This goes out to all of the naysayers.
To the hard core Trekkies that reject the two newest films in the series and all those who tear it down at every turn. Why? The two films have some great redeeming qualities. They are pretty well crafted stories that are entertaining and fun to watch, not just for die hard fans but for people who have never enjoyed Star Trek before. They show some great acting and excellently crafted scenes. All of this wrapped around top notch special effects and a moving score. The Abrams-verse isn’t without its flaws but what’s really needed right now for Star Trek they are getting it right, entertainment. It seems like some Star Trek fans have been unduly harsh to the Abrams-verse. People have overlooked what the newer films have done for Star Trek. They are keeping Star Trek alive and in public view by making it fun, not only for people unfamiliar, but to veterans as well.
To make a declaration before we get too far into the thick of it. I count myself a Star Trek fan of the old order. The peerless wealth of character in the original show was always in my heart as I went on to love the depth and maturity of The Next Generation. And this same excellent depth of characters was later found in Deep Space 9, all coupled with a gritty realism. For many years this was sci-fi nourishment to me and many others.
After these there was a drought of decent sci-fi on television. We started seeing its decline with Voyager and then when Enterprise was canceled. But aside from the superhero romps and a few oases here and there we’ve been with out great sci-fi. We still have a void where Star Trek fit into our lives. But in this desert of imagination we do have the newer Star Trek films to tide us over. The same incredible characters can be found there. Even the most staunch critics of the new films can still see the great talent Zachary Quinto brings to the Spock role. Or that ya feel all warm and giddy when McCoy spouts a crotchety line. Warmth and feeling is doubled down when that old fissile necked Scotsman is given her all she’s got. All orbiting around Chris Pine’s charismatic performance, making Kirk simultaneously a superhero but at the same time being believable and humanly flawed. They worked real hard at getting the characters true to the original and made them more believable in our modern age. Not many other modern sci-fi films would even try to pull this off.
both of the newer Star Treks to various other sci-fi remakes out there. Both Robocop and Total Recall lost a great deal when being revisited. They had great budgets and decent acting but the characters were not as strong as in the original, mainly due to the story’s writing and plot. They were a dry bed of storytelling that left a lot of people still wanting better.
The other sci-fi franchise out there, Star Wars, is a good example for comparison. It had all the great things of a good movie making; budget, character’s, name recognition, special effects, music, to name a few. Not to mention its legendary heritage of the first three films.
Arguably what held the newer Star Wars films back was the writing . The dialogue between characters was painful at times, the ever difficult romances and friendships were hard to swallow at best. Seeing Anakin and Padme fall in love was torture for the audience. These are the kinda scenes that left audience thirsty for the romance of the good old days of Empire Strikes Back.
Characters and their dialogue is where Star Trek wins a fight in the never ending battle with Star Wars. Abrams’ writing is much better than any of the newer Star Wars films. Because of this the characters jump out at you and friendships and relationships are not only believable, they are enjoyable. Where Star Wars failed Trek succeeded thanks to Abrams and his crew. Who could honestly say that Anakin’s scene even compared with that of Spock and Uhura’s. Both the actors in newer Star Wars and Star Trek are great but it was the writing that made the scenes.
After the dust settled for the new Star Wars films, people blamed the actors for the parch, hard to swallow scenes but this isn’t fair. Many of the actors had excellent work before and after the Star Wars prequels. Once the mirage of poor writing is removed the reality sets in that there are a lot of great actors out there, but there are far fewer great writers.
This is what is often is mistaken for bad acting, sub par writing. The things people say to each other, the dialogue basically. Without this both of the Abrams films would have been financial flops. But no one can argue the financial success the newer Star Trek films have had. True special effects helped this financial success but remakes like Total Recall and Robocop had these as well; they lacked great writing. This is the fuel the drives the actors performance. This is what makes Spock cold and logical yet still entertaining and Kirk’s gung-ho, take charge leadership style so interesting. Say what you will about plot in the Abrams-verse but the dialogue between characters is excellent. Dripping with style and entertainment to spare.
That being said the films are far from perfect.
