Space opera seems to be taking a beating from all sides this week.
People who love the new Star Trek say, "Oh, thankfully, it's just a good ol' fashion space opera without any of that dreaded substance and character development!"
And people who don't care for it as much say, "It's nothing more than space opera without any of that glorious substance and character development!"
People may disagree on Star Trek, but they seem to agree implicitly that "space opera" is "trash".
First of all, let me make clear that Gene Roddenberry was not the first person to conceive of the idea of using "space opera" to explore larger themes and ideas relevant to our current world. He may well be the first one to bring it to a mass audience, which is commendable. But thoughtful "space opera" existed prior to "Star Trek".
But even that "space opera" that isn't overtly struggling with those issues often has something at least as important and valuable. Imagination.
I should take no surprise in the general dismissal of the idea of "imagination" being something valuable. Audiences have become increasingly uncomfortable with direct shows of "imagination" as it flies almost directly in the face of perceived "realism", which since the '70s has become something that we audiences have - ridiculously - come to believe is in itself a mark of quality.
As noted in many reviews, Star Trek: A Contrarian Viewpoint offers a fairly extensive case in this regard, Star Trek is content to merely revisit Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan rather than offer anything resembling imagination. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, as I stated, I certainly did. But I sadly can't credit it with a surplus of imagination.
So, it's not that I'm unwilling to allow a credit or fault, however the reviewer sees it, to the movie's lack of substance. I am, however, not willing to say it's specifically because it is just "space opera".