To boldly go where we already boldly went before, while giving a dying franchise a shot in the arm!
THIS ISN’T A REVIEW OF THE STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS FILM!!!
I saw a special screening of Star Trek: Into Darkness, prior to its official debut and while I really enjoyed the film and got a little more than what I expected, it wasn’t new and mind-blowing, which to me means that they did it right. The following is MY OPINION on what this reboot for Star Trek is and what it means for the franchise. This explores why I think director JJ Abrams has done a GOOD job with the franchise reboot and why the different direction/changes were necessary in my opinion. While this is an opinion piece and open to comments, let’s keep any disagreements civil and courteous, with the idea that I’m in no way trying to convert you to my way of thinking/opinion. That said, fellow Trekkies please refrain from tossing bottles and rotten tomatoes at me during a convention/conference or other such public event!
Quite a few Star Trek fans affectionately known as Trekkies (some of which I happen to KNOW and LOVE) were up in arms when JJ Abrams was tapped to direct the Star Trek reboot/reimaging. I have to admit, I was skeptical myself and I consider myself to be a more open minded Trekkie than most of my brethren. That said, if you look at box office receipts alone, the first film was VERY successful. This and the fact that it is an established franchise is the reason we have the sequel out in theaters right now.
Recently, I had an online discussion with some of my friends and fellow Trekkies about ST:Into Darkness and they weren’t impressed. Of course, some of them weren’t impressed with the first film in the reboot and neither they or I expected any different result. Besides the complaints of obvious plot holes (it’s not like any of the other Star Trek TV series and/or movies had them, lol!), there was the lack of respect they felt was given to the source material. This is the meat of this special, Star Trek Franchise Discussion!
It is my opinion (and therefore not law or any attempt on my part to sway you to my line of thinking) that while I’m a fan of Star Trek, I think that it was only really thought provoking sci-fi when and because the content was relative to the period in which it was spawned. (This is my personal opinion, so again don’t throw bottles and/or rotten tomatoes! =D). The core idea behind the TV show was Wagon Trail to the stars…most of today’s audience doesn’t even get that reference. The franchise had to reset and reinvent on some level just to be relevant to today’s audience (outside of Trekkies). Honestly, (again in my opinion) JJ Abrams has done just that. If he hadn’t, it would have been the same stories told the same way and I personally didn’t want that.
The Space Age is said to have officially began in 1957 with Sputnik, which was nine years prior to the debut of Star Trek: TOS. Something must be said in regard to the leap in sci-fi fanfare during this time as man was coming into an age of real life space exploration and this show was the inspiration for much of the fascination with space exploration and modern technology we take for granted today. ST:TOS was cutting edge for its time with wireless handheld communicators, wireless headpieces, pneumatic doors, portable computers, artificial intelligence, two way communication screens, needle-less injections and portable medical scanners. Guess what? We have all of those things as a reality today. Back then, our reality was Science Fiction and we’ve come a long way indeed. So, how do we take things that seemed so cool and FAR OUT (I know I’m dating myself) and make them new and fresh and hip to today’s audience?
I think JJ Abrams had no choice but to do things the way he did to make the concept and the imagery relevant to today’s audience, much to the chagrin of diehard Trekkies. There’s a reason that the deck of the Enterprise looks like the inside of an Apple store as opposed to how it looked on the show…relatability! Today’s generation knows what the Apple store looks like inside and they get excited by being there, a replica of the ST:TOS set…not so much. Abrams had to make the set look inviting to a new generation, while achieving a similar configuration to the original set. I would think this would be a VERY difficult undertaking to say the least (and for those whining about it, can you do any better?).
Another aspect of the lost of relevance ST:TOS is the idea of an international community. Most people 40 and over can remember a time when the world wasn’t at your fingertips and news from the other side of the world came in days, if not weeks, as opposed to seconds. Gene Roddenberry envisioned Star Trek as “Wagon Trail to the stars,” essentially a space western (is it any wonder Captain Kirk has such a cowboy-esque attitude?). He also addressed issues such as The Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. It was very socially conscious to have a Russian and an African American (a woman no less) as main characters in the show, not to mention giving television its first interracial kiss! The show gave the world a glimpse of a world where we had moved beyond the constraints of race, creed, color, religion and even species, in an effort to be equally accepted. These were VERY hot bed issues of the time…not so much today (although, we still have a VERY LONG WAY TO GO!).
