Yes, these movies are bigger and louder than TV — and they come at you in 3D — but they are basically just new episodes in what their producers and financiers hope will be a long-running series of movies.
The technology and the actors’ salaries are so huge and expensive, however, that the best moviegoers can hope for is a new installment every few years. In the case of the “Star Trek” franchise, four years passed between the J.J. Abrams reboot and the new movie.
For me, this big-screen serial franchise format doesn’t work anymore — not when I can see a whole satisfying season of episodes of something like “Homeland” or “Game of Thrones” at home in a few days.
The hit TV shows generally try to hook us with cliffhangers, or unresolved plot points, at the end of a season, but the 10 or 12 episodes generally leave a viewer feeling satisfied that a good story has been told. It’s something akin to the pleasure of reading an ongoing crime novel series by someone like Lee Child.
Lots of things happen in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” but the true catastrophes involve masses of extras or characters so far on the fringes of the story that they don’t matter (the Enterprise appears to be an enormous ship, but in all of the years of TV episodes and theatrical features, everything that’s important in the ongoing narrative seems to boil down to the handful of officers and technicians who are in charge).
Some of the biggest dramatic moments in the new movie aren’t as strong as they would be elsewhere because we know that anything terrible that happens to a major “Star Trek” character can be reversed through some foolish sci-fi mumbo jumbo (in the case of “Into Darkness,” it’s a “death” that we know can’t possibly be the real thing).
I enjoyed watching Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto doing their sly tributes to the actors who preceded them in their roles — William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — but a few minutes after “Star Trek Into Darkness” ended I wanted to see a genuine, self-contained movie.