[COMMENTARY] In Defense of J.J. Abrams, whether he wants it or not

[COMMENTARY] In Defense of J.J. Abrams, whether he wants it or not


[Look, people: I’m talking about a movie in current release. Though I am not saying anything that will ruin your STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS experience, per se, consider this your ‘Dragons Live Here’ signpost.]

Since the release of INTO DARKNESS, it has become really trendy to bag on J.J. Abrams and his version of STAR TREK. While my problems with both movies are firmly in the writing – I had a long argument with someone close to the production four weeks ago about the Tribble scene – it pains me that Trekkies are fast becoming the new Hipsters.

With sincere apologies to Hoodie Allen...

With sincere apologies to Hoodie Allen…

“It’s not my TREK.”

No, dammit, it’s not. And it never will be, again. Blame Paramount, blame Rick Berman, blame the Great Bird’s ghost if you want to, but your TREK is never going to be on the big screen again, repertory film notwithstanding.

The last four TREK films with the Next Generation cast – GENERATIONS, FIRST CONTACT, INSURRECTION and NEMESIS grossed $75 million, $92 million, $70 million and $43 million respectively.

When Abrams was handed the reigns and told, “Make a STAR TREK movie that people who can’t tell the differences in Command insignias will like,” he did. And the public responded, to the tune of $257 million worldwide.

If you think the science is bad in the new TREK movies, you’re right. However, if you’re saying it’s worse than the original series or classic films, you’re wearing blinders. Slingshot time travel, cloaking devices, and warp drive come to mind – and don’t start saying that science advisors were always involved with the conversation, because their advice comes in the form of “Here’s how you can shoehorn this plot point down the script’s throat using science!”

Between “we’re caught in the Earth’s gravity” when they’re past the Moon’s orbit,, and (my growling fit with [REDACTED PRODUCTION MEMBER]) why McCoy is keeping a dead Tribble around, perhaps in a “Break Glass In Case Of Genetically Altered Human On Board” case, the new movie has some really lazy science in it. My appreciation of the bits that did work wound up shouting down the part of my brain that said “That’s not accurate, dammit!”

When the classic TREK (either TOS or TNG) was firing on all cylinders, it was a beacon of Golden Age Sci-Fi, wrapping a brilliant morality play into a Starfleet uniform. A candy coating of technobabble for what could be a bitter pill of critical thinking. When it wasn’t firing on all cylinders, it was “Bitter dregs,” “Spock’s brain is gone!” and “Angel One.”

I liked INTO DARKNESS. Didn’t love it. Not the most entertaining film I’ve seen this year. However, there were bits in this movie that I’d hold up alongside the best sequences in TREK history, because they’re AWESOME BITS.

Okay. Look. I know I’m falling into the trap of “Your opinion stinks because my opinion is better,” which permeates every fiber of the Web. Or, as E.C. McMullen, Jr. put it, “Wait. You’re upbraiding people who don’t love it, because their reasons for not loving it are different from your reasons for not loving it?” Well… yeah.

I guess it’s more frustration than anything else. I had always wondered why people who really liked STAR WARS couldn’t bring themselves to like TREK, but always shrugged it off with “To each, their own.”

As I get older (yes, I can admit it), and I watch people file in to films I don’t see the appeal for (JACK & JILL comes to mind), I want to shake ’em and scream “WHY?!? [OTHER FILM] is such a better use of your time and discretionary income!” Eventually, after my beta blockers kick in, I shrug and say, “To each, their own.”

That’s what entertainment criticism is all about. If you don’t like New TREK, fine. If you like New TREK but dislike Classic TREK, groovy. Just have an informed opinion, that’s all. There’s a difference between an argument and a debate.

At the end of the day, it’s just “Wagon Train to the Stars,” people.

[Thanks to Elizabeth Gray’s FB group, for allowing me to flesh out this piece in real time.]

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About the Author

America's Sweetheart. Pixel monkey; media whore; recovering film critic; baseball fanatic; husband; Texan; human.