Going Boldly, by Travis Fishburn

20 May


As an adult, if I see a movie more than once in the span of a year, it’s is an indicator that I really enjoy it. Maybe I’ll buy it on DVD or Blu Ray somewhere down the road when the price suits me and watch it again, but twice is usually my limit. There’s so much more to be seen that I haven’t yet discovered, why would I waste hours watching the same things over and over again? J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek is a movie I find myself revisiting several times a year.


For a movie to enthrall me in such a way that I watch it on such a regular basis is unheard of. The last time any film captured my imagination and entertained me was prior to my teenage years, when I would wear out VHS copies of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and the Star Wars Trilogy. What is it that sets Star Trek apart from nearly every other film that I’m introduced to? Maybe it’s the action and adventure, or the iconic characters and the journey they experience with the help of Michael Giacchino’s emotional and spellbinding score. Perhaps it’s the humor, created and balanced so well between dialogue of talented actors and quirky moments created through direction/editing. None of these elements, by themselves, can be picked out and pointed to as the answer. What makes Star Trek work for me in the wonderful way that it does is that it’s a perfect cocktail created by all of them.

This is what makes film and television stand apart from all other forms of art, because they are the result of so many other art forms coming together. Not all of those pieces always come together harmoniously for me, but when they do, this is the result. What Abrams’s and the entire crew of the first film excelled at was the creation of a story that captivated me visually, aurally, kinetically, and emotionally. The only word I can use to appropriately describe the experience is cinematic.

Star Trek isn’t a perfect movie. Like all art, it’s subjective to the viewer. Star Trek, however, is my perfect movie. It combines all of the aforementioned elements, while also being an inherently geeky genre film, which has been, and shall always be, a cinematic category that I’m unapologetically drawn to. It defines so many things that I point to when describing my love for cinema.

With all that being said, Star Trek Into Darkness was my most anticipated movie of 2013. When Abrams was announced as the director for the next Star Wars film, my hopes for it were lifted yet higher. With such high expectations, I should have been destined to be disappointed. Into Darkness is a gripping and spectacular adventure. It’s conjures up everything its predecessor had, while also being much more emotionally poignant, an element Abrams’ has been very vocal about adding to the franchise.

The most controversial and dividing element of the film is its antagonist, played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch. There’s been a mystery behind his character, whose identity I’m going to have to address in the next paragraph (as well as a crucial scene in the third act), so spoilers abound.

Halfway through the film, Cumberbatch reveals himself to be Khan. After this revelation, the film’s latter half then incorporates a few moments that mirror those seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. What many people find to be a point of contention is that this movie takes place within a new timeline, which should mean endless new possibilities. Instead, what they got was a villain and a series of events, which appear to be recycled from the most iconic Trek film.

Many perceive this to be lazy writing on the part of Orci, Kurtzman, and Lindelof. I refuse to believe they integrated everything they did without reason. The encounter Kirk (Chris Pine) has with Khan, and the consequences of it are more than trying to appease original Trek fans. Given many of the themes found in Lost, which was run by Lindelof, I like to look at interaction and consequences Kirk has with Khan is something he was always destined for. No matter what had happened to disrupt Kirk’s life and upbringing, Abrams’s first film told us that he was always destined to be captain of the Enterprise with the same crew of friends (a point addressed by Leonard Nimoy’s original Spock in the film). Kirk was always fated to meet Khan, and that encounter would always make him question his decisions and shape him.

In Wrath of Khan, Kirk (William Shatner) learns the cost of his decisions through the loss of his friend, Spock. Into Darkness let Kirk learn a similar lesson about his arrogance and disregard for consequences, while giving him the opportunity to take responsibility for them. In Abrams’s first film, Kirk’s father sacrificed himself for the sake of his crew. That bit of altered history is incorporated within Into Darkness, and lent itself to Kirk’s decision to give up his own life for the sake of his own crew. Nimoy’s Spock in Wrath of Khan was prepared and ready to sacrifice himself while experiencing the full range of emotions accompanied by it. Quinto’s Spock had not been given the opportunity to emotionally develop as Nimoy’s had after 3 seasons of a television series, so the moment is as much a learning experience for Spock in this film as it was for Shatner’s Kirk in the other.

Are there moments of fan appreciation at work here? Of course, but there’s also so much more that can be dissected that goes beyond that. Giacchino’s score, as always, nearly brought me to tears. The lens flares are all there, as is Abrams’s wonderful ability to create humor or intimate emotional beats onto the screen that weren’t on the page. Nitpicks in logic are par for the course in every major film that’s released in this age. Star Trek is full of plot and logic holes, but what matters to me is a film’s ability to take me on an emotional ride that is so spellbinding that I don’t notice them until much later. I can fault the writing for not tying things up perfectly, but I’d rather appreciate the fact that J.J. Abrams is out there making me feel like a 10-year-old again.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply