Monday, December 10, 2012

First Impression: Star Trek Into Darkness

Last week, the teaser trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) hit the web with a flurry of excitement. Most of the buzz has focused around Benedict Cumberbatch's character; could he be the infamous Kahn? To me, the more important question is this: how does Into Darkness seemingly fit into the Star Trek canon?

What jumps out to me is the atmosphere of the trailer. J.J. Abrams has gone to great lengths to make this a gritty, jagged environment. I cannot help but think of it as a Nolanized version of Star Trek. Without Nolan's wildly financially and critically successful Dark Knight trilogy, would Abrams have had such a dark vision for his second Trek outing? Instead of focusing on space, Abrams is locating this story at least partially in the city. Like Nolan's Batman vision, Abrams seems to be presenting a more "realistic", humanistic version of Star Trek, one unlike we've ever seen before.

Also interesting is the focus on the theoretical villain. The proliferation of comic book films has sparked an increased interest in bad guys. Abrams's relaunch of the Star Trek franchise established the "goodness" of the Enterprise crew, orienting us within the ensemble cast. However, this single film did need leave me with a strong knowledge of Abrams's Trek universe; ignoring the known characters in this trailer leaves me feeling a little bit empty. What is their relationship to Cumberbatch? Do they feel anger, nervousness, fear, disgust? Is Cumberbatch even evil? These questions are leading people to latch onto the idea of Kahn to make any sense of the trailer. Without knowing the , I feel less intrigued and more vaguely irritated.

But what is truly missing for me is the most important character of all: the Enterprise. The ship is obscured in a few shots, mostly by water. What's missing is the money shot of the Enterprise cruising through space, jumping into warp speed. This would be a reward for Trek fans' dedication. Instead, we have to hold out in the hopes of seeing threads of classic Star Trek.

Are the visuals stunning? Absolutely. Does Abrams love and respect for the franchise? Of course. How do I feel about Into Darkness? Based simply on this trailer, I'm a bit nervous, but I hope to become more optimistic as future trailers emerge. Come May, I'll certainly be in the theater to render judgment.