Star Trek Into Darkness got solid reviews and banked a healthy, if slightly lukewarm, $226 million at the U.S. box office. But there’s one group of fans who are having none of J.J. Abrams’ continued retooling of the franchise. Perhaps the most important group of fans, considering that this was a Star Trek film: Trekkies. (Or Trekkers, if you find the term “Trekkie” offensive. Whatever.) This week, legions of fans dressed in 23rd and 24th century costumes assembled in Las Vegas for the Star Trek 2013 Convention, and at one panel they collectively voted to rank all 12 Trek films from best to worst. Guess what film came in dead last? Star Trek Into Darkness.
And you know what? We here at Hollywood.com agree with that. Star Trek Into Darkness is a glossily shallow overhaul of Trek mythos that pays trivial lipservice to fans (ooh, a model of the NX-01 Enterprise? That means J.J. & Co. are just as big fans as we are, right? Wrong!) while striving to become some kind of machine-tooled Bourne knockoff with sci-fi trappings. While other filmmakers, especially those working for one Marvel Studios, increasingly recognize the power of going for a deep cut into geeky mythology that fans will love and bandwagoners will subsequently educate themselves about, Abrams opted for a full-scale whitewash. You get a sense that the filmmakers were so concerned about making Star Trek Into Darkness “cool” that they forgot to make it good. Here are 12 reasons why we agree Star Trek Into Darkness is the all-time worst Trek film.
1. Because The Klingons Have Never Looked Worse — No, I’m not talking about the acting of the thesp who played the Klingon who interrogates Uhura. I’m sure he has skills. I’m talking about the absolutely horrendous makeup job the Star Trek Into Darkness team gave him. Suddely Klingons have forehead ridges that extend around the back of their heads and curl around the ears as if they’re cousins of the Ferengi? Abrams’ reboot is supposed to rewrite the history from the early 2030s on…not alter the very genetic structure of one of the franchise’s most iconic alien species! But that wouldn’t even be so bad if the makeup in question didn’t look like it was made of plastic.
2. Because Qo’NoS is Just an Irradiated Wasteland — Yeah yeah, I know, Khan only hid out in a part of Qo’NoS that was an irradiated wasteland. But why not show us at least as much of that planet as The Next Generation did 20 years ago? Khan obviously hid out in a dead zone just so Abrams & Co. wouldn’t have to engage in any meaningful worldbuilding.
3. Because There Is Absolutely No Reason Why Carol Marcus Should Be in the Film Or Why Alice Eve’s Character Should Even Be Carol Marcus — Marcus was established in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as not just one of Kirk’s old flames, but someone with whom he felt he could have a child. Not only are there no such sparks between Kirk and Marcus in Into Darkness, she has nothing to do, period. She places herself onboard the Enterprise so that she can investigate the 72 long-range torpedoes her father has installed aboard the ship. We see her scanning them and she helps McCoy disable one, sure. But she’s really just there so we can see her in lingerie. I mean, Trek has given us plenty of eye candy before — but rarely so gratuitously and pointlessly. Seven of Nine wears a skin-tight catsuit…but she’s also just about the best character on Star Trek: Voyager, the Spock to Capt. Janeway’s Kirk, and their relationship defined the heart of that show. What does Alice Eve’s Marcus really add?
4. Because Uhura’s a Less Progressive Character in 2013 Than She Was in 1966
When Star Trek first aired, Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura was a competent professional who was defined by her intelligence, her skills, and the ambition that saw her serve aboard the bridge of a major Federation vessel. By Star Trek Into Darkness, however, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is defined entirely by her romance for Spock. Not to mention that unlike most other incarnations of Trek, Into Darkness doesn’t even pass the Bechdel Test.
5. Because Actually All the Characters Are Reduced to SNL-Parody Versions of the Themselves — Bones is an ornery quote machine. Chekov has difficulty with v’s. Kirk’s a reckless horndog. Screw logic, Spock’s really just wanting to slug somebody. These aren’t characters anymore. They’re types.
6. Because Abrams Felt He Needed a Star Wars-style Canyon chase — We get it, J.J. We really get it. You like Star Wars more than Star Trek.
7. Because, Um, Why Would a Starfleet Admiral Want to Utilize the Skills of a 300-Year-Old Cryosleeper? —The idea of Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus wanting to have Khan build a new generation of ships and weapons for the Federation to fight the Klingons would be like if we decided to revive Horatio Nelson to help us build up our 21st century Navy. Maybe he’d know something about tactics, but he’d definitely need a years-long technological refresher course.
8. Because the Story of an Evil Admiral Betraying the Federation’s Values While Pursuing Its Security Has Been Told So Much Better Before — See Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the “Homefront”/”Paradise Lost” two-parter from Deep Space Nine, and the much-maligned, but sorely underrated, Star Trek: Insurrection for better examples.
9. Because the Special Effects Are as Ugly as Gagh — Somehow the epic space battles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were the apex of computer-generated special effects and it’s all been downhill since. Abrams is trying to go for the handheld, caught-on-the-fly space battle approach of Battlestar Galactica, but he has none of the appreciation for impressionistic action that showrunner Ronald D. Moore brought to that series. (Oh yeah, Ronald D. Moore also served as an EP on Deep Space Nine.) It just makes the effects Abrams does have look cheap and like he’s trying to cover them up with slight of hand.
10. Because It Just Becomes a Silly “Greatest Hits” Album of a Movie — You get the sense of little kids reenacting their favorite movie scenes with action figures. This time, though, Kirk has to die, and Spock gets to shout “Khaaaaaan!!!” Except that when Spock died, Kirk had to spend an entire movie to bring him back to life, and sacrifice the Enterprise, his Starfleet career, and his son’s life in order to do it. You know, stakes. When Kirk dies there are no stakes, and a Tribble can revive him five minutes later. If Abrams can’t take his own movie seriously, why should we?
11. Because San Francisco Is Destroyed and No One Seems To Care — Man of Steel may ultimately have one-upped Into Darkness in terms of destruction porn, but San Francisco still got pummeled pretty bad when Khan crashed the USS Vengeance into Starfleet Headquarters, destroying much of the city with it. Also, though Roberto Orci may claim they didn’t want to cast an actor of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent as Khan to avoid stereotyping those regions’ ethnic groups, why did they turn Khan into the 23rd century equivalent of a 9/11 hijacker?
12. Because There Is a Fake Khan and There Is a Real Khan — I leave it for you to determine which is which, though there is obviously only one right answer.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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