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To Boldly Flunk

by Ross Douthat
A review of Star Trek: Into Darkness

I fear that I may no longer be entirely rational on the subject of J. J. Abrams, whose second Star Trek movie just bowed into theaters. For a long time I’ve tried to give Abrams the benefit of the doubt: He’s a filmmaker of obvious talent, and his attempts to evoke the Spielberg-Lucas-Zemeckis golden age of pop blockbusters are admirable in their ambition even when the execution disappoints. Dip into the archives of this magazine and you’ll find me saying semi-nice things about his cinematic efforts, employing phrases like “intermittently winning” and “half-succeeds” and “at times it’s very good” to describe such movies as Super 8 and his first go-round with the Trek universe.

But somehow the news that he’s been entrusted the first of the looming post–George Lucas Star Wars movies — meaning that both of the science-fiction lodestars of my youth will be getting the Abrams treatment in swift succession — has turned me against him with a vengeance. I don’t think Star Trek: Into Darkness is quite as bad as it seemed while I was watching: Friends I trust, both Trekkers and layfolk, were entertained enough by the pace and cast and spectacle to forgive its many flaws. But those flaws were all I that could see — not only as weaknesses in the film itself, but as illustrations of everything that’s wrong with the Abrams way of moviemaking.

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