The 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 should be. Yet the opening lines in this early review only reinforces my curmudgeonly stance toward the rebooted franchise. See if you can spot where the problem lies:
How quickly a steady starship can veer off-course. JJ Abrams’ brainy, ballsy 2009 reboot of Trek has given way to a shallow, shrill, all-action sequel that reduces the characters to parodies. The camaraderie between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) now makes no sense: one is a risk-taking, rule-breaking rascal, the other’s a whiny geek; their dynamic brings to mind a socially inept schoolkid who thinks his bully is his friend. Scotty, Chekov and McCoy are just silly voices in uniforms, and beyond demonstrating her fluent Klingon, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura gets little to do except wonder why her pointy-eared boyfriend is bad at discussing his feelings (d’uh!).
If Nick Dent didn’t specifically mention in the second sentence that this is a review of the 2013 sequel, I would’ve thought this to be a near-perfect encapsulation of the first reboot. The fact that he regards Star Trek 2009 as “brainy” and “ballsy” compared to Into Darkness suggests that film critics have had to hire the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a ladder down to Hell to find a place low enough to set the bar for what counts as brainy and ballsy. Perhaps that’s another reason why the love for ST09 pisses me off so much. It’s not that I’m against enjoying big, dumb summer blockbusters. But when a big, dumb summer blockbuster rolls off the Tinseltown assembly line and it’s directed by Michael Bay, it is what it is, and is recognized (and most often derided) as such. When it’s directed by J.J. Abrams, it’s brainy and ballsy, though no smarter or technically more proficient. Apparently J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek is now a golden standard by which we measure summer blockbusters, so much so that even his own sequel can’t measure up. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sliding scale to movie hell. I’m not, by the way, using this review to confirm whether or not Star Trek Into Darkness is really as bad as I’d feared; it may, contra whatever this critic says, be a very good film. That’s the not the point. The point is that I don’t think Dent is alone in his perspective on Abrams’s Star Trek. The point is that we’ve lost our cultural moorings where it comes to establishing benchmarks for taste and accomplishment. When the first film — which itself was a shallow, shrill, all-action reboot of a franchise that was initially intended by its creator to be the opposite — now towers above its successor as a model of depth, restraint, and thrills, it’s pretty clear to me that we expect nothing from our entertainment, and we therefore get nothing in return. Except we call it an embarrassment of riches when the next-worst thing comes out a few years later. No wonder Purgatory looks so enticing if you see it from a subjacent angle.
Via Opus. ☕