(MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW!)
Star Trek Into Darkness (hereafter STID) is Hollywood playing it safe.
It’s like Hollywood found the best insurance coverage they could buy, then tacked on some supplemental Aflac coverage just to be safe. The form of that insurance? The Wrath of Khan of course. The most popular and critically acclaimed character/story in the entire Star Trek universe. Why is this a problem? Because the writers have an entire galaxy to work with, an entire new timeline to work with, and what do we get? A retelling of The Wrath of Khan. Cha-ching! That’s the sound of Hollywood cashing in those insurance policies.
This review is going to come across as a little odd, because I’m really torn about STID. The only recent movie that can compare to how I feel about STID is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Where that movie had problems with deviating significantly from the source material in order to cash in, STID borrows too much from previous source material to likewise cash in at the box office.
I really did enjoy the movie. I did! Honest! But at its core this movie moves the re-imagined Star Trek even further from the ideas and ideals that made the original universe popular, at the expense of making making it popular with a new generation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for those fans who have been around for decades parts of STID may sit wrong with them.
If the viewer can disconnect themselves from the past (and, impossibly, The Wrath of Khan) STID is a pretty damn awesome summer action movie. But that’s the trick isn’t it? (said in my best Han Solo voice). If you try to connect it to the Star Trek universe it falls apart badly…because everyone has seen this movie before.
Yes, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) is Khan. Yes, he’s a 300 year old superbeing brought out of cryosleep by Starfleet. Yes, he’s an evil SOB hell bent on genocide. That being said, even though it’s a recycled plot, this Khan may be better than the original. Yep, I said it…and it’s one of the things that makes this a fun movie. Cumberbatch is brilliant in the role as the cold and menacing Khan.
But the play between Kirk and Khan fails because the entire movie is emotionless. Why? Because you know what’s going to happen from the first scene and the line “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” are uttered. When Kirk dies near the end (switching roles with Spock from the original The Wrath of Khan) we know he’s not dead. The entire scene was just a lazy wink and nod to the original. Also a wink to the audience like, “Hey bro, you know Khan’s superblood will bring him back to life.” Spock’s scream of “Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!” is both hilarious and emotionless. Hilarious because it’s just a switched up, exact copy of the original. Emotionless because we know Kirk is not dead. The entire scene of Kirk and Spock touching the glass separating them and playing out the well known friendship scene from Wrath is utterly ineffective. So when Spock goes charging off to kill Khan we know they won’t kill him because they need his superblood to save Kirk. The ending of STID is just one emotionless cascade of predictable action.
The problem is that Trek fans who know the previous timeline may have a hard time reconciling some of these plot shenanigans. Those who are casual Trek fans will probably love this movie. In addition to the above, there are also a lot of plot inconsistencies that just don’t make sense or add up:
- How can Admiral Marcus build a starship that big within the confines and the Solar system (near Jupiter) and no one knows about it?
- How can a ship that big approach Earth with no defense force intercepting? They already admit they are on the brink of war with the Klingons.
- What was the point of Dr. Marcus posing randomly in her underwear for 3.443245 seconds while they are trying to save Earth? It was so out of place and blatantly gratuitous.
- Why did Khan hide his fellow superbeings in….torpedos? Seems rather…unsafe. And how did he hide them there assuming Admiral Marcus was holding them as hostages?
- Transporters not being able to lock on to people, but they can beam someone down directly next to those they can’t lock on to? Technical convenience for the sake of plot/action.
- The ability to transport a hundred light years (Earth to Qo’noS)? Why is there a need for starships anymore? Why not just transport around the galaxy?
- And the coupe de grace: Bones synthesized Khan’s superblood. That means, basically, death has been eliminated in a lot of circumstances in this timeline. Really? You want to let that deus ex machina out of the bottle? Too late!!
- Etc, etc…
Bottomline, STID is a very mixed bag for me. But I’m going to give it the score I am based purely on how entertained I was. A movie can still have major problems and I can come away entertained. Looking at it as a Trek fan, it’s an ineffective and emotionless dud. I don’t think Gene Roddenberry would approve of this type of storytelling. Then again, we don’t live in Roddenberry’s generation anymore. Looking at it as a summer popcorn flick, it works very well.
This is exactly Hollywood playing it safe. Why wouldn’t they? Cha-ching!
Let’s just hope the next Trek doesn’t have whales in it.
Words © 2013-2020, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
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