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Why Star Trek Into Darkness could be as successful as The Dark Knight

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They're not just both sequels with 'Dark' in the title...

Why 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013) could be as successful as 'The Dark Knight' (2008)

What happened last time a cult writer/director/producer with a highly dedicated fanbase from their several beloved TV shows directed a highly anticipated instalment in a mega-franchise? Well, Joss Whedon's The Avengers made $1.5 billion worldwide, becoming the third highest-grossing film of all time, and it was only his second film as director.

J.J. Abrams himself has directed big franchise entries before (Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek (2009)), as well as the original film Super 8, each time to financial success and critical recognition, reflecting the quality of the work. He's growing in audience recognition, with the imminent sequel Star Trek Into Darkness sure to only cement this further. In fact, Star Trek Into Darkness will probably make a significant impact on J.J. Abrams' audience recognition and thus box office clout. Star Trek was so well received by audiences back in 2009 (both Trekkies/Trekkers and mainstream audiences) that in the four years since (for much of which, it wasn't even certain that he would be returning to direct the sequel, to much fanboy consternation), anticipation has been building such that even a Vulcan would struggle to control it. Any future J.J. Abrams film, especially after this one, is bound to live long and prosper at the box office.

And in terms of the Star Trek franchise specifically, it's essentially the Christopher Nolan / Batman/Dark Knight effect. With Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan delivered a gritty, thrilling, dramatic, and fresh franchise reboot. While it gained commercial success, this was no doubt constrained by people's memories of the preceding live-action Batman film, Batman & Robin, years earlier, which is much less well-regarded, and certainly much sillier. But word of mouth for Batman Begins helped create a devoted fanbase eager for Nolan's next instalment in the franchise. With the main cast and crew (including Christopher Nolan at the helm) returning, creative integrity rooted in a deep respect for the characters was guaranteed, and so when The Dark Knight was released three years later (supported by a [heavy and effective] marketing campaign, as with Star Trek Into Darkness), it smashed box office records, representing a huge step up from the box office take of Batman Begins.

Of course, the film's villain may have also had something to do with it. While Heath Ledger's untimely death arguably contributed notoriety and thus interest surrounding the role, it's a phenomenal performance, which was already garnering attention in its own right before his death. Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker may have surprised people given the contrast with many of his previous roles, whereas Benedict Cumberbatch is already rightly acclaimed (particularly for his brilliant portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's Sherlock) to the extent that few doubt his ability to rock the role, whatever or whoever his character turns out to be (and there are many theories). As such, the fact that Star Trek Into Darkness features Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain (Sherlock Holmes vs. the crew of the Enterprise!) only increases the already feverish levels of anticipation among the fanbase.

Star Trek Into Darkness is out on May 9 in the UK, and May 16 in the US.

See also:

In-depth trailer analysis: Why Iron Man 3 could be Marvel's answer to The Dark Knight Rises

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS POSTER ANALYSIS


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