Film News

Fans Wrongly Vote Stark Trek Into Darkness as the Worst Star Trek Film of All Time – Should Paramount Be Concerned?

It is a strange feeling to be a fan of a film or television franchise which appears to no longer care about you.  A lot of longtime Star Trek fans have felt this way about director J.J. Abram’s revival of the franchise, which began with 2009’s Star Trek and then continued with this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness.  As BBC Radio film critic Mark Kermode has argued, it’s like Abrams decided to eliminate the speechiness of Star Trek by having the characters engage in their ethical debates while running for their lives.  Abrams has been astonishingly honest about his lack of Star Trek fandom, and intention to approach the material as an outsider attempting to discover how to pull it from the clutches of the trekkies and deliver it an easier to swallow form for the masses.

Star_Trek_2009_by_DaSal
It’s tough for some to admit, but there are plenty of Star Trek fans whose first Kirk and Spock were not played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

 Financially speaking, the strategy paid off for him and Paramount Studios when 2009’s Star Trek ended up as the highest grossing domestic film in franchise history, even after adjusting for ticket price inflation.  It may have backfired this summer with Into Darkness, which did okay-but-not-great domestic business, finishing 2nd in franchise history behind the ’09 Star Trek and 4th behind Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home after inflation adjustments.  People (or at least their new 3D theaters) overseas seemed to love it though, making it the highest foreign grossing (and, as a result, highest worldwide grossing) film in franchise history.  It’s final total of $452 million worldwide on a $190 million budget is the kind of business which will likely mandate a sequel (with a rumored 2016 release window), even if in one half of the world the film is thought of as a failure.

However, Paramount may have a bigger problem on their hand with domestic fan disenchantment than they realize.  At last week’s big Star Trek Las Vegas convention, Jordan Huffman over at ScreenCrush.com moderated a panel in which the end target was for all fans in attendance to reach a consensus opinion on the rankings for each Star Trek film in terms of quality.  Which film ended up being voted as the worst Star Trek film of all time – this being a franchise which famously has arguably more poorer films than good ones?  Star Trek Into Darkness!

Here’s the full list: 

  1. ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’
  2. ‘Star Trek: First Contact’
  3. ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’
  4. ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’
  5. ‘Star Trek III: The Search For Spock’
  6. ‘Star Trek’
  7. ‘Galaxy Quest’ [as a Star Trek re-affirmation parody, it is thought of by some as an honorary Star Trek film]
  8. ‘Star Trek: Generations’
  9. ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’
  10. ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’
  11. ‘Star Trek: Insurrection’
  12. ‘Star Trek: The Final Frontier’
  13. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Holy smurf!  These kind of things are obviously horribly subjective and fun to quibble over which film belongs where.  Personally, I would have The Search for Spock and Nemesis even lower and, as a result, Generations and Insurrection just a bit higher.  But what does it say to Paramount to see that a room packed full of North America’s biggest and most passionate Star Trek fans deemed Into Darkness the worst Star Trek film of all time?

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-huge-reveal
At one point, this mere shot from the Into Darkness trailer had many a Trekkie overcome with excitement/speculation.

Of course, all tolerance for dissenting opinions aside I can, without hesitation, say that those fans are wrong -there is no way in hell Into Darkness should be thought of as the worst Star Trek film.  This is, after all, a franchise which has crap-fests like The Final Frontier and Nemesis on its resume.  Into Darkness may be far too derivative of Wrath of Khan for its own good and overly reliant upon its non-stop action to distract from its nonsensical plot twists, but it is not that bad.

Moreover, as much as this kind of thing can be quantified Into Darkness is among the best reviewed films in the franchise, its current 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes falling behind only Star Trek (95%), First Contact (92%), and Wrath of Khan (90%).

At 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Final Frontier is officially the worst reviewed film in franchise history. That seems about right.

Abrams has received heaps and heaps of praise for his mainstreaming of Star Trek form Trek-averse reviewers and filmgoers  who admire his ability to make the once byzantine seem accessible.  However, there has been a growing chant of, “But what about us?” from longtime Trekkies who no longer recognize the Trek they loved in Abrams’ version.  Perhaps this has finally reached its boiling point.  To be fair, it’s not as if long-time fans have the exclusive right to dislike Into Darkness, as its certainly possible fans who only jumped on board in 2009 were turned off by the Wrath of Khan fan-baiting.  Overall, there is an obvious response bias whereby whichever film is the most recent will illicit the most passionate response for feeling fresher in the minds thus drawing upon rawer emotions among those voting.  So, ultimately, this may be a non-story.

However, there is no arguing that Into Darkness was a financial disappointment in North America, with the explanations for why ranging from taking too long at 4 years to arrive since the last film and adopting a secretive marketing campaign that annoyed more than it enticed.  Could disenchantment among North American Trekkies be another explanation?   If so, do they even matter at this point after Into Darkness played better overseas than any Trek film before it?  

Recent rumors indicate J.J. Abrams will be too busy with Star Wars to direct the still-as-yet-not-officially-announced Star Trek sequel, but his Into Darkness screenwriters Alexander Kurtzman & Roberto Orci are returning.  Plus, Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot, will still be involved.  So, as fans in Vegas scream out, “Into Darkness sucked harder than anything Star Trek has ever done before!” Paramount appears to be looking at the bottom line and proceeding with business as usual, with perhaps a heightened sense of needing to crank out a sequel faster this time around.

