Desensitized Moviegoers: The Need for “Bigger Stakes”

*******This post contains Star Trek Into Darkness spoilers*******

After reading other bloggers’ points of view on Star Trek Into Darkness, I wanted to write this post because I wholeheartedly and good-naturedly disagree.

First to sum up what’s been said:

Star Trek Into Darkness fell short of Star Trek  (2009) due to lower stakes. Star Trek had a time-traveling, planet-imploding villain and Star Trek Into Darkness had a guy who could punch. Hard.

Let me preface all of the following by saying that I understand the need for “big stakes” in a film. I really do. It drives the character to do things he or she normally wouldn’t do, helps them grow, drives the plot, and creates drama. All good stuff. And sometimes, yes, you can (and should) push your story further by “upping the stakes.” However, this is my gripe with the general sentiment above expressed by others…


This villain (Khan) did not merely “punch hard.” He was a TERRORIST. Kahn killed innocent people (crushed a man’s skull in with his bare hands, for crying out loud!). And that’s just Kahn. Then there’s Admiral Marcus, the warmonger, who had no remorse in killing his own countrymen and was responsible for waking Khan in the first place.

Kirk’s life and the lives of his crew are ALWAYS in danger throughout the film, from the first moment we alight into the story, and moments before the credits roll. Abrams keeps the pace up- whether it’s Klingons, a volcano, etc. etc. But to say someone targeting a group of people that you belong to… threatening to wipe out your friends and family… threatening the existence of peace universally… that’s not high stakes? There really needs to be a whole world (or worlds) at jeopardy for every story?

I applaud Abrams for more intimate (not lower) stakes than what he gave us in the first film. There was a stronger emotional element to the material. And with the dedication at the end of the film to our 9/11 vets, it seemed even more personal.


But, are we so desensitized now in our own lives, in the reality of war and terrorist attacks, that these situations no longer work as high stakes in a film? Is the potential to lose the people we hold dear no longer alarming to us?

If an apocalypse is the only thing to make us shift slightly in our cushy theater seats today, where do we go from here?

Let me just be clear and say that this movie is not perfect, it has its flaws. And yes, too many solar flares is one of them. But what film is perfect? It was great entertainment and it balanced new and old Star Trek elements. Abrams, ya did good.

My argument against bigger and bigger stakes is this: The story world does not need to end for the character’s world to end. The only people who give a damn about Kirk are on that ship, and the only reason he has a purpose is because he’s a part of that family. Take that away from him and his whole world crumbles. End of story.


But, I realize that with blockbusters of apocalyptic bent like World War Z, Pacific Rim, etc. and the masses eagerly awaiting them, I’m probably the only one who feels this way…


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