Star Trek Into Darkness: Lens flare and merchandise madness

Star Trek Into Darkness, the long awaited follow up to JJ Abrams’s reinvention of the classic sci-fi franchise, will finally be here in IMAX on May 15, and everywhere else on May 16, a day earlier than the original release date.

Right before the movie finally sees the light of day, there has not only been fun Trek merchandise that’s been announced, but also controversy over Abrams’s love of lens flare.

For those who don’t know what lens flare is , it’s when light bounces off the camera lens, and it can often make circular reflections off sunlight. Originally lens flare was considered a technical imperfection that would be cut from movies, but when it was kept in the 1969 classic Easy Rider, it became a stylistic touch that’s been used ever since. Abrams has been famous for using it all over his movies, to the point where a parody appeared on YouTube, Lens Flare the Movie.

In looking up lens flare scemes on YouTube, you can see quite a bit of it in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters, which had to be one of Abrams’s influences in using it. But now the L.A. Times ran a report on JJ’s love of this technique, and perhaps that he “needs a lens flare intervention.” (Is there a twelve-step group for this?) 

Some of the critics called JJ to task about this too, with one Australian blog writing, “Abrams does his best to ensure gratuitous use of lens flare will live long and prosper. Only the most ambitious film critics profess why he does this, other than to observe that the effect looks kind of cool.” 

We joked about this ourselves on TG, wondering how the lens flare will look in IMAX 3D, and anyone even remotely familiar with JJ’s works should have known this was coming. The real question is how much will he use it in the next Star Wars movie, which reports now tell us may begin shooting early next year in England. Maybe the BluRay edition will have a special version where you can eliminate the lens flare if it’s that distracting. We also get the feeling if JJ drops it completely his next movie, everyone will wonder why it’s missing. 

As Abrams confessed, “I know there are certain shot where even I watch and think, ‘Oh that’s ridiculous, that was too many.’ But I love the idea that the future was so bright it couldn’t be contained in the frame.” 

In other Trek news, the DailyBeast just compiled a list of “wackiest Star Trek merchandise.” The list included a Star Trek oven mitt, which is in the “Live Long and Prosper” position, the Spock toupee, complete with pointy ears, and furry Tribble slippers. It’s all silly stuff in good fun, and maybe it will actually sell if Trek mania sweeps the country again.