May 20 2024


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Kurtzman Defends Star Trek Into Darkness

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Star Trek into Darkness Co-writer Alex Kurtzman defended some of the story decisions made when writing the movie, and looked ahead to the third movie.

His defense comes after Roberto Orci‘s interaction with some fans, which caused Orci to close his Twitter account.

One scene that made some fans unhappy was with the alternate version of the Wrath of Khan death scene, this time with Kirk dying while Spock looks on helplessly. “[The Wrath of Khan scene is] one of, if not the most iconic scenes ever in Trek canon,” Orci explained. “Knowing that we were going to be heading to that place but for totally different reasons and having the roles be completely reversed was this weird magnet we were drawn toward as we were writing.

“We knew we had to make that moment credible and believable. What made it work for us conceptually was the idea that Spock was unable to understand for the whole movie Kirk’s definition of friendship. He didn’t know what it meant. What Kirk was saying was ‘The reason that I risked my life for you is because you’re my friend, and that’s what you do for each other.’ Spock’s Vulcan mind just wasn’t able to process that, and it wasn’t until he experienced the loss of his friend that he finally came to understand what friendship meant as Kirk was defining it. In that moment, he was able to express emotion that he was not able to tap into.

“We got emotional writing that scene. The way it was done in The Wrath of Khan was so brilliant, and it’s so beloved, so knowing you are even stepping into that territory is so tricky, but I think we felt like we accomplished what we wanted. And when I watch it now I’m proud of what that moment represents.”

Kurtzman acknowledged that some fans would be critical about elements of the movie. “I think it’s par for the course,” he said. “We certainly knew going into Star Trek we weren’t going to please everybody. We were very happy to see how many critics liked the movie, and the movie did well. At the end of the day, we are really proud of it. We knew we just weren’t going to please everybody, particularly when you’re taking on a Khan story, who is the most beloved of all villains. We felt ultimately very good about how it turned out, but everybody has the right to their opinion.”

With Star Trek into Darkness behind him, what will the third movie bring? “…We always imagined that we were creating an alternate timeline so we could play in harmony with canon,” Kurtzman said. “We can see things that were familiar, but also the events themselves might have minor differences, and sometimes major differences. I think that leaves us room to go either way and be unpredictable, which is the whole point of creating an alternate timeline. At the end of the day, because we give so much thought to what the stories are going to be and how to tell them, it’s ultimately about what feels right.”

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48 thoughts on “Kurtzman Defends Star Trek Into Darkness

  1. The new film’s KHAAAAAANNN! scene was a lazy cut-and-paste job. In the theatre I was in, most of the audience laughed out loud. It was almost as funny as the idea that “Khan” was a white British dude who well-educated Starfleet officers in the 23rd century never heard of.

  2. I thought the juxtaposition of the “Wrath of Khan” death scene was among the best parts of this movie. Bravo to Kurtzman and Orci for putting it together.

  3. “What made it work for us conceptually was the idea that Spock was unable to understand for the whole movie Kirk’s definition of friendship. He didn’t know what it meant. What Kirk was saying was ‘The reason that I risked my life for you is because you’re my friend, and that’s what you do for each other.’”

    Well, too bad neither was writer enough to find a way to get that idea across.
    Man, I do love Star Trek, and I know, despite myself, I will go and see the next one at least once in the theater, (not so much a ringing endorsement: I saw Star Trek V in the theater, twice!) but my god I am increasingly intolerant of these two hacks. That’s even more the case now that they have the gall to talk down to all us artless mental midgets this way.
    Just write the damned movie, cash your check and go away. You got us over a barrel, ok? It’s you or nothing at this point. We get it. I’m sure we’re all overjoyed.
    Kurtzman, I’m laughing at the superior intellect.

  4. I agree. While the burnouts ramble on about how appalling it is for these guys to touch their precious Star Trek, the rest of us can enjoy an the alternate outcome as in the new movies. I really enjoy them as well.

  5. Actually it took a while for Kirk and Spock in the prime timeline to figure out who Khan “just Khan” was because history reported Khan and his followers dead rather than have a population worry that there are 80+ Napoleons still running about.

    I thought the Kirk death scene was brilliant. My son and I were moved to tears as Spock realizes that the dying man on the other side of the glass is a true friend when it is too late.

    I loved the irony of of the juxtaposition.

    Too bad you could not get past your prejudices and intolerances and enjoy a beautifully written moment.

    Too bad you forgot that one of Star Trek iconic themes is getting past humanities prejudices and intolerances.

    That having been said, IMHO Spock yelling Khaaaaaan was over the top!

  6. I also understand why they were OK with a white British actor.

    Trek needed to go beyond yet another terrorist of color.

  7. I went into Star Trek 2009 with the attitude, as long as the soul of what Trek is about is still there, I do not care what they do with the reboot.

