I suppose it is a curse of identifying ones self so closely with being a trekkie I am getting a lot of people asking me what I think of the new movie Star Trek Into the Darkness. Since I live in Sydney, Australia, I got to see it nearly a full week before it was released in America, so I have been mulling over it since then.
SPOILER ALERT – Do not read beyond here as this contains spoilers
Going into the movie there was a lot of speculation as to who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing. He seemed very unlike Khan in choice and I actually never considered that as a viable role for him. I was pulling for him to be the new timeline’s Gary Mitchell, Kirks academy friend who becomes sorta God-like and goes crazy, as one does, and tries to take over the Enterprise before taking over the universe. Kirk ends up killing his friend to save the universe. Not a bad morality play, test Kirk out an all that. Well I was wrong, Cumberbatch is Khan.
OK that is out of the way!
This movie is a fun, space movie. It has some great action scenes and makes other worlds and space battles awesome. This does not, however, need to be a Star Trek movie. The movie begins with Kirk trying to save a prehistoric tribe on a planet that is near a volcano that is about to explode, the scene seemed more like a homage to a pre-credits Bond scene. Now in the 60s, Gene Roddenberry couldn’t afford the TV budget to show a ship landing and taking off every episode, so transporters were born. They orbit the planet and crew get beamed up and down and a catchphrase is born. In this movie for no reason what so ever, they have decided to hide the enterprise in the ocean. No reason given why they would do that, other than it would look cool. It is a move that is so at odds with Trek that has gone before.
It is this kinda laziness that pervades the movie, it is like JJ Abrams wants to make a big science fiction movie, but doesn’t want to be bogged down with a franchise that has nearly 50 years (yes count them) of history. Lets see what happens when he takes over Star Wars.
From there it continues, Kirk portrayed as a free wheeling captain that is way too young to have been given command, trucking around the universe with ~430 souls entrusted to him with there careers and lives at his cavalier whim (there is old school Trekkie knowledge). William Shatner’s Kirk was many things, but he was always loyal and responsible for his crew. To be fair, Pine’s Kirk loses command in this movie, but then gets it back 10 minutes later when all of the chain of command between him and the captain chairs gets wiped out, an interesting trend.
There are explosions, there are chases, there is a weird Spock/Uhura romance going on. There is a weird cameo from Leonard Nimoy, he is famous for wanting out of the franchise, now he seems to come back at the drop of a hat. There is even a scene where Admiral daughter stowaway, Carol Marcus, is standing in front of Kirk in her underwear, porn movies have more plausible ways of getting their actors to strip off (I have dutifully included it here though, let’s see what visitors google brings me with that image on my website). It is all fluffer material to get Kirk to take responsibility and we find him confronted with the warp core misalignment problem that Spock experienced at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The scene where Spock dies in that 1982 movie still stands the test of time. Admittedly the sets weren’t as awesome. Spock locked behind glass, too irradiated to even let out, his death, a matter of minutes away, says goodbye to his friend and captain (I know admiral, but you know), they have served together for 20+ years. When he dies, a broken Kirk turns around and stares off into middle space, he has finally found out that there is a no win scenario and he buries his friend. An excellent scene and wholly consistent with the movie you are watching. Arguably it suffers with time as 2 years later they decided to bring Spock back and I won’t justify that. At the end of this movie though the character is gone and people need to live their lives.
OK that is a lot a exposition for a scene that is not in this movie, well the inbred fanboy equivalent is. I can just imagine the writers room session that created the scene in the new movie.
Hey you know that awesome scene in Star Trek II, the one where Spock dies and Kirk watches?
How about we do that again, but Kirk dies and Spock watches!
You know what lets have it happen twenty years earlier in their timeline, but with characters saying the same lines.
Oh, lets also have Spock scream “KHANNNNN!” into space so that an entire generation can be segregated by those that thing the famous cry came from Kirk versus Spock.
Hey, if we kill Kirk I am guessing we’ll probably have to bring him back in the next movie right!
No, lets bring him back in this one 10 minutes after he dies, using magic blood we find in Khan, that we fore shadowed with a reanimated Tribble earlier in the movie.
Excellent! Money fight!
(full disclosure I am rather fond of the KHANNN scream)
To wrap it, this movie stands in the shadow of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, this is solely because the writers thought it would be cool to do so. If I had to compare the two, Star Trek Into the Darkness is an alcopop and STII is a fine wine. One is obviously better than the other, but at the end of the day they both get you drunk in the end.
You will notice I haven’t talked about Cumberbatch as Khan. He is a great actor and he performs well in this movie, I just wished they had created a new character. At the end of the movie, I don’t know if it is there to piss off the fans, they have Kirk read out the Captain’s Oath to a assembly of people as the Enterprise is rededicated:
To seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no-one has gone before.
Not bad, I wish the film makers would do the same in service of the next story.
Oh BTW, please checkout my religion, The First Church of James Tiberius Kirk. At least the new movie is carrying on the tradition of killing and bringing back Kirk.