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Rant: The Darkness Rises

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Get ready for a solid six months of hater anticipation for Star Trek Into Darkness.

When J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot went into production, the Trek franchise was on its last legs. The last movie, Star Trek Nemesis, had bombed, and Star Trek Enterprise, the latest spin-off TV series, had been ignominiously cancelled after four struggling years. Even Star Trek Voyager, the not-very-well-liked spin-off, had managed to run a full seven years on Paramount’s syndicated TV network. Interest in Trek was at an all-time low.

Abrams, with writers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and an uncredited Damon Lindelof, took advantage of the lull to do their own Star Trek treatment, and by any practical standards, the result was a roaring success. Their Star Trek was one of the highest grossing films in the franchise, and it also got some of the best reviews of any Trek movie since Nicholas Meyer’s The Wrath of Khan. It undoubtedly revitalized interest in the series, both from general audiences and Paramount itself, which committed to a follow-up coming out in 2013: Star Trek Into Darkness.

So, why is it that there is no better way to send your average Star Trek fan into paroxysms of rage than to mention the 2009 movie and/or its upcoming sequel? There’s a hardcore group of fans convinced that Abrams hates their beloved franchise and made his movie specifically to make fun of them. They hate the Abrams approach to Trek. They hate its lens flares. They hate Chris Pine’s non-Shakespearean interpretation of James T. Kirk. They hate its action movie tropes and they hate the new Enterprise’s brewery-like engineering deck (in fact this might be the most oft-cited criticism of the movie). They hate its… fun.

A few months ago, fans got in an uproar over the sequel’s title: Star Trek Into Darkness. OK, not much of a title. But is it any worse than The Dark Knight Rises? Both sound like typical marketing approach, modern movie franchise titles. But one had fans salivating while the other had fans foaming at the mouth. It’s amazing the amount of energy some fans have put into hating Abrams’ Trek — just mentioning it on any Trekkie-frequented message board is the equivalent of chumming shark-infested waters. And it’s somewhat understandable, because Abrams did something like a funhouse mirror version of Star Trek, refusing to take the franchise’s science seriously, creating a clownish version of Kirk, blowing up Vulcan (Oops, tardy spoiler alert!) and killing Spock’s mom (Another alert!). But as goofy as Trek 2009 often was, it was also wildly entertaining and actually evoked more of the dramatic power of the original series than most of the previous films. Best of all, it didn’t feature geriatric actors who looked like they would break a hip if they threw a punch.

Now Paramount is throwing money at the franchise again — millions to restore Star Trek: The Next Generation for Blu-ray release, and a healthy budget for the new movie. A new generation is discovering Trek’s awesome characters, and even finding Shatner, Nimoy and the gang from the original series on Netflix. So complain away, Trekkers — Abrams is revitalizing Star Trek, and while you’ll probably hate the new movie just as much as the previous one, when you get a brand-new Star Trek TV series in a few years, you can thank J.J. for it.

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