    I loved the first movie but it did not fully feel like a Star Trek movie.

    Into Darkness felt like a great Star Trek movie. I loved it.

    I am very thankful that JJ, Alex, Bob and Damon have crafted a Trek that my Children and I both connect with.

  8. I can get past prejudice and intolerance (ahem). I have more touble with bad writing. The first 1/3 of the movie was excellent, I thought.

  9. The scene where Kirk was dying was very good and and one of my favorite scenes in the movie. What I didn’t much care for was first when Kirk lost his cool and later on Spock did the same thing! Of course, maybe Kirk and Spock are not quite as forgiving in that dimension as in the other one!

  10. Maybe it sounded good to them conceptually. The reason it fails in practice is that at no point in the Abramsverse, not in the first movie and not in this one, are we ever, ever, ever successfully made to believe in the idea that Kirk and Spock are friends.

  11. It is probably more of a function of JJ’s editing.

    We are used to a Trek where if you closed you eyes and just listened you know what is going on. Star Wars you can turn off the sound and know what is going on. JJ’s Trek is leaner with the dialog.

  12. While it did seem to me to be an odd direction to go with the character at first, I thought Benedict did a fantastic job. I liked his acting in Sherlock and I’m glad he was brought on to share his talent as Kahn.

  13. I feel the same way. With the new movies and the release of TNG on Bluray that I’ve been collecting, I’m really happy to be able to share Star Trek with my family who had never seen it before.

  14. My youngest son 12 y.o. is named Benjamin Avery Kuhn. He bawled when Kirk died. Ben is ADHD and has had difficulties with bullies at school.

    I keep telling him Captain Kirk is ADHD just like you. Brilliant, impulsive, out of the box …. interacts with the computer display while Admiral Marcus is talking at a meeting….

    Just like Steve Jobs needed Tim Cook to create structure around him at Apple, Kirk needs Spock and McCoy.

  15. They have a more broken background in this timeline to be sure.

    Kirk had no dad and lost his father figure. That would leave anyone a little more raw….

  16. “We knew we had to make that moment credible and believable.” Epic fail. I’m happy (I guess) that some people liked it, but everyone I’ve interacted with that has an ounce of sense thought it was simply jarringly wrong. It was too early in the Kirk/Spock relationship for it to have resonance, unlike WOK where it worked for the characters.
    Kurtzman and Orci are simply deluding themselves into thinking they can write, when all they are doing is – basically – mediocre fan fiction which steals elements of far better stories. A very sad time to be a Star Trek fan.

  17. Wait, so anyone who thinks STID was a bad movie is “prejudiced” and/or “intolerant?” Is someone actually suggesting the film is some sort of victim you must “tolerate” and not criticize? A new low.

  18. I never said “anyone” who thinks STID was a bad movie was “prejudiced” and/or “intolerant”. That is not accurate.

    However those people who think STID is a bad movie and use language that indicates that all they care about is defending the past or the canon…. blah blah blah, most likely went into the movie with prejudices.

    Considering your knee jerk reaction as well as the fact that you did not fully read what I said, you are a person of interest to say the least.

    Criticize the movie in it’s own merits and we can have a honest healthy discussion about plot points … etc. Get all weird about Khan being english, how dare they rip off lines from WoK, not an original idea, what a ripoff, you are an intolerant person who wants to defend the past. I have no interest looking backwards.

    I am ashamed to be associated through my love of Trek with those overly whiny people who cry foul about how dare JJ this, how could Lindelof that…

    These guys made Trek relevant again. I am forever thankful!

  19. It felt that there was much missing in the Kirk speech scene at the end. I certainly yearned for it to be longer and more impactful.

    Now we know there was much left on the cutting room floor.

  20. Okay, so this is like the 5th blog interview I’ve read since it’s release where Orci and Kurtzman are again defending / responding to their horrifically bad script for STID. Not the accolades they got from from the first reboot, eh? It’s a shame; they do have some talent, “Sleepy Hollow” was well crafted (though I cannot see that series lasting more than a season). Why didn’t they use that creativity to tell a new story with ST?

    I hated “Into Darkness” so much that I will not buy the DVD or download it. The franchise is dead to me, after 40 years of being a loyal fan, it’s dead to me. It was such a bad script.

  21. STID was a bad movie and worse trek film. Loud action , cliché scene action, hole plots, gimmicks, non sensical and simplistic story, cartoonish caricature of the original characters they are supposed portraying., spectacle over content..a mess. Not a trek film, but a trek parody. A vast majority of trek fans are disappointed …

  22. I am happy for you that you enjoyed the film. However, it is legitimate criticism to say that the film’s script was derivative of earlier, better, works. Whether Trek or otherwise. I’m all for defending art that others find off-putting, but at some point you simply have to say “to each his own” and accept that a plurality if not majority of people found STID to be a weak movie and a disappointing Trek.

