Star Trek Endophora

Please note – if this review intrigues you – I will be on WYPR 88.1 FM’s Midday with Dan Rodricks on Friday, 5/16, at 1:50pm, to give my review live. Tune in at that time, or podcast it later!

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Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, 2013)

  • From the Oxford Dictionaries, a definition of endophora (noun/linguistics):
    • the set of relationships among words having the same reference within a text, contributing to textual cohesion; anaphora and cataphora. Compare with exophora.
  • From UsingEnglish.com, an example of it’s usage:
    • As he was late, Harry wanted to phone his boss and tell her what had happened.
    • Here, he is endophoric because it refers forwards to the proper noun Harry and her refers back to the noun boss.

Star Trek Into Darkness comes to us 4 years after director J.J. Abrams released the first entry of this rebooted series, the 2009 film titled, simply, Star Trek. As a lifelong fan of the original television series, which ran from 1966 to 1969, I was actually quite excited to see what Abrams would do with the beloved characters. Though I had missed the first TV run of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty and Chekov, since I was only born in 1969, I had grown up in the 1970s, when Star Trek hit its stride in syndicated re-runs, and had been a proud owner of Star Trek action figures, coloring books and lunch boxes. I had watched the 6 feature films featuring the original cast, knew their quirks and foibles, and loved them dearly. I was, in short, a Trekkie, though my own fandom stopped short of attending conferences, and even stopped short of enjoying the many spinoffs of the original show, including the popular Star Trek: The Next Generation (which I don’t hate, but never grew to love in the same way). And as a fan of much of the TV show Lost, co-created by Abrams, I had high hopes for that first film.

Abrams did not disappoint. The new cast – led by Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, and Zoe Saldana as Uhura – brought new energy to the characters while paying respectful homage to the actors who had first incarnated the roles. The story took us quickly through everyone’s origins, then launched us into space for a rollicking action-adventure picture that even included an appearance from one of the original cast members. I had a great time, though I confess that I was very disappointed in one very significant plot point. Abrams and his writers were not satisfied to merely restart the series with new actors. Instead, they wrote in a few scenes that effectively wiped out the entire Star Trek universe that we had come to know, thereby truly rebooting from scratch. It was creative, but slightly irritating.

And now we have the new film. The cast is still quite good – though Simon Pegg as Scotty mugs perhaps a little too much – and much of the action is terrifying and gripping. We even get a new villain, played by the magnificent Benedict Cumberbatch (a man who has been developing quite a following), who manages to be a part of both the old Star Trek universe and Abrams’s restarted-from-zero universe. I won’t give anything away here, since there is a nice identity reveal halfway through film, but anyone who knows how to look up films on imdb.com (and who doesn’t?), will quickly realize who he is, and how his inclusion in the story might play out. How you react to Cumberbatch’s character will most likely determine how you react to the movie, overall.

I found Cumberbatch extremely compelling, and liked what he added to the story until about two-thirds of the way through. At which point I figured out the too-clever-by-half way he was going to be used in the film’s last act, and started to get annoyed. You see, Abrams and his writers decided to flip the ending of one of the previous Star Trek movies, which caused wild hoots among the preview attendees sitting near me, but which I thought was a lazy move. At just about the same time, the action scenes became too busy, too loud, and simply too much, overwhelming me with data, and I tuned out of the film for about 20 minutes. But then, at the end, I came back, and actually enjoyed how they resolved the story, setting it up for what will surely be the next entry in the series.

Overall, therefore, I can recommend the movie, but with some reservations.

Which brings us to that word endophora. I think it’s wonderful that so many people around the world know and adore Star Trek. It exists as a prime example of transmedia in our culture. But at some point, in this latest film, I began to feel as if the writers had abandoned any real attempts at character development, and had instead decided to rely a little too much on all of our collective knowledge. The film, in other words, became a little too self-referential, and the pronoun too often replaced the actual noun.

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