2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness was received very positively by critics, but substantially less well by committed Star Trek fans. Much of this criticism was rooted in the way the film turned out to be a stealth reworking of 1982’s The Wrath of Khan, which annoyed those who considered that J.J. Abrams’ remixing of the story didn’t make a great deal of sense. Not to mention that in the run up to the film’s release, he outright lied about Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison being Khan Noonien Singh.
While the film doesn’t exactly remake The Wrath of Khan, it certainly references it pretty heavily, albeit with Spock and Kirk’s roles reversed. If you’ll recall, in the original, Spock sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise while Kirk watched on. In the 2013 effort, however, it was the other way around, leading to Spock recreating that famous moment where Kirk yells “KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!!”
Now, in an interview with Midnight’s Edge, The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer (who’s writing the mysterious new Star Trek miniseries Ceti Alpha V) opened up on his true feelings about Into Darkness, saying:
“It is, on the one hand, nice to be so successful or beloved or however you want to describe it that somebody wants to do an homage to what you did and I was flattered and touched,” Meyer says. “But in my sort of artistic worldview, if you’re going to do an homage you have to add something. You have to put another layer on it, and they didn’t. Just by putting the same words in different characters’ mouths didn’t add up to anything, and if you have someone dying in one scene and sort of being resurrected immediately after there’s no real drama going on. It just becomes a gimmick or gimmicky, and that’s what I found it to be ultimately. This is just one person’s opinion, mine…but I found it more clever than satisfying.”
“More clever than satisfying” is a pretty good summation of J.J. Abrams at his worst. I really like him when he’s putting together imaginative and kinetically satisfying action sequences (and he’s absolutely brilliant at assembling an ensemble cast).
However, his tendencies towards secrecy and twists in storytelling almost never lead to satisfying results (which is why I was very happy when Rian Johnson undid a lot of his The Force Awakens ‘puzzle box’ bullshit in The Last Jedi). Let’s just hope that Star Wars: Episode IX, being the final installment of the trilogy, is focused on telling a good story rather than setting up enigmatic secrets that never go anywhere.