  23. Hole plots? I guess you mean plot holes.

    I agree with you. Star Trek definitely needs quality SCIENCE FICTION writers and a director who actually appreciates, respects, and possibly even loves Star Trek. Unfortunately, we got the complete opposite of that.

  24. Fist off, everything is derivative. Everything is built on what came before. In many ways Star Trek itself is a derivative of Forbidden Planet.

    Without any real hard evidence, I would say that the majority of the people who did not like STID are people more preoccupied with defending their precious prime time line than having an intelligent discussion whether STID, by itself, is a good movie.

    It would be like Spider-man fans crying about Peter Parker created his web spinning device and Sam Raimi ruined it by making it a genetic alteration or the Flash Thompson scene is so derivative.

    Now, I loved the Raimi Spiderman so much that I have not seen the new Amazing Spider-man because I would go in with prejudice and intolerance and not have a good time. It allows me to avoid having to play the role of a hater when it may have been a good movie on it’s own merits.

  25. Mmm no… “plot holes” implies that there is a plot there to have holes in. “Hole plots” are where you have gaping pits of “Uurrh???” with occasional bits of plot in them.

  26. It looks like a couple people went out of their way to downvote every comment you’ve made here. Even this one! Hahaha.

  27. Of course Trek has predecessors and is itself derivative of other works. However, the difference is the original Trek took from what came before and built on it in new and interesting ways. It exceeded its predecessors. STID took from what came before, reheated it on a very expensive stove, and served it up again. It quoted its predecessors and ended up a weak Xerox copy. See the Entertainment Weekly review of the DVD – it about nails it.
    And just to be clear: I went into STID without prejudice, intolerance, or expectations beyond wanting to see a good film and – I hoped – a good Trek film. And what I got was . . . meh. It just wasn’t that great a film and certainly wasn’t that great a Trek. Rather like Trek V in that regard. But at least Shatner admitted it wasn’t as good as he had hoped.

  28. Doesn’t living in the past run counter to what star trek is

    Exactly, so why crib a character, script and scene elements
    from a 30 year old movie?

  29. John Harrison was not a terrorist, ha had no motivation to
    cause terror in order to unsettle the population, his aim in blowing up the
    Kelvin institute was to convene a meeting of Starfleet senior staff, so he
    could then attack and kill Admiral Marcus in revenge for the apparent death of
    his crew. (Kirk: The Movie STID)

    There were lots of positives from Star Trek 2009 that were
    not followed through in Star Trek Into Darkness.

    1, new universe new rules, so we get an old villain, Klingons
    (yawn) cut and paste dialogue and scenes and even old Spock again.

    2, Emotional big hits like George Kirk’s death did not
    happen, the film felt like it lacked passion and consequence.

    There were some brilliant scenes yes, and some incredible
    and unique special effects, and Scotty had a character arc that was worthwhile.
    Whatever people’s gripes are with deviations from canon or accepted rules of the
    star trek universe, the time it takes to get to Kronos for example, I don’t share
    if the over all story is worth while, however for me the biggest problem with
    star trek into darkness is the character motivations just don’t make sense.

    Why is Marcus trying to destroy the Enterprise exactly? Ans
    because he is a baddie.

    Why would the development of the Vengeance be such a secret?
    Ans because it gives Scotty something to do, and secrets are cool

    Why did Khan go to Kronos? Ans so the Enterprise could go to
    Kronos and not just be in Earth orbit the whole movie.

    The John Harrison/Khan reveal was for the audience, it meant
    nothing to the characters, its like a character called Bob Smith saying…
    actually I am “Dave Johnson” it makes no sense. The repetition of elements from
    TWOK was fan fiction/reverence and very jarring, as was Spock’s pointless
    cameo. Clumsy elements like these really took me out of the film. The exact
    opposite of the Kelvin scene in the opening of Star Trek (2009) which I thought
    was some of the strongest Cinematic material Star Trek has produced.

    Not caring for something doesn’t make someone burnt out or
    clinging to the past, it means they didn’t like it. I have argued a lot on this
    site that the ‘cerebral and hard sci fi series called Star Trek 1966-1969
    simply didn’t exist, that it was in fact an action adventure show that was as much
    silly as it was allegorical. Bottom line is Spock dying in TWOK was iconic 80s
    cinema cinema it was powerful and really meant something. Kirk dying in STID
    was an inconsequential and quickly resolved bit of blockbuster fluff that was a mere
    shadow of that which it aped. If that wasn’t true Orci and Kurtzman wouldn’t feel
    the need to defend their work, it would speak for itself.

