but its vision as antithetical to the mainstream (hence, it’s a “geek/nerd” show), it actually had ideas that it attempted to explore and it had a consicence. Even if it wasn’t always successful there was a point to the show that fans latched onto. The diminishing returns of the franchise were probably largely to do with the desire to shift something “popular” into the movie market and make it “very popular” and producers struggled to do that until resurrecting it as something that’s just a named brand in an aggressively non-geeky way.

      That Voyager and Enterprise weren’t a success at the time strikes me as being as much to do with Star Trek oversaturation as anything else. I know I was bored with seeing Star Trek stuff everywhere and I’d already stopped watching it, so probably by the time Enterprise hit and, presumably, wasn’t very good, it was definitely time for a break. I’m struggling to see why a resurrection needed to go down the “generic action fare” route and how that’s refreshingly different, just as I’m struggling to see how Skyfall is an amazing reinvention of Bond. It’s simply tieing popular brand names into conventional current movie trends to give them that extra push at the box office. it really works so I can’t blame them for doing it, but it saddens me that Star Trek has been reduced to this since it’s a brand that really did get strong on quality TV and forward thinking ideas.

  • Daniel Swensen

    Yeah, it’d be nice if Hollywood movies weren’t subject to financial concerns and never had to turn a profit, and we could see something like ST:TMP again, which I genuinely love. But it would bomb, hard, and that would be the end of Trek entirely (which Nemesis and Enterprise nearly were).

    The most successful Trek movies made (Wrath of Khan, First Contact and Voyage Home) were non-geeky, and either straight-up action movies or fun comedy fare. Those thousands of inspired fans who love forward-thinking ideas simply aren’t enough to hold up the franchise at the box office, and they haven’t been for awhile.

  • mjschneider

    If nothing else, this proves that Star Trek can still rile up a good deal of discussion! I appreciate all the comments, and I apologize for not replying to each in full. I just wanted to try to clarify where I was coming from and where I align with the rest of your sentiments. To that end, I’ll single out Dan, who’s trying very hard to be evangelical about the Abrams films as well as the legacy of Trek altogether.

    Dan, I get where you’re coming from on this. You enjoyed ST09, and it probably seems like the rest of us are getting our undies in a bunch over the fact that “it ain’t like it used to be.” But I think you cut at the heart of the matter, albeit from another angle:

    Yeah, it’d be nice if Hollywood movies weren’t subject to financial concerns and never had to turn a profit, and we could see something like ST:TMP again, which I genuinely love. But it would bomb, hard, and that would be the end of Trek entirely (which Nemesis and Enterprise nearly were).

    I would argue that ST09 didn’t keep Trek afloat — it was the end of Trek. That is, Star Trek that still had the soul of Star Trek.

    I don’t think it’s fair to set up a dichotomy between commercially viable blockbusters and mature, thoughtful entertainment. I tried not to do that in my post. Nor do I necessarily think we need a Berman-esque attempt to bleed the original well dry. It simply strikes me that Abrams made absolutely no attempt to do anything with the Star Trek franchise other than make a glossy, big budget action flick with sci-fi trappings. There was nothing distinctive, exceptional, or particularly “Star Trek” about it. It literally could have been called anything else science fiction-y and probably done just as well. The fact that this utterly bland, nondescript sci-fi film was a hit, and that it was called “Star Trek” meant that whatever “Star Trek” used to be, it has now officially been rebranded. It effectively represents the end what had made Star Trek unique, and celebrates the triumph of utterly cynical, lowest-common-denominator marketing. Mind you, I enjoy many things that are made purely for profit motive, and which are aimed at the lowest common denominator. (Witness my willingness to see movies with the word HASBRO affixed at the beginning.) And had ST09 simply been a better film (and I do contend that it was a pretty poor summer film, even if you don’t factor in the Star Trek legacy), I might’ve been happy simply to see Trek stick around in another incarnation, so long as it was a good one. But I did not enjoy that film; the sequel looks like more of the same.

    I’m not planning a boycott (I’ll surely rent the thing); I’m not screaming bloody murder; I’m not even particularly decrying the capitalist exigencies of making a big SF movie within the entertainment-industrial complex. I just think it’s kind of sad that when a new Star Trek movie comes along, we — the hypothetical base for such a film, the sci-fi nerds and the Trek fans — are forced into the position of chastising ourselves for being so foolish as to expect (not even “expect,” really — to wish for) a Star Trek film to make a meager stab at including forward-thinking ideas or honoring a legacy that stretches back four decades. I think that this is a situation worth ruing. Star Trek is dead; long live whatever the hell it is that J.J. Abrams has turned Star Trek into.

    At least I have Karl Urban to look forward to.

    • Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse)

      Well, Matt, I’d argue that if disposable action-adventure is the demarcation of the End of Star Trek, I’d argue it didn’t happen with Trek ’09 — it happened with First Contact in 1996, because that’s all that movie was. That, too, could have been any other sci-fi movie about people on a spaceship fighting killer robots. It had zero to say about the human condition — neither did Insurrection or Nemesis, for that matter. So if Abrams is pushing a dead Trek, it was a corpse long before he got to it.

    • Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse)

      And I think your dislike, and your reasons for it, are perfectly fine — I am by no means trying to argue you into liking something you don’t, or mock your reasons. I hope I come across respectfully, because that’s how I mean it. I will admit to a certain detachment because I am, on some level, fascinated to see how storytelling evolves in our culture, even when it evolves in directions I might not care for.

