It’s hard to watch Star Trek Into Darkness and not think about Star Wars. Yes, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and so we have that knowledge on the brain going into this. Maybe we’re even on the lookout for clues hinting at what we should expect from his take on that galaxy. This isn’t the first time the Trek franchise has had to try and prove itself in the shadow of George Lucas’s own series. Even though it originated with a TV show in the 1960s, Trek‘s cinematic resurrection a decade later was in part allowed by and somewhat influenced by the success and quality of the first Star Wars. But even regardless of the fact that Abrams is following the latest Trek with the next Wars, I often otherwise felt like I was watching one of the latter while sitting through Into Darkness.
Before getting into the evidence that Abrams is a clear fan of Lucasfilm works (and not just Star Wars) and likes to sample from them, let’s take a moment to think about what all his call back references and allusions to both Wars and Trek might mean for Episode VII. Will there be too much winking and fan-service, unhidden Easter eggs and inside jokes and maybe even outright recycling the way Into Darkness is with certain prior Trek installments? Could Episode VII have a number of allusions to Trek the way Into Darkness pays obvious homage to Wars? Rather than creating new worlds of his own, will he be resting on the hard work of his many predecessors. Sure, he’ll be working from a script by Michael Arnt, but his own Toy Story 3 script also had too much pop culture referencing, including that one major nod to Return of the Jedi.
There are sure to be some Into Darkness SPOILERS in the following list, so beware if you haven’t seen it yet or don’t plan to because maybe you’re exclusively Wars devoted.
1. Sideways Elusion Allusion
This cliche “we’re not gonna fit” bit has been talked about as reminding fans of Star Wars since the (second?) Into Darkness trailer was released. I don’t think we saw it before Abrams was announced as Episode VII director, but it wouldn’t matter if that was the case. It’s impossible not to think of the part of The Empire Strikes Back when the Millenium Falcon eludes a couple Tie Fighters by turning sideways and barely slipping through a narrow canyon while also trying to safely avoid the danger of an asteroid field.
2. Scotty-3PO and R2-Keenser
The relationship between Scotty and little Keenser wasn’t so obviously modeled after that of C-3PO and R2-D2 in the first Abrams Star Trek movie, but their similarity to the droid buddies really comes through in this sequel in two key scenes. The first is when Scotty is forced to resign from the Enterprise and makes Keenser come with him, as if he’s the dominant half of their special relationship, a la C-3PO to R2D2. Then it’s also clear in their semi-quibbling tone towards one another in the bar scene. And of course Keenser doesn’t speak English while Scotty does all the talking, much like their Star Wars counterparts.
3. Mister Spockwalker and Kirk Solo — or James T. Kirkwalker and Spock Solo
There’s not much use in comparing the dynamics of Kirk and Spock and Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. The former precedes the latter. But Kirk is a lot more of a bad boy in the rebooted Star Trek series, and yet he also at times reminds me of young cocky Luke. Meanwhile Spock is the goody two-shoes of the duo, sort of like Skywalker early on in the Star Wars trilogy, but he’s also colder and lives by a strict code without concern for others, like Han early on. The parallels are neither intentional nor finely tuned (call it a stretch), but the relationships are interesting to consider as we look ahead to the return of Luke and Han in Episode VII. Thinking about it also leads to the next couple items.
4. Death of Kirk’s Obi-Wan
Christopher Pike is to James T. Kirk as Obi-Wan Kenobi is to Luke Skywalker. He is a mentor and encourages the young man on his path — a path in which he follows in the footsteps of his late father. And in this movie Kirk witnesses the death of his Obi-Wan at the hands of the enemy. It’s odd that soon afterward, Kirk teams up with his mentor’s killer, yet Luke also does that with Obi-Wan’s murderer, Darth Vader, once he learns the truth about him as well.
5. The Old Wise Sage Who Is Also Sort Of a Ghost
If Pike is Kirk’s Obi-Wan, Spock needs one too. Because they’re both kind of the Luke of this movie. And indeed Spock has one: himself. That is, Spock Prime, the older, other timeline version of Spock still portrayed by Leonard Nimoy. He’s a bit of an expositional cheat in Star Trek Into Darkness, but he’s also a necessary Obi-Wan/Yoda figure who comes in and gives us some back story (which for Star Trek is just reminder of old series info and for Star Wars was eventually all prequel info).
6. The girl Kirk originally likes winds up with Spock
For this item we shall think of Uhura as the Leia of the Abrams Star Trek series. She’s not a princess, but especially in Into Darkness she comes third in line as far as the main muscle and mind of the Enterprise and franchise. We were introduced to her in the previous film being hit on by Kirk at a bar. She wasn’t into him. Later he fouls up his chances with her even more by sleeping with her roommate. In a way, at this point he’s both crushing Skywalker and playboy Solo. And then she winds up with the other guy (rival/bud Spock) by the end of that movie, and in this new movie she and Spock are a full-on bickering couple. The only thing missing is Uhura professing her love for Spock only to have him very logically reply with “I know.” Yeah, that would have been too much.
7. The bad guy’s daughter is a good guy
Admiral Marcus isn’t the main baddie of Star Trek Into Darkness — though for a moment he’s sold as such. He’s hardly the film’s Darth Vader. But nobody is the film’s Darth Vader. Still, when the character was revealed to be a villain and Carol the stowaway was revealed to be his daughter, the Vader/Leia connection just popped into my head. Hopefully this means Alice Eve shows up in a metal bikini in Star Trek 3. Not that the above image wasn’t enough.
8. Awkward, campy, emotional exclamation!
Obviously when Spock cornily shouts “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!” after the radiation “death” of Kirk it’s an inverse reference to when Kirk similarly yells the villain’s name in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
after Spock “dies” from radiation. What else did it sound like? How about when Anakin/Vader yells “Noooooooooooo!” upon hearing of Padme’s death at the end of Revenge of the Sith?
9. Climactic fight atop a moving vehicle
Hat tip goes out to film critic Calum Marsh for this one, as I’d forgotten much of Revenge of the Sith. He reminded me of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s final duel on Mustafar (which many viewers admit to have thought of during Into Darkness’s opening volcano sequence), which eventually has them battling atop moving platforms that are just above a river of lava. I can see where that’s similar to the final duel in Into Darkness atop vehicles flying through San Francisco. The only thing missing in this instance was Khan left barely holding onto life as Spock shouted, “You were the chosen one” to him.
Bonus: Two Ways Star Trek Into Darkness Alludes to Raiders of the Lost Ark
As if the Star Wars references, both conscious and subconscious, weren’t enough, Star Trek Into Darkness has two very blatant allusions to the Lucas-penned Raiders of the Lost Ark, and interestingly enough they bookend the movie and are equally references to the opening and closing of the Indiana Jones film. First there’s the pre-credits sequence with Kirk and Bones running from primitive indigenous aliens, reminiscent of Indy being chased by the “Hovito” people in Peru. Then there’s the shot at the end of Khan back in his cryogenic coffin with his fellow stasis-bound pals that is surely meant to evoke the closing Raiders shot of the Ark of the Covenant being hidden in a massive warehouse.