Though the plot in the first one is a great character/origin story and flows wonderfully the second film, however, isn’t on as solid a ground. The life line Prime Spock, Khan smuggling his crew out using weapons, interstellar transporting, Lazarus Khan blood, are all weak plot devices admittedly. Worst of all may be the failed M Night Shyamalan style Khan reveal plot twist that only fooled people who probably didn’t even care about Khan. People like casual movie goers, not die hard Trekkies. This major chink in the armor derailed and otherwise brilliant revenge story. It was a gamble, one that didn’t pay off but the film shouldn’t be condemned for it. Sure Into Darkness isn’t flourishingly perfect but it’s still a great reservoir of great entertainment.But slight plot failing and technical errors are not something new to Star Trek. Back in the old days of The Original Series and well up into the third season of TNG there are inconsistencies. One episode the phasers are blue instead of red, sometimes they refer to their shields as deflector grids, and how many times has an alien force propelled the Enterprise faster than warp 8 and everything was fine. Not a single person was turned into a lizard or anything. This is not even considering things like when Romulans are first seen on the view screen in “Balance of Terror”, the crew instantly assumes they are related to Vulcans because they look alike. But whenever they boldly go where no one has gone before, not only do they speak English, but they also look exactly like humans, but no one bats an eye at this. None of the Star Trek shows had absolutely perfect plots. We accepted the good with the bad.
The plot doesn’t need to be perfect to be good.
The point is that we ignore the plot devices because we are drawn into the story because of overall plot told by the characters in the show. We are entertained. So we “willingly suspend our disbelief” that the lava monster over there isn’t just some guy crawling around in a cheap Styrofoam costume. It’s a living, breathing, alien that only wants you not to harm it. Blaming the whole film for some bad plot devices is the wrong thing to do, it is illogical.
Sure Khan could’ve gotten away from Earth using Scotty’s transwarp equation and in turn, this could’ve made space travel obsolete. Maybe plot wise it would’ve been better if he just stole a shuttle or explained that normally it was expensive and dangerous to travel that far via transporter beam but Khan took risks. But these kind of small plot hiccups never should hold a story back. This is like rejecting a freshwater lake because a few mouthfuls are unpalatable when your dying of thirst.
It isn’t as if the original was free from cheap plot devices.
Spock after all did have a time warp equation in The Original Series and in the Voyage Home that could be executed at will. All he needed was a star and a slide rule. It doesn’t make the plot weaker if Spock uses it to travel back in time to get some humpbacks … … the whales, not the people. It’s simply a device to move the story along. In the end we allow this small plot device to get washed out by the story, we willingly suspend our disbelief.
It wasn’t the small plot devices that brought the Abrams film down a notch. It was much riskier ones, it was the Khan reveal surprise. While at the same time though Peter Weller as the ruthless Admiral Marcus jockeyed for attention with Khan, tugging the plot into different directions. Weller’s performance was incredible, but there wasn’t enough room on the screen for both antagonists. In many ways he almost stole the show. This is what undermined the film more than anything else, two surprise villains driving the plot in two different directions. It was a big gamble with a large payoff that just didn’t work.
Is it enough to condemn the film?
I think not. Is it enough to condemn the Abrams-verse? Certainly not. Sure there are some weakness in the films but there are some great things to be found in both of them. For this reason it isn’t understandable why some died in the wool Star Trek fans bash the Abrams-verse and rank it so low. For what the two films bring to the table, I think the newer films are far better than all of the odd numbered Star Trek films. Even Into Darkness ranks higher in my opinion than Nemesis and Insurrection, maybe even The Search for Spock.
Sure it can never compare to the classics of Wrath of Khan that did so much with such a small budget. Nor will it gain cult classic status that some of the other films in the franchise have earned. But a franchise needs room to breathe, room to grow. Most importantly that is what the Abrams-verse gives to Trekkies, a chance to be reborn. It is giving us water in the drought of decent sci-fi that we were left in after Star Trek went into decline. Star Trek very nearly died off but despite some of its flaws, Abrams is keeping Star Trek alive. It may not be as good as a desert paradise oasis, but sometimes all we need is an IV drip to keep the franchise going. And who can argue that it isn’t at least doing that.
What are your thoughts on the Abrams-verse Trek films? Did you enjoy Star Trek (2009) or Into Darkness? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!