And, seriously, I wasn’t too crazy about Into Darkness, but it is not the worst Star Trek film ever.  Not even close.

Advertisements

11 comments

  1. I wouldn’t call it the worst (Star Trek V still has that dubious distinction) but it’s a lot closer to V than II, and I mean A LOT. You mention some of those voting against it on account of the references to TWOK being lost on them. Personally, I dislike it for the far too many references. If I want to watch TWOK, I’d watch it rather than a convoluted, unemotional photo copy. Additionally, there’s a lot of resentment in the way that Abrams and his lot have not only declined to incorporate any of Star Trek’s rich history as opposed to just rip it off but that they’ve gone so far as to even snub, in every way, almost everyone associated with the 43 years of Star Trek prior to Abrams’ first film, from actors to writers and even to Trek archivists and historians. Most of the Star Trek cast and crew from every other incarnation of the franchise have been polite about it but a few have been vocal in making this known (Marina Sirtis is especially candid). Suffice to say, the majority of those Star Trek fans that I spoke to at the last two Star Trek Chicago conventions weren’t pleased in the least.

    1. Juli and I had a whole discussion about this in our “We Debate” feature, but I, too, was completely pulled out of engaging with Into Darkness when they started just airlifting scenes from The Wrath of Khan. Like you, my dislike of it is largely related to its mimicry of Khan. They were trying to be two things: the new Wrath of Khan for newer fans, and an homage for the older fans. They arguably failed in both areas.

      However, in terms of competent film-making and storytelling, devoid of anything to do with being annoyed by references to other films, Into Darkness is at the very least a mostly competently made action movie. I think it is a far better film, in general, than the likes of Nemesis and The Final Frontier. It’s just that the idea of a Star Trek film bares a certain connotation and brings with it a certain set of expectations for longtime fans, and Into Darkness just ain’t that.

      I haven’t been to any conventions, but I have noticed in multiple interviews where people like LeVart Burton will at the very least acknowledge that there is a certain sense of tact and respect you’d expect a new king of the franchise to show to the old guard and Abrams has in no way appeared interested in keeping up such decorum. For him, it seems more like “throw in Nimoy and call it good.”

      Of course, that might make Abrams a bit of a dick, but it doesn’t make his films horrible. However, it is that kind of disrespect that seems to be alienating what you would think would be Paramount’s fanbase: long time Star Trek fans. Then again, you don’t do Wrath of Khan again if you’re not trying to at least partially appeal to that very fanbase. It turns out, though, that a lot of people in that fanbase would have preferred something new. Khan? It’s been done to perfection. Give us Gary Mitchell or something completely original this time.

  2. I really wished they had not done Kahn and that they had created a new villain. It was way over hyped about it not being Kahn only revealed to be Kahn which was obvious. It has been a while but I think I have seen all of the Star Trek films except Final Frontier or I am just blocking it from my memory. Personally I think the worst is Nemesis because it is utterly forgettable. My husband and I saw it on TV a couple years ago and new we had seen it but could not have described what happened. It literally made no impression on us. At least with some bad movies they leave something behind for you to remember.

  3. Not too long ago, as in within the past two or so weeks, Karl Urban said in an interview that he hopes in the next Star Trek that they finally drop these damn revenge plotlines and finally get to actually do some space exploration, i.e., what Star Trek is supposed to be about. Maybe even do a completely original storyline.

    He’s not wrong. To some degree, the first Star Trek repurposed the revenge aspect of Wrath of Khan with its villian, Eric Bana’s Nero. This time, their clear intent was to invert the formula somewhat, and do a revenge plot but have it be our heroes who are the ones seeking vengeance. This inversion even clearly informed their treatment of the scenes they flat out airlifted from Wrath of Khan, with it being Kirk who self-sacrifices and not Spock this time. The result is a perfectly enjoyble blockbuster film…unless you are the type who remembers Wrath of Khan well enough that seeing it recreated in Into Darkness just completely pulls you out of the film. That was my experience with it.

    As for the worst films, if you are blocking Final Frontier out of your memory please continue doing so. Treat it the way the X-Men films now treat Origins: Wolverine, i.e., as if it doesn’t exist. Nemesis is also quite horrible, and jarringly forgettable. They, too, were trying to do a bit of a Wrath of Khan thing, with a vengeaful villain and self-sacrificing hero (they traded out Spock for Data in their scenario, and instead of a life re-generating planet to resurrect Spock they had the wtf! idea that there was a third Data android out there (other than Data and his evil twin brother Lor) giving them a spare to replace their dead hero. It….didn’t work out so well for them, what with being the film to kill the franchise until JJ Abrams came around.

  4. If kirk would have listened to sa ick in the wrath of kahn, the enterprise would have blown the reliant out of the stars. The enterprise can’t be too good of a battle cruiser, it gets torn all to pieces in every movie. I’d trade it for a king on d7. Final frontier and into darkness sucked equally. Chris pine couldn’t carry William shatners shoe strings, much less fill his shoes.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.