    • mjschneider

      I would make an argument that both First Contact and Insurrection have stuff in them that’s clearly rooted in Trek ideology or continuity (Data’s desire to be human in First Contact; the problems of utopia in Insurrection), but Nemesis was pretty well a crappy action flick.

      And I hope I come across as respectful, too. I don’t know that I’m trying to persuade you that I’m right and you’re wrong (at least, that’s not how I’m consciously approaching this), but I also feel like I’m failing to articulate a distinction that I feel deeply, but as of yet have found no way to justify intellectually. Like you, I’m fascinated by the evolution of storytelling, and to a large degree, I strive to maintain an ambivalent attitude toward the idea of remakes/re-imaginings/etc., because I recognize that stories can be made fresh again by newer generations (or different cultures) with different perspectives. One of my earliest posts made that very argument. I also try not to be too persnickety about fidelity to source material, so long as the adaptation is good on its own merits.

      I have more to say specifically regarding this and other points you made, but I’m not sure I have the faculties to do them justice at the moment. I may return to this topic in a future post, and hope you’ll be kind enough to continue the discussion when I do.

    • Daniel Swensen (@surlymuse)

      I don’t think it has to be justified intellectually. We feel rapport with pieces of media, and when that rapport goes away, it’s as much an emotional argument as anything. In the past, I’ve had the feeling of being out of the target demographic — where some revisited property is made by people who don’t value the things I do, for an audience that doesn’t value the things I do. It’s kind of a desolating feeling, I think the difference is, I felt that as far back as Enterprise when it comes to Trek.

  • jubilare

    I enjoyed the last film, but I agree, it wasn’t Star Trek. This one… I don’t even know what to think after that trailer.

  • Rob

    Sorry. Star Trek needed a good scrubbing and makeover. I was never a purist over a TV show. J.J. Abrams is a very creative thinker and compared to much of the literal crap that Hollywood puts out these days (I mean, “The Loan Ranger” with Johnny Depp? Really?) it’s interesting to see the Trek go someplace it’s never been before. Personally, I welcome a little newness. I think Papa Gene had an open mind, too. And, yes, Urban is wonderful!

    • mjschneider

      I don’t think I have a problem with giving an old property a good scrubbing and makeover, so long as the scrubbing actually cleans it and the makeover doesn’t make it uglier. Star Trek ’09 was an ugly film and a stupid film apart from its vast distance from what made the older series special. Besides, it didn’t even take Trek someplace it never went before. As Dan pointed out, Nemesis was basically a below-average action flick, so ST09 didn’t really do anything new in that department, except replace the cast members with younger faces and the mundane-but-serviceable screen compositions with shaky came and lens flares. This isn’t about purism, per se. I guess it’s more about the aggressive dumbing down of entertainment. Which is to say: dumb entertainment made dumbly.

  • Rob

    I’ve gotten to where Abrams himself offers junk food entertainment; with the exceptions of Lost seasons 1 & 2, everything I’ve seen from him doesn’t satiate. He’s a roller coaster for people who’d rather climb. It doesn’t help that his big dumb Star Trek movie redefines a franchise into something it really never was. Trek had heart (or, at least the orginal series did; the actor who played Scotty (Doohan) had told my dad at a convention in St Louis in the ’80s that he wasn’t terribly fond of TNG b/c it lacked the heart of the original show) and a sense of exploration and adventure involving refined characters. Abrams’s movie I remember best as only Kirk’s freakishly large hands dilemma, the large alien monster which almost murdered Kirk (would an otherwise-reasonable Spock been brought up for involuntary homicide/neglect?), and a disdain for military structure and rank that comes w/ Starfleet. (Spock becomes commander right out of the academy w/ zero fleet experience? Geez, why not appoint admirals right out of Annapolis. … but I’m perhaps over-analyzing, not accepting the big dumb movie for what it is).

    So, really, my interest is shot for the new Trek movie. Not even Khan can lift it, for me. BUT, if anything, I’m glad his movie was a success, even though it wasn’t for me. Because it means Trek was a success, and there is renewed interest and appeal to it. Stock went up, Trek’s better off now than it was years ago, the famous characters get to live on above their original actors — and my fandom really comes from osmosis from a Trekker father and twin brother. (Unfortunately for me, I’ve watched more episodes of Voyager than I’d care to just from being in the same living room doing other things.) And it wasn’t dreadfully un-watchable, either, like a couple of the Trek movies I gave up on. (1 & 9.) The entire acting ensemble held their own, esp. the actors playing Kirk, Spock and “Bones” McCoy. I’m just looking at that trailer with pretty much the same reaction you had, shaking my head at the big dumb Transformers-type movie.


    ps – nice blog, Matt! I’m home w/ the flu, hunkered down really enjoying what you have here.

    • mjschneider

      Sorry that you had the flu, Rob, but I’m glad that, even in your feverish state, you found the blog to be enjoyable!

      The best I guess I can hope for with the new Trek franchise is that, at some point, Abrams moves on and someone smarter, cleverer, and more in touch with the thematic potential of SF takes over. At that point, of course, it’ll probably cease once again to be popular, and “fans” will start clamoring for another makeover, which seems to be synonymous with “dumbifying.” At which point Abrams or someone like him will be back at the helm, cramming the screen with gunfights, ‘splosions, and lens flare, all of which Michael Bay already does, and more entertainingly.

  • The sliding scale to movie hell | Catecinem

    […] last time I ranted peremptorily about Star Trek Into Darkness, the conversation in the comments reminded me that not everyone agrees what Star Trek was or […]

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