Do Ya Do Ya Want My Khan? The Shiny Happy People of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek

Can someone turn down the lights?
Can someone turn down the lights?

Ahhh…shit…(SPOILER ALERT!) I gave away a major spoiler of Star Trek Into Darkness in the title of the post!  Though, honestly, people, is it any surprise that Khan makes an appearance in part two of Abrams’ reboot series?  Following the trend of comic book films, it seems as if Abrams’ Treks will only be as good as their villains…which means this sequel is a slight notch above its overrated predecessor but is still a mish-mash rehash with nary an original idea to be found and completely void of the political allegory and societal mirror-holding that made the original series so…original.  I was a bit more invested in and entertained by this rehash as if you are going to rehash plots and villains, you might as well rehash the best.  I mean I can’t even remember the villain in the first film.

Though the DUN DUN DUN previews made it clear things were going to get more serious this time around, the film is inexplicably sub-titled Into Darkness…as there’s nary a moment of literal or thematic darkness to be found in the shiny happy continuation of Abrams’ shiny happy series.  Okay, okay, they do speak the words war and genocide, and alotta people die James Cameron-style when the ships get all blown up and stuff.  But you gotta hand it to a guy who just doesn’t give a damn.  If J.J. wants to do an opening nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark in a sci-fi film, well, by golly, he’s gonna jam that in there!  And if he wants to have his set designers craft an entire starship to be made of interior reflective surfaces so that his signature lens flares can go whole hog and burn your retinas…then damn it, Jim, he’s gonna do it!  And if he wants to stretch out certain emo-scenes Felicity style to the point of banality…then frick, he don’t need Keri Russell present to do that.  You see, J.J. is like that smart dorky crafty kid who grew up to be geek chic.  He’s completely hung up on the nostalgia Hollywood peddles, which has made him a golden boy in a town that loves to recycle all that is golden.  This means that many will find what he does pretty cool, but if you want anything deeper than re-imagined childhood reveries, then you better look elsewhere.

And although all the lens flares and explosions render certain action scenes incomprehensible, there are still some wondrous set pieces and stupendous special effects to be found here.  Apparently inspired by the work of Tarsem, Abrams incorporates some epic dissolves and scene transitions.  He also repeatedly (and in grand cinematic fashion) shows off the scale of his special effects by zooming in from afar in deep space down to one small window or opening revealing the characters inside a shuttle or the bridge inside a massive vessel.  I can’t say that I didn’t find a lot of this visual showmanship pretty damn nifty.

And the cast doesn’t seem to care that Abrams replays some classic scenes from the original word for word only different characters are speaking the lines this time (oh, cool, man, it’s an alternate timeline, remember?) as all the regulars are back and fully game and very effective.  Meanwhile Benedict Cumberbatch makes for a ruthless Kahn by channeling Ralph Fiennes’ dastardly characters from Schindler’s List and Harry Potter.

So what am I saying here?  Oh, who really cares?  Abrams knows his audience.  You can’t deny that.  And I can’t deny this wasn’t all a bit of fun (though it came dangerously close to dragging on for too long).  I guess I’m just not his target audience, as I always find the best films to pay a bit of homage to past masters while nestling that nostalgia in a frame-work of new ideas.  Abrams, no matter how well he crafts a movie, will always be, for me, an emotional copy-cat.

Written by David H. Schleicher


  1. As someone who had never seen ANYthing Star Trek-related before Abrams’ first reboot film a couple of years ago, I could tell by the occasional collective gasp from the rest of the audience that something was going on I just didn’t get –> “Abrams replays some classic scenes from the original word for word only different characters are speaking the lines this time.”

    This is how the movie experience played out for me: “Mickey Smith!” “Robo Cop!” And then BOOM, I was Cumberbatched.

  2. Well David, this is not nearly as bad as I feared it would be! You are fair throughout, and conclude it’s quite entertaining. You certainly know my own position, as I engaged in a long thread with a dissenter. Ha! I am a trekkie and I know what I like. For me this film worked, and I’m hoping the series will continue with or without Abrams. Your writing as always is first-rate!

    • Sam – LMAO my writing must not have been THAT first-rate as you are the fourth person who has read this review and then told me I liked the movie. Which I guess maybe I did? Ha ha. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter. I do not like Abrams though; I hope that came through.

Provide your own Spin and tell us what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s