Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #23

Re: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Just a quick note to say that I usually love your reviews and lean heavily on them to decide which films to share with my children. I was deeply disappointed with the review of Star Trek Into Darkness, which gave a minus-1 for moral content. The deviant (to Catholic belief) scene of two women at once in bed with Kirk was more like a minus-3 to me. Maybe I don’t understand your rating system.

The fact that it wasn’t explicit is overruled in my view by the fact that it is so deviant, and Kirk is so cool and so likable that it makes what he does seem acceptable. The gratuitous underwear scene was another problematic one. My husband took the kids to the movie on the rating alone (didn’t read the review) which provoked a little discord at home. If he had read it, he would have seen your comments.

Much appreciation for your work, however.

I’m glad you find my work generally helpful, and I’m sorry that your family had a bad experience with Star Trek Into Darkness. I understand not everyone reads the whole reviews, which is partly why I summed up both shots you mention in the content advisory.

My perspective as a parent of teenagers on the brief morning-after scene is a little different. First, my feeling is that well-formed teenagers need to be able to recognize that not everything a character does, even a cool, likable character like Kirk, is necessary approved of by the movie.

In this case, it should be clear (and if it isn’t, parents should make it clear) that the new Star Trek movies emphasize Kirk’s flaws as a character — his immaturity, arrogance, lack of self-control and humility, etc. (Example: The opening scene, in which Kirk violates the Prime Directive to save Spock, blowing off Spock’s concerns with a breezy “So they saw us, what’s the big deal?” is undermined as we see the natives apparently worshipping the Enterprise.) In case we’ve missed the point, Pike gives Kirk a stern dressing-down in this regard (reminding him of the “epic beating” he took in the first film.)

The first film implied that Kirk’s womanizing was part of this pattern of immaturity in the brief, abortive bedroom scene with Kirk’s inane reply to the green alien girl suddenly interrupting the mood. (Still, that scene was much racier than this one, and I would object to showing that one to my teenagers before this one.) That element of critique isn’t repeated here, although in another scene it’s pretty clear that Kirk is an excessive flirt and really rather ridiculous.

My moral ratings are meant to characterize a film as a whole. One or two scenes (two shots, actually) like this is not enough to earn a minus-3 or even a minus-2; for that, there needs to be more pervasive themes throughout a film. (Examples of minus-3 films include The Matrix, The Exorcist, The Golden Compass and Eat Pray Love — all with far more problematic elements, in my opinion, than anything in Star Trek Into Darkness.)

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