Star Trek Into Darkness (and the Era of Reboots)

I finally made it to a showing of the new Star Trek flick this past weekend. It was not without its eyeroll moments, but even then, JJ Abrams was obviously having so much fun with his reboot of the Trek universe that it would have seemed mean-spirited to complain.

I suppose I should explain that I have a certain fondness for Chris Pine’s Kirk that I never had for Shatner’s. No, I am not a Chris Pine fangirl. Besides the whole issue of crushing on somebody with the same first name and the fact that he is far too young for me, he just doesn’t appeal to me in that way. But when I was much, much younger, I had a college friend whose favorite Trek character was Kirk. He was also an actor, and he had just the right looks and attitude that I always thought he should head to Hollywood to see if he could get cast as the bastard son of Kirk and some alien chick. So when Chris Pine turned up on the screen in 2009, looking and acting so eerily like my old friend, I knew Abrams was heading the right direction, no matter what all those stick-in-the-mud purists had to say.

And now I suppose I have to make a confession that will probably lose me what little geek cred I may have had. Confessions, actually. 1. I’ve watched only a handful of TOS episodes. I’m pretty sure “Space Seed” was not one of them. 2. I’ve never seen more than snippets of the first three Star Trek movies. So the whole Khan/Marcus storyline was lost on me. But I decided to read up on those plot lines, and now that I know just what Abrams was messing about with, I have to say I like his take on Trek all the better. He took known elements from the canon, he brought them together at a very different point in the larger story arc, and he toyed with how things would happen in his Trek world, which is so deliciously not canon. 

Piece of cake, right? Heh. I wish. I realized that my current project is, at its core, a reboot of Mark Twain. Sheesh. I’m resurrecting Sam’s dead older brother as his treasured baby sister. And she’s worried that she might be a zombie. If JJ Abrams is taking heat for time travel in Star Trek, what am I letting myself in for? Maybe I’ll find myself wishing for blessed obscurity when I finally get my work out there.

So what does make or break a reboot? There are so many now! If you don’t like how RDJ portrays Sherlock Holmes, wait five minutes, and you can give Benedict Cumberbatch’s version a whirl. I happen to like both. I firmly believe, especially after reading some Baring-Gould and watching Doyle’s own Bohemia/Reichenbach mashup, that Doyle had rather a cavalier attitude towards Holmes and his world. Which is good, considering the sheer numbers of Holmes pastiches that have been unleashed on the world. But where some of the recent superhero reboots have been deemed huge successes (e.g., Iron Man), others are considered but pale green imitations. And now they’ve started rebooting the reboots to the point that I just don’t think I can be bothered to care about the new Spiderman, Superman, and Batman offerings.

So as I embark on my steampunkification of Samuel L Clemens (and the zombification of one of his siblings), I ask you to tell me what you love and hate in a reboot. What can I do to win you over to my vision of the 19th century on the Missouri River?

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6 thoughts on “Star Trek Into Darkness (and the Era of Reboots)

  1. Yeah, what’s with all the reboots? At this point I think most of us have gotten used to switching out the actors, thanks to Dr. Who and those Bond films.

    About ST though, it’s clear he’s approaching it with some deference to the existing body of work. So yay!

    I thought ST:D was good fun for what it was, action adventure and character development. But it left me with a distinct impression that the script was rushed. Surely not even a Kirk that green would hide the Enterprise under water for no reason. But at least now Kirk has had practice choosing principle over vengeance, and has seen what can happen when one forgets one’s principles.

    Too bad Khan ruined Uhura’s Kobiyashi moment.

    And we all got a reminder to not trust somebody (or some government organization) just because his goals seem presently compatible with our own.

    • Excellent points. I really like that JJA is letting Kirk develop as a very different person from who he was in TOS.

      Do you think the acceptance of switching out actors is a good thing? I grew up watching soaps during school breaks, so I’ve been used to the idea for a long time. Though I still reserve the right to not like any particular casting choice.

      • I hope Hollywood clues in that switching out actors is far better than telling origin stories over and over again. There’s only so much Green Goblin and Zod one can take, for instance.

        That said, I do like this ST reboot. Just hold up on the lens flares a bit.

  2. Oooh! I do have a comment on reboots (and ST:D, actually)!

    For me, reboots are successful when the act of rebooting stays true to the core of the characters that are being portrayed (the bits that people have come to love) but ALSO adds something new to the equation of setting-plot-characters through the act of rebooting. I adored ST:D because it did both: it kept Kirk and Spock recognizable as Kirk and Spock, and through the mismash of the storyline and swapping of roles/actions from the original plot, the audience also got to see these loved and known characters expand even further by responding to new situations in a recognizable way. Caveat being that even in reboots where your starting point already grants you a somewhat invested and informed audience, the laws of good storytelling still apply. I think ST:D did a good job in that respect, though I agree with you that there were some eye roll worthy moments.

    So speaking for myself, ST:D was a major success. As is the BBC Sherlock series, which does something similar in terms of reimagining/remapping the mysteries. The (this is silly, but whatever) Dirty Dancing remake, which also modernized the story, wasn’t anything deserving a comment, partially because of limited acting ability, but to me primarily because it didn’t show the audience anything new about the characters or story. It just straight up redid it with some skankier dancing.

    • Yes, I think you’ve nailed it there, Chelsea. It’s similar to what made Galaxy Quest such a successful movie for me. It was the perfect balance of spoof and homage, crafted with loving care and blended with silliness.

      Do I have to give up my “Child of the ’80s” card if I admit that I never saw either Dirty Dancing movie? But I have seen remakes like you describe, and I have to wonder what the point was. Why spend a huge sum of money to make a lame copy of something when it’s cheaper and easier to stream the original on Netflix?

      Oh, and Brian, what is your problem with lens flare? (If you spend much time in my Flickr photostream, you will see that I am quite the fan of lens flare.)

  3. I find lens flare is distracting when overused. In one case during ST:D, it was even blinding enough to trigger my shut-eyes-and-look-away-and-grunt reflex.

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