Hollywood Into Darkness

Nigel Druitt

An avid Flickcharter since 2009, Nigel is a self-described fanboy whose Top 20 is dominated by the likes of Indiana Jones, Frodo Baggins and Marty McFly. Nigel is the Canadian arm of the Flickchart Blog, but try not to hold that against him. You can find him on Flickchart as johnmason.

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18 Responses

  1. movieguyjon says:

    Yeah. At first I was pretty jazzed about the trailer for Into Darkness (which I maintain was edited well), but then I thought about the promise of upbeat adventure that we were given in the previous film and now I’m feeling less than enthused.

    I’ve yet to be interested in the new Superman film. Just seems WAY too dark when the subject matter is based on a hopeful and bright future of truth, justice and the American Way.

    • Nigel Druitt says:

      I’m hopeful the Man of Steel trailer coming with The Hobbit will give us something different.

      I still very much look forward to Into Darkness…but my enthusiasm is now tempered with concern.

    • The values of Superman should be tested, just as the values of Star Trek should be. So long as the thesis is that there’s still a place in our world for those values, then the story can work.

      I like Superman, I really do, but of all his screen adventures, the only ones that completely satisfy me are the 1941-1943 animated shorts by Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios.

    • movieguyjon says:

      I love those animated shorts.

      I don’t mind the run he’s getting in the New 52 all that much.

      You’re right. As long as the theme is that there’s a place in our world for those values it might work. Maybe I’m just worried due to Zack Snyder being a part of the whole thing that it might just be Sucker Punch dressed up like Superman. Or maybe it will just be dark for no reason and it will just be a dreary mess.


      Maybe it will be Tree of Life dressed like Superman. Now THAT would be interesting. It wouldn’t work…but it would be interesting. :)

  2. American soldiers have been in Afghanistan for a decade now. That kind of thing changes the tone of what we as a society find palatable and in good taste. On some level, we need a certain kind of darkness in our entertainment because it just wouldn’t feel right to spend two hours in a theater being shown stories where everything is all okay but could be a little better.

    People worry about their loved ones. Parents and spouses wake up daily fearing that today may be the day they learn the worst has happened. Surely we can ask that much of Batman and Captain Kirk, no?

    As for Star Trek and Roddenberry’s vision, Deep Space Nine proved that it can stand up to being challenged. DS9 was essentially a crucible for the entire core values of the franchise. Beliefs need to be tested; that’s what distinguishes faith from hope.

    At the risk of indulging in cynicism, Roddenberry’s vision is pretty lofty for our society at present. I bought into those values – egalitarianism, tolerance, duty to others – in the 90s when things were generally good. For me, the 21st Century so far has been a test of the viability of those values. For younger viewers, though, who have only come to Star Trek in the last decade (let’s be honest; the last three years), I can see where the earlier episodes and movies may seen a little…naive.

    What matters most isn’t the tone of the story, but what shape the Roddenberry vision is in at the end of it. If Star Trek Into Darkness shows us that those values endure, then it will likely be a hit. If it tries to tell us that it’s time to outgrow that hope for the future, then we’re in trouble.

    • movieguyjon says:

      I just wonder if perhaps our tentpole movies have forgotten that you can create solid drama without going the route of Dark Knight Rises. I get that the darker content is reflective more of this generation of filmmaking, but I fear that it will be the only method we know in terms of telling a good story. What about the inevitable part 3 of this franchise? Will that go darker or will they maybe try something more interesting?

    • Nigel Druitt says:

      At least The Dark Knight Rises managed a positive ending, Jon. Its predecessor is pretty bleak.

    • Culturally, I don’t know if we really can go back. We’ve spent a decade now threatened at every turn by terrorists, campus shooters and a tyrannical president who wants us to have health insurance. Can audiences ever again accept a hero in a benign story?

      We know the bogeyman is out there. We need to be comforted that someone is out there in the shadows fighting to keep us safe from him. That’s what helps us continue to function as a society.

      I would say this, though: Anyone who wants to send a message to Hollywood about tone should make a point to go support The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. That’s our collective one chance to show that light is still viable.

    • movieguyjon says:

      Oh, I plan to watch the heck out of The Hobbit films for that very reason!

    • Nigel Druitt says:

      Star Trek history predicted a third world war before things got better. In a way, it’s almost about asking how bad things have to get before they get better.

      Deep Space Nine is my personal favorite Star Trek series, so yeah, I like the darker aspects. But even in that vision of Star Trek’s future, humanity has come together.

      I think it would be nice if a Star Trek film could actually get back to the franchise’s roots and be about the thrill of exploring those strange new worlds. Rather than this internalizing and dealing with such a significant threat to Earth (which, indeed, is something the ’09 Star Trek movie dealt with), why can’t we pull ourselves out of the Sol system and face the dangers of the Final Frontier?

      Just because this is the world we live in doesn’t mean our entertainment has to be mired in it. What’s wrong with a little old-fashioned optimism?

      Leave the paranoia to Batman. It really suits him.

