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Fans Wrongly Vote Stark Trek Into Darkness as the Worst Star Trek Film of All Time – Should Paramount Be Concerned?

Posted on the 16 August 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

It is a strange feeling to be a fan of a film or television franchise which appears to no longer care about you.  A lot of longtime Star Trek fans have felt this way about director J.J. Abram’s revival of the franchise, which began with 2009′s Star Trek and then continued with this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness.  As BBC Radio film critic Mark Kermode has argued, it’s like Abrams decided to eliminate the speechiness of Star Trek by having the characters engage in their ethical debates while running for their lives.  Abrams has been astonishingly honest about his lack of Star Trek fandom, and intention to approach the material as an outsider attempting to discover how to pull it from the clutches of the trekkies and deliver it an easier to swallow form for the masses.


It’s tough for some to admit, but there are plenty of Star Trek fans whose first Kirk and Spock were not played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

 Financially speaking, the strategy paid off for him and Paramount Studios when 2009′s Star Trek ended up as the highest grossing domestic film in franchise history, even after adjusting for ticket price inflation.  It may have backfired this summer with Into Darkness, which did okay-but-not-great domestic business, finishing 2nd in franchise history behind the ’09 Star Trek and 4th behind Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home after inflation adjustments.  People (or at least their new 3D theaters) overseas seemed to love it though, making it the highest foreign grossing (and, as a result, highest worldwide grossing) film in franchise history.  It’s final total of $452 million worldwide on a $190 million budget is the kind of business which will likely mandate a sequel (with a rumored 2016 release window), even if in one half of the world the film is thought of as a failure.

However, Paramount may have a bigger problem on their hand with domestic fan disenchantment than they realize.  At last week’s big Star Trek Las Vegas convention, Jordan Huffman over at ScreenCrush.com moderated a panel in which the end target was for all fans in attendance to reach a consensus opinion on the rankings for each Star Trek film in terms of quality.  Which film ended up being voted as the worst Star Trek film of all time – this being a franchise which famously has arguably more poorer films than good ones?  Star Trek Into Darkness!

Here’s the full list: 

  1. ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’
  2. ‘Star Trek: First Contact’
  3. ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’
  4. ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’
  5. ‘Star Trek III: The Search For Spock’
  6. ‘Star Trek’
  7. ‘Galaxy Quest’ [as a Star Trek re-affirmation parody, it is thought of by some as an honorary Star Trek film]
  8. ‘Star Trek: Generations’
  9. ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’
  10. ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’
  11. ‘Star Trek: Insurrection’
  12. ‘Star Trek: The Final Frontier’
  13. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

Holy smurf!  These kind of things are obviously horribly subjective and fun to quibble over which film belongs where.  Personally, I would have The Search for Spock and Nemesis even lower and, as a result, Generations and Insurrection just a bit higher.  But what does it say to Paramount to see that a room packed full of North America’s biggest and most passionate Star Trek fans deemed Into Darkness the worst Star Trek film of all time?


Ask some of those fans how stoked they were when this shot popped up in the trailer of Into Darkness, and they might just lie and say they were never excited for Star Trek Abrams Part 2.

Of course, even though these lists are subjective I can objectively say that those fans are wrong.  There is no way Into Darkness should be thought of the worst Star Trek film ever put to (digital) celluloid when, at the very least, this is a franchise which has crapfests like The Final Frontier and Nemesis on its resume.  This is certainly damning with faint praise, but Into Darkness may be far too derivative of Wrath of Khan for its own good and overly reliant upon its non-stop action to distract from its nonsensical plot twists but it is not that bad.

Moreover, as much as this kind of thing can be quantified Into Darkness is among the best reviewed films in the franchise, its current 87% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes falling behind only Star Trek (95%), First Contact (92%), and Wrath of Khan (90%).

Fans Wrongly Vote Stark Trek Into Darkness as the Worst Star Trek Film of All Time – Should Paramount Be Concerned?

At 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Final Frontier is officially the worst reviewed film in franchise history. That actually seems about right.

As Abrams has received heaps and heaps of praise for his mainstreaming of Star Trek with trek-averse reviewers and filmgoers admiring his ability to make the once byzantine seem accessible there has been a growing chant of, “But what about us?” from those longtime fans who fail to connect with this new angle on the material.  Of course, some of those voting against Into Darkness could have also been people who only jumped on the Star Trek train after the ’09 film, and failed to connect with the obvious fan-bating homages to Wrath of Khan in the latest film.  Plus, there is an obvious response bias whereby whichever film is the most recent will illicit the most passionate response for feeling fresher in the minds thus drawing upon rawer emotions among those voting.  So, ultimately, this may be a non-story.

However, there is no arguing that Into Darkness underperformed at the box office in North America, with the explanations for why ranging from taking too long at 4 years to arrive since the last film and adopting a secretive marketing campaign that annoyed more than it enticed.  Is it possible that Paramount has also alienated some of its fans in North America who no longer feel engaged with by Abrams’ version of Star Trek?  If so, with Into Darkness turning Star Trek into a truly solid worldwide performer for the first time in its box office history do fans who’ve already given Paramount so much of their money not being happy really matter?

Recent rumors peg Into Darkness screenwriters Alexander Kurtzman and Roberto Orci as returning for the still-not-officially-announced sequel, and although Abrams will likely be too busy with Star Wars to direct his production company, Bad Robot, will still be involved.  So, those fans in Vegas are certainly a passionate lot, screaming, “Into Darkness sucked harder than anything Star Trek has ever done before!” at the top of their lungs.  However, all current indications are that, for Paramount, it’s going to be business as usual.

And, seriously, I wasn’t too crazy about Into Darkness, but it was not the worst Star Trek film ever.

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