    Are some trekkers going too far, possibly, but does the old argument “but we made a lot of money”
    mean STID is genuinely a great flm? on that Basis STID is better than Citizen Kane? is that really the

    best the WRITERS can come up with before telling fans to fk off? Seems pretty artistically bankrupt to me?

    Like I say there are moments and sequences to enjoy in STID but it does represent a backwards step for me

    and I am allowed to have that opinion.

    And in the name of all being friends I just want to add that I love that Garak is your avatar, he is an awesome

    and complex star trek character from my favourite Trek series, I am glad your son liked it, mine did too and

    what exactly is an Excalibian?

    For me in Star Trek 3 I’d like to see a new planet, no Klingons, a mission of exploration with a sci fi conundrum
    As for an established race I’d love to see the Andorians and a bit more of a role for the cyborg guy in the blue top
    on the Enterprise bridge.

  30. If you liked that, then you’ll love it more when they did it the first time. The whole movie was done better the first time.

  31. Yes, but Original Spock’s Google-fu was much stronger. He didn’t have to phone a lifeline to take a single name and a description and look it up. He even found Khan’s full name. All on his little lonesome.

  32. Or maybe it was nothing more sinister than people just didn’t like the suggestion of Excalbians. I actually kinda liked “The Savage Curtain”, but not sure why josekuhn was referencing them. I think he implied it was a joke, but it is one I certainly don’t get.

  33. 2009 sucked. JJ-George Kirk’s death held no emotional punch. My gosh, Data’s death was far more emotional, and they kind of rushed that one along too fast!

  34. Couldn’t disagree more, whilst admittedly an exercise in melodrama we saw George Kirk sacrifice himself against a greater foe, we saw him momentarily bask in the birth of his child and fatherhood before it was taken away. The music was great, the acting was great (hence helmsworths casting as Thor and in Rush), the editing was great showing the violence of his sacrifice but cutting it short and the reactions of Kirks mum were all brilliant. These scenes were highly emotional and brilliantly realised by every part of the film making machine. Add to that that many viewers have been through or witnessed childhood and all of the hopes and dreams that come with that moment and it very much taps into the lived experience of the viewer, plumbing them for an emotional response. there is lots to dislike about 2009 but the Kelvin opening is a masterclass, in my opinion flawless. By contrast data’s death was for me very cheap, given we’d been introduced to B4 and witnessed Data download himself to B4 we as an audience knew Data would be back in he fifth TNG movie. Add to that the unexplained absence of Data’s emotions chip and what we have is the death of a character with an obvious route back and unlike the George Kirk scenes one where I have no emotional resonance from my life’ ie I have never destroyed a space vessel with a phaser. George Kirk died because he wanted to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his new family, he expressed love for his wife and newborn infant in the most selfless way, Data died because Geordie only made one emergency transporter beacon and his programming told him Captain Picard was the more logical person to be rescued.

    You feel differently fair enough but “it sucked” isn’t much of an argument, and where emotions are concerned we all react differently but I’d say if you showed the George Kirk scenes and the Data scenes to 100 people with no 20 year investment in the character Data they’d say 2009 represented the better film making.

  35. “We knew we just weren’t going to please everybody, particularly when you’re taking on a Khan story, who is the most beloved of all villains. We felt ultimately very good about how it turned out, but everybody has the right to their opinion.”

    I didn’t even like WOK and all the while before the movie came out I was hoping it wasnt Khan. ST ’09 was awesome and I was genuinely eager to see STID only to stare at the film and lose interests about a third the way through. The pacing of this film was horrible and would improve by just having longer takes and more quiet moments. Instead, I was able to notice that things go off and explode every 3rd or 5th beat and is marked by characters trailing off in speech or stopping mid sentence and gaping at another character. There was so much stupidity with characters that was written just to move the story along (same with skyfall). Why was every important senior officer all collected in the same corner office with a view?

    That scene specifically (and that horrible argument scene with Uhura) of Spock yelling Khan… Even if I accept spock being emotional, and crying a perfect 1950’s Hollywood single tear, that scene falls flat simply because Spock has only known Kirk from the time of his taking the test. Thats what? a year or 2? if it was for more than a year (and thats stretching it), using the excuse that Spock doesn’t understand friendship wouldn’t make sense since Spock has had relationships and interacted with humans before. Aren’t Vulcans at least telepaths or empaths? Just because they decide to do something, doesn’t mean they don’t understand others.

    Either do an alternate reality or stop pretending. Having Pine gain weight was a big no no and that tribble didn’t need to be there.

  36. There are no original ideas coming from these two. Even the stuff that works seems to be based on someone else’s work i.e. Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow.

  37. COMPLETELY agree. Jarringly wrong, and as you say, way too early in the reboot for these two to be acting like they’ve been friends for years. It’s truly astonishing that given such an amazing opportunity, the best these guys could come up with is rehashing the best elements of WOK.

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