      That said, if Into Darkness can perform a DS9-like examination of our beliefs and principles, it could be a very fine movie indeed. And maybe the third chapter could give us something new.

    • The fixation on Earth under attack reflects our post-9/11 mindset. We frankly don’t care what happens in another part of the world, unless it directly affects us.

      The best science-fiction has always been allegorical. In that sense, any planet could be a stand-in for America (and let’s not kid ourselves; Earth in Star Trek was always really America). I’m with you that it’s disappointing they don’t have enough confidence in audiences making the connections on their own and instead have to put Earth itself on the screen for us.

      Though, in fairness, even though the TV shows very rarely visited Earth, it’s been in jeopardy in a few of the movies. V’Ger was en route to Earth in The Motion Picture, the Probe came here to speak with humpback whales in The Voyage Home and the Borg went back in time to assimilate Earth in First Contact. These two “Star Trek 2.0” movies bring the total to five out of twelve in the series.

      “Just because this is the world we live in doesn’t mean our entertainment has to be mired in it. What’s wrong with a little old-fashioned optimism?”

      Optimism doesn’t have to cheerful to still be optimism. This is a point I’ve come to understand in living with Crohn’s disease. I’m always optimistic that there’ll be a major breakthrough, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been completely overwhelmed by my health problems at times.

      I can avoid Crohn’s no easier than storytellers can disregard the nature of our world. If they didn’t acknowledge our real life fears and anxieties, their stories would feel out of step.

      If anything, the fact that they still believe in Star Trek after the last decade’s real world events is itself a sign of optimism.

  3. Timothy Sarder says:

    Yet The Avengers made more money than the Dark Knight Rises. I personally consider the Avengers a much worse movie. If anything, I think Avengers will be a lot more influential than the Dark Knight though.

    • That’s a good point about the box office take, though part of that is that The Avengers had a 3D release and The Dark Knight Rises did not.

      It will be influential for the foreseeable future because Marvel has created the paradigm for universe-building in movies. Warner is already scrambling to make a Justice League movie even though they have yet to make a single DC superhero movie that was thoroughly satisfying that doesn’t feature Batman.

      It’d be nice if more tentpole movies borrowed the lighter tone from The Avengers, but then again, do we really want to spend half of any given movie just watching the good guys fight each other? Is that any more appealing than “darkness”?

    • movieguyjon says:

      It’s the lighter tone that I prefer, not necessarily the squabbling.

    • Certainly. But realistically, we need to accept that influence is rarely confined to just the elements of something that we like or appreciate. Protagonist A meets Protagonist B and they fight before deciding to be on the same team; it’s a very old storytelling trope. The Avengers breathed new life into it and I fear we’re going to have to see that a lot more than we have in recent years.

      Though even at that, just to bring us back to Nigel’s post, Kirk and Spock were at each other’s throats in Star Trek and that was in 2009.

  4. Nigel Druitt says:

    Let my try this again, perhaps in a way I should have in the article:

    Star Trek is unique in science fiction is that it does not present a dystopian future. There has been no nuclear holocaust that has wiped out most of the planet. We are not plugged into the Matrix. This is not to say that there cannot be villains, or bad things happening, even on Earth. But Roddenberry’s vision was that mankind as a whole will have bettered itself. Most threats portrayed in Star Trek were external, i.e. extraterrestrial. (Yes, my favorite series, Deep Space Nine, turned this on its head with the idea that there is no paradise without somebody behind the scenes getting their hands dirty.)

    Nothing will make me happier than to be wrong about Star Trek Into Darkness. Maybe this is just the marketing to draw people in, and the movie will show us that, yes, there is a brighter future ahead; sometimes we just have to fight for it.

    I guess I’m slightly disappointed that this movie (yes, like many of the past Star Trek movies; that’s part of my problem, give us a change) features a villain who is human (by all appearances). I’m slightly disappointed that it features such a direct threat to Earth when the same thing seemed to happen in the previous movie.

    I just want that Roddenberry optimism to be apparent. Of course, we haven’t seen the movie yet, so it certainly could be. I hope so.

    • Remember, though, that Roddenberry envisioned World War III as a necessary catalyst for that progress as a species. I think your real position is that you miss having a lighter tone to Star Trek and on that, I tend to agree with you.

      The problem is that even though the very lighthearted Voyage Home was at the time the most profitable of the series, most of the successful films in the series have been darker: The Wrath of Khan and First Contact, certainly, but I think a case could be made that The Undiscovered Country is pretty dark, too.

      Insurrection was the last light Star Trek movie and it was met with a resounding yawn. The most common complaint was that it felt like a two-part episode, not a movie. I’m sure you heard that criticism at the time. You may even have expressed it yourself. We, then, as the audience sent the message that we like our Star Trek movies to be dark.

      Sure, Nemesis was dark and it tanked. Paramount misinterpreted that failure as evidence that they’d oversaturated the market with the franchise, rather than simply accepting that the movie was much too thin to satisfy. (Still, I have to admit that I love the space battle. Picard actually crashing the Enterprise into the Schimitar out of desperation? Awesome!)