Star Trek: Into Darkness v. Wrath of Khan

As an avid fan of the original Star Trek, I admit I’m biased against the new “reboot” as it were, just because it’s not the same actors (who are the characters) I’ve been acquainted with, spanning decades.  You can’t fake that kind of comraderie.  Nonetheless, I had been looking forward to Into Darkness, but left disappointed.  somewhat at first, more completely over the next few days.  In short, I felt Into Darkness blatantly ripped off Wrath of Khan (as opposed to doing a proper alternate universe of it, or pay homage to it), down to recycling lines…without the pathos behind it.  and perhaps without thought to choice of dialogue.  sure, perhaps this is meant to be an alternate timeline version of Wrath of Khan, but… maybe these dialogue exchanges would make sense, and have pathos for the audience, between friends who’ve known each other for twenty years, but could only sound trite and cloying at best, coming from two people who just met each other.  Maybe I would have liked Into Darkness more if they had created a wholly new plot, wholly new villain (as they did with the first reboot).

There were other nitpicks of mine.  One was that I felt that they were going for Big Summer Blockbuster – i.e. lots of action, lots of explosions, lots of fancy CGI, very little emphasis on plot, character, dialogue, and thought.  In short, the antithesis of what Star Trek is and has meant.  Yes, the original Star Trek had cardboard sets, might feel hokey, but the show and following movies always kept true to plot, character development, ethical quandries, philosophy.  Star Trek is about substance and comraderie.  (and some old Western style swashbuckling American spirit)  but it was never about CGI and effects.  Never about flash at the expense of substance.

Did J.J. Abrams forget this?  Did he ever like Star Trek, or was this a vehicle for him to do a summer blockbuster?  I feel he may be selling out.  he did Lost, of all things, a show known for character development, ethical and philosophical conundrums, and doing something different.  He did other weird and idiosyncratic things.  Whereas Into Darkness felt more like standard Hollywood fare.

Other things… [spoiler, for those who haven’t seen it, below]

I just couldn’t abide Into Darkness’ Khan.  Khan was a powerful, I believe Indian, dictator.  He was played by the great, the irreplaceable, Ricardo Montalban.  Khan is supposed to be Indian, middle-aged, very muscular, a “super” human.  and this reprisal had him played by a young skinny white kid.  I just couldn’t buy it.  True, the new Khan actor did have an incredible voice, but he wasn’t Khan to me.

and also pacing.  Into Darkness whips through everything, jumping from action sequence to the next.  no time for dialogue, character development, thought…some jumps that seem even gratuitious.  Jupiter?  compare this to Wrath of Khan.  Wrath of Khan, comparatively, takes it’s time.  It has a slower pace, with adequate time for both witty banter and some thoughtful pondering, really set these characters as real humans….not just all a blur of explosions and graphics.

and on the graphics note, I guess I’m more old-school.  I think good old-fashioned props, Khan’s dusty Dune-like gang, the sand creature…are far more effective, realistic, and stand the test of time, than the latest computer graphics of the time.  (switching worlds, my preference for puppet Yoda, and dislike of CGI Yoda, case in point)

To be fair, there were some things I liked about Into Darkness.  Namely, I liked how they modernized Uhura, giving her intelligence, spirit, a true equal; I like how they tweaked her job to make it more significant, while still being the same job, that was clever.

Thought was put into Wrath of Khan dialogue, and so forth.  I also can’t say enough about Ricardo Montelban.  He made Khan one of the most memorable characters for me, and is simply brilliant.  managing to pull off, in short time, a more humanizing, rather than one-dimensional, villain, as it were.  I think Wrath of Khan will stand the test of time.  These two Star Trek reboots, I think, might seem like modern add-ons (such as the Star Wars prequels), that can’t compare.  Yet again too focused on effects over substance.

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