I say all of this to make the point that Abrams had to find a way to take a sci-fi franchise, steeped in past social and historical issues/relevance and relate that to a generation that had never experienced (even a little bit), what was very much a part of everyday life back then. Let’s be real, today’s kids (anyone 30 or younger) have not lived, breathed and otherwise experienced many of the struggles society had with the themes ST:TOS explored at that time. Ask them about the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement or laws against interracial dating/marriage and you’ll likely get a blank stare as this is VERY common today.
The Star Trek franchise made another attempt in the late 90’s to revitalize itself and try to capture the spirit of ST:TOS, when they introduced a TV show called Enterprise. The show depicted the early days of Starfleet (pre Kirk) and while it resonated with some, it’s reception overall was lackluster compared to the series and movies that proceeded it. There is a reason (imho) that Enterprise failed to capture the audiences beyond a handful of seasons and was never revisited, and chief among them was it’s relatability to the audience/generation. That group of folks had grown up with Star Trek:The Next Generation as their (in some cases only) exposure to the Star Trek franchise and to quite a few of them, Enterprise was boring.
We also have to take into consideration that ST:TNG was best able to capture the audience with social issues of the time and cool technology (that had not yet been produced for public consumption). ST:TNG had holodecks, badge communicators, voice recognition software for computers, touch screen computer consoles and tablet PC’s. Kids today have all of those things now…it’s not anything to be excited about anymore and definitely not so cool and wonderful as it was in the mid 1980’s. Another thing about ST:TNG was that it didn’t have to try to establish preceding mythos of the franchise, it jumped right into the fray and won the admiration of Geekdom by providing a setting in the future , more advanced tech/weaponry, new species and special effects on par with anything the Star Trek movies ever produced.
The above opinions all work to illustrate the following: How could Hollywood take ST:TOS (a sci-fi franchise that had been struggling for years to crossover and reach larger audiences in the theaters), make it more mainstream and reach a newer, broader audience? They had to reinvent the wheel and that is a VERY difficult thing to do and impossible to please everyone in the process. I think that this is something the diehard Trekkies should take into consideration a bit more (or get their ideas at doing it better out to Hollywood). In my opinion it all boils down to taking the canon of a TV show made in the 1960’s which addressed the social and historical issues of that era, featuring technology that (about half of) is common in today’s world and making it resonate with today’s generation. A different direction had to be taken, love it or hate it, Abrams did that. He didn’t make a perfect movie(s), nor did he necessarily capture the charm and sense of wonder that ST:TOS had (although in my opinion that’s impossible), but what he did do is make films that introduced beloved characters to a new audience, took elements of the franchise and wove them into something new and relatable to said new audience. An effort which I personally salute!
In regards to the underwhelming box office numbers for the latest foray into the Star Trek franchise, I think it has far less to do with disgruntled fans of the genre and franchise, than it has to do with BOX OFFICE COMPETITION!!! With Iron Man 3(already a billion dollar franchise) having been recently released, and The Great Gatsby still at the box office, it’s no wonder (at least to me) that Star Trek didn’t earn as much as the studio had hoped. But, in all honesty, earning only 25 million short of what they wanted to see, against Iron Man 3 (a movie that had made a billion dollars already by the time Star Trek came out) was VERY impressive and respectable, imho.
In conclusion, I think that the Star Trek franchise accomplished its mission in that it:
A)Rejuvenated a beloved (but dying) sci-fi franchise while utilizing enough source material so that it wasn’t entirely foreign.
B)Reached a new audience with the summer blockbuster feel, and
C)Received enough box office receipts to be monetarily successful and competitive.
Was it a hit with everyone? Obviously not, but it did get everyone to take notice and whether you are with the new program or lamenting about the days of old, you’re doing exactly what the folks at Paramount are wanting you to do…TAKING NOTICE!
STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS FILM REVIEW COMING SOON!!!