A few days ago Star Trek: The Next Generation actor LeVar Burton voiced his disappointment about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness, saying that he was “missing Gene Roddenberry in J.J.’s interpretation.” One of Burton’s TNG castmates is on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to Into Darkness. Geek icon Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher, has posted a lengthy review of the movie, and he had a lot of positive things to say about the Trek sequel.
On his personal website, Wheaton says that he loved the film, so much that it may be his favorite Star Trek movie ever. (I don’t even want to think about how many angry comments that will generate.) He talks about Into Darkness as a metaphor the post-9/11 world, and “the dangers inherent in letting vengeance eclipse justice, and reflexively choosing the military option at all times.” And while Cumberbatch’s role as Khan is easily the most controversial element of Into Darkness, Wheaton raves about it, in particular praising Cumberbatch’s performance:
Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my very favorite — excuse me, favourite — actors today, and he brought his brilliant mixture of confidence and strength to Khan in a way that, with all due respect, Montalban never did. Never once does Cumberbatch make the obvious choice, his performance is always subtle, always controlled, and when he finally goes full-Khan, scary as hell.
Wheaton still offers some healthy criticisms as well. He calls the opening sequence gratuitous, and has the same complaints about the underwater Enterprise that many of us did. He was also very disappointed to see Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) largely wasted in the film. She was such a great character in The Wrath of Khan, but Into Darkness reduced her role to little more than eye candy for Captain Kirk, most notably during the extremely gratuitous scene that has her stripped down to her underwear.
Aside from that, Wheaton enjoyed the film’s complexity and said that Star Trek Into Darkness works as a great piece of science fiction. Contrary to LeVar Burton’s feelings about the movie, Wheaton says he thinks Star Trek Into Darkness is very much in keeping with the vision of Gene Roddenberry, and that is “does a fine job of respecting this heritage.”
If the power of Science Fiction is to force us to confront subjects that are difficult or taboo, I will argue that Into Darkness does it as effectively as anything I’ve seen in years. And this leads me to answer another criticism I’ve heard frequently: Into Darkness doesn’t live up to the ideals Gene Roddenberry instilled in the Original Series and The Next Generation. Again, I can’t disagree with this more strongly. In the original series, against a backdrop of the Cold War, just a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Star Trek did stories about the dangers of unchecked militarization, the dangers of seeing only black and white in a conflict, and the power of the human spirit to put aside petty differences to work together to save us all. Against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Star Trek dared to show a multicultural crew of men and women working together as equals to bravely explore the unknown. This is the legacy we attempted to live up to in The Next Generation, and though we didn’t always succeed, we still told stories about finding peace in the midst of war, standing up for truth at all costs, and most of all the strength of the family.
You can read Wil’s full, glowing review of Star Trek Into Darkness right here.