J.J. Abrams reboots science fiction cinema

Culture Film

J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise threw sci-fi fans into a collective, nerd-tastic frenzy. Not only did it stay true to the ruthlessly loyal fan base that supported it during its days on network TV and ensuing reruns, it invited a “next generation” of fans who had never given the series a chance.

Perhaps it was due to the Shatnerian acting peculiarities of one James T. Kirk, or the public consensus that only nerds watched the show, but Star Trek had historically struggled to win over the casual viewer. Devout followers, lovingly nicknamed Trekkies (although it’s more “PC” to call them “Trekkers,” apparently), embodied the majority of the show’s viewership.

From the outsider’s perspective, the show appeared to be nothing more than a mishmash of surreal gadgets, gizmos and extra-terrestrials. The characters spoke in decisively formal, militaristic voices. The plots centered around unfathomable forays into cosmic exploration and featured villains that were so content in their evil ways they seemed unrelatable and undeniably cheesy. The show was embedded in a thick layer of reverie that a large portion of society found inaccessible.

This praise of the Star Trek reboot isn’t to say the previous instalments in the franchise were unsuccessful by any means. In fact, Star Trek has been a pop culture phenomenon for over half a century. Since Gene Roddenberry penned the pilot episode, he revolutionized science fiction for many generations of fans and show runners. Star Wars, Avatar and Back to the Future are all among those indebted to the vision behind Star Trek.

The resounding success of the reboot films should, therefore, come as no surprise to sci-fi fans. The characteristics that identified the original series and subsequent films have been used in combination with elements from current films in the genre. The result: an action-packed visual spectacle that does not sacrifice any of the intelligence or integrity that originally attracted fans and distinguished the franchise.

Which brings us to Star Trek Into Darkness — a film that is important to the science fiction genre itself. The 2009 predecessor was a major breakthrough in that it successfully won over a mass market, including both loyal fans and newcomers alike. The film evidenced a growing willingness among Hollywood executives to take a chance and appeal to more than just the lowest common denominator with a big budget picture.

Into Darkness proves that director J.J. Abrams’ success four years earlier was no anomaly and the freshness of the original film was not its only merit. The film seamlessly integrates newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch in a role that will overcome Trekkies with nostalgia and leave those partial to the reboot with chills.

The plot takes off shortly after the events of the first film, with protagonist Captain Kirk attempting to solidify his position as leader of the U.S.S. Enterprise. A terrorist plot unravels and the crew must confront an enemy that is shrouded in absolute secrecy.

Abrams takes a page from the Christopher Nolan (director of the Dark Knight) movie mastery handbook and employs a villain that acts as the centerpiece of the action, often allowing Cumberbatch’s John Harrison to overshadow the rest of the cast with his impressively haunting acting chops.

Nevertheless, the movie’s true star is its cosmic appeal. Computer-generated imagery brings the marvel of interstellar travel to the forefront. We recommend seeing the film in IMAX 3D for the ultimate Into Darkness experience. This film works on so many different levels that it should be enjoyed regardless of the viewing method.

Its success provides hope to those who are skeptical about Star Wars: Episode VII. Abrams is attached to direct, and many are using Star Trek Into Darkness to determine whether the renowned filmmaker can revitalize the other Star saga, after the underwhelming prequel trilogy.

Since humanity has looked up at the stars, we have wondered what is out there. And that is the true merit of Star Trek, the prospect of what the future holds and the ideal it asks us to strive towards. While interstellar travel seems far beyond the reaches of our own lifetime, it can’t hurt to dream. Star Trek Into Darkness is an expertly crafted visual embodiment of this dream.