Original Post Date: July 5, 2013
Back about a month ago, I reviewed the new Star Trek film, Star Trek: Into Darkness in which I said I liked everything but the ending, and tried to just pass my own biased opinion. I promised then I was going to write an article about why I didn’t like the ending, and it took a lot of careful thinking to try and explain my point without resorting to a violent rage or Trekkie fangirl shouting. I have finally achieved my goal – this was the result.
Now if you’ve been following me for sometime you know I’m not the type to let my fan girl rage to get the best of me. As a critic, I try to be as unbiased as humanly possible, and sometimes that’s easier said than done. But Star Trek is something near and dear to my heart. It’s been a part of my life since my parents would watch Voyager late at night when I was a little kid. So when I saw this movie, you better believe I was opened mouth in disbelief when the third act rolled onto the screen which slowly boiled into rage.
If you didn’t pay attention to the spoiler warning before, then you best leave now because this whole article has to do with the ending of the film.
Have you seen Wrath of Khan? It’s not a requirement to read this article but its a great film so you should be sure to watch it anyways. In the film itself, there is a scene with the nuclear reactor, but unlike Into Darkness, the scenario is with Spock inside the reactor and Kirk on the outside. I’m not going to harp too hard on the role reversal because it does actually make sense. Original Universe (OU) Kirk believed any situation could be won, so seeing his friend dying, unable to save him dealt a powerful blow. New Universe (NU) Kirk lost his father because of a sacrifice so it is likely for him to give up his life for the greater good, and knows there are situations you can lose. OU Spock viewed the world logically because he was older and was more in control of his emotions so he would be the one to sacrifice itself for the greater good. NU Spock is more dominated by his emotions and having felt what death is like with Pike, he is dealt the blow knowing that his friend is going through the same terror as he dies.
No, my problem is that they ripped the entire scene from the movie and just reversed it. They even ripped some of the same dialogue. The reason why they did isn’t hard to decipher – the studios wanted Abrams to make a new Wrath of Khan because they thought it would bring in lots of money and that pandering to the fans would endear them to the reboots. The issue is that Abrams and those who wrote it claimed at they barely watched and/or didn’t really like Star Trek. They wanted to make a Star Trek “everyone” could like. But they ended up pissing off an entire sect of the fanbase.
Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but if you imitate it in the most shallow, superficial way then it’s just annoying. That scene had such an impact on fans and audiences because there were layers of meaning to it, it created amazing character development. Spock dies – he actually gets a funeral and everything. Audiences had no idea he was going to be back in the next film and so it felt final and had a huge emotional impact. In this film, anyone who was paying attention knew that Kirk was going to be brought back with Khan’s blood because of the scene with the Tribble earlier. No one was sad because we knew he was going to be fine in the end, so there was no real emotional response. It’s a script that missed the risks and creative turns Wrath of Khan had.
To be fair it would be incredibly hard to pull this off, no matter who the director was. If they had tried to change the situation, make some small allusions to Wrath of Khan rather than basically copy-pasting the scene, it wold have been better. There was just no way to do keep it exactly the same without pissing some people off, nor could they make it totally different without the same reaction. They had to remake it without remaking it – an incredibly challenging task, especially for writers who, as I said before, were not big fans of the show. Instead of trying to figure out a way, or perhaps trying and failing, they chose to copy the scene and hope that it didn’t upset too many fans. Hell, I wouldn’t even have been mad of copying the scene has meant something in the context of this film, but it doesn’t really. It’s main purpose for existing is to be a reference, and nothing more.
Also, on an additional note, the new series is way too focused on hand-to-hand combat. You are dealing with a civilized people who haven’t had any major wars in decades and you expect me to believe that they would immediately devolve into fist fights? Not to mention, you have a franchise with giant ships, you have amazing special effects technology, use it! Do you know how impressive giant spaceships fighting is? The original series knew that. Episode IV-VI of Star Wars knew that. Whats the point of having giant spaceships if you’re not going to have them fight? I get that hand to hand is more instantly gratifying and easier to shoot, but this is STAR TREK. Space battles are practically promised in the title. Having them not fight just makes them giant, useless transport vessels. Another thing is suddenly they can get anywhere really quickly in the reboots. In the old films it at least took the a couple of hours so they could settle and talk and let things breathe before jumping back into the action.
Understand that you, whether as a new fan or an old school Trekkie, might disagree with me, and I would love to here your opinion. After all, with all the Trekkies out there in the world, it would be impossible to agree on the same thing. My overall take was a negative but I have met other fans who didn’t mind it, even enjoyed it. There is hope for the next films however. There are rumors that Abrams now had full reign for the new Star Trek III to go and do whatever he wants rather than remake the old films, which would be great. I like Abrams well enough, I just don’t want him to ruin Star Trek IV for me too.