Well this is also debatable, but my guess would be another film like TMP would have killed the franchise.
I think that's a question of expectations, though. Ever since Star Wars
, we've been conditioned to expect that SF films are supposed to be action movies, and TMP seems a failure when viewed through that filter. But TMP was a legacy of an era from before SW, an era when SF films were often more contemplative, adult-oriented, thoughtful pieces like 2001
or Soylent Green
or Silent Running
. If ST had stayed in that vein, it might not have been as big at the box office, but it might've still retained an audience and gotten more critical respect.
And overblown action? Would you not concede that JJ's films rely just as much if not more on action than TWOK? And how did you feel about this new movie lifting line after line from TWOK? Did you not find that terribly corny? Face-palm worthy, even? I only ask because you say you enjoy the JJ films more than TWOK.
I don't want to dissect them point-by-point. There are things I like and things I dislike in both Abrams films (and yes, I certainly think the "KHAAAAAANNNN!!!!" homage was stupid and annoying), but I find that the total package is more agreeable to me. There are things to like and dislike in TWOK too, but there's just too much that turns me off, especially the bloodsoaked violence, Meyer's aggressive anti-futurism, and what to me is very slow pacing that leaches the energy out of much of the film. I can't break it down into a comparison of specific attributes or moments in the different films, because it's not about the specifics, it's about the aggregate, the final result. And as you say, it's subjective. There's no arguing over taste.
Anyway, to me that line and Shatner's delivery is a classic Kirk and classic Shatner moment. Honestly, TOS has corny and melodramatic moments at every turn. How is any corny or melodramatic moment in TWOK a deviation from TOS?
As I said, it's about intent
. TOS may have fallen short of its naturalistic ambitions at times, especially in the third season, but what it was meant
to be was a deliberate reaction against the melodrama and caricature of previous SFTV, a more mature take on science fiction than what had existed on television before. And that's what it succeeded at being at its best. It seems natural to me to hold up the best of the show as what its successors should aspire to.
I also disagree with the popular perception that "classic Shatner" means hamming it up. That's the reputation he's gained mainly because
of his performance in the movies and later in his career when he was basically parodying himself. But early Shatner, the Shatner of the first season or two of TOS and before, was a much more understated and naturalistic actor. The kind of performance he became known for later was not representative of the best he was capable of, and again, I don't see the point of choosing to aspire to less than the best.
So then, I guess TOS betrays the original intention as well because it was certainly full of all kinds of exaggeration, corniness and broad caricatures, and many ideas that were definitely not believable.
We all fall short of our aspirations. But at least we try
. That's the difference. TWOK was deliberately aiming
for a lower standard of naturalism, for a more broad and exaggerated take. I can forgive falling short of a high aspiration more readily than I can forgive setting one's aspirations low to begin with.
That's because Kirk wouldn't dismiss his past tragedies. He didn't. He said "not like this." By adding that, he's actually acknowledging past tragedies and revealing that this one is different to him.
I've heard that argument before and I have never, ever bought it. It's a flimsy rationalization. "Not like this" was an afterthought, not remotely enough to salvage the line. What he actually, explicitly said was "I've never faced death," and that is absolutely a nonsensical thing for James Kirk to say, even with a qualification. Even aside from all the personal tragedies, he was always portrayed as a captain who was deeply affected by the death of any crewmember under his command. The idea that he's never before faced a no-win scenario is just not believable to me.