Star Trek Into Darkness
The review as promised. After seeing the 2009 Star Trek reboot my hopes for this latest Trek movie were not high. The reboot had major flaws, including but not restricted to an utterly unconvincing villain. This latest movie addresses that flaw to some extent. Benedict Cumberbatch’s villain is definitely an improvement over Eric Bana’s villain. Unlike the tattooed and bald Bana, Cumberbatch has a head full of hair and nary a facial tattoo in the movie and even his motivations and actions make more sense. I mostly blame the director and the writers for this sad state of affairs and not Bana.
I definitely liked this movie far better than the last one but it is not without flaws. The movie was a thrilling ride until the last thirty minutes.
WARNING: Spoilers follow
The movie begins with the Enterprise docked under water. Kirk and Spock are trying to save a planet by ignoring the Prime Directive.
The special effects were beautiful. Anyway, getting back to the plot, this results in Kirk losing command of the Enterprise and his rank, but don’t worry he will get both back in less than 10 minutes.
There is an attack on Star Fleet Archives in London, a huge explosion which destroys the building and its surroundings. It involves Cumberbatch and his blood, and a Star Fleet official with an ailing daughter. Immediately the Star Fleet high command summons a meeting in its San Francisco head quarters. Both Kirk who has been demoted to commander and Spock are present. Star Fleet must be awfully small if a recently demoted captain is a part of a high level meeting. The meeting takes place in a room with lots of windows. Was Dick Cheney’s bunker unavailable? Any how, there is another attack, through the aforementioned windows and most of Star Fleet big brass is eliminated including Kirk’s mentor Pike. Was it Abrams intention to make Star Fleet look like a joke? This crew doesn’t seem capable of tying its shoelaces, let alone undertake interstellar travel.
Meanwhile, Kirk has already figured out who is responsible for the attacks, it is one of Star Fleet’s own, a cadet named John Harrison. Harrison is none other than Cumberbatch. Who has already beamed back to an abandoned outpost in Klingon space.
Miraculously the Admiral who has convened the meeting escapes, I found that highly suspicious. More about that later. He reinstates Kirk as Captain and gives him back the Enterprise and sends him on highly secretive rogue mission to destroy Harrison. Enterprise is to be outfitted with top secret weapons. Haven’t we seen this before, an overreaction to a terrorist threat? And I don’t mean in real life, but in Trek, in Deep Space Nine, to be precise.
The rest of the movie is about the pursuit of Harrison who is not really Harrison, and bringing him back to earth to stand trial. Kirk soon figures out that things are not what they seem and both Harrison, and his on-board weapons specialist are not who he thought they were. Even his cargo of weapons is not what it seems. The weapons specialist turns out to be the Admiral’s daughter and Harrison is Khan. The admiral is who he says he is, but his intentions are far from honorable, as are his tactics. When Kirk figures that out, with help from his crew mates namely Scottie and Spock, he changes his mission from destroying Harrison/Khan to bringing him back to earth to stand trial.
The chase initially leads him and the Enterprise crew to Kronos where they encounter Harrison, who saves them from hostile Klingons, and relents to being taken a prisoner. He reveals his true identity while on the Enterprise and we find out the reason why he agreed to come back with them. We learn from Khan about the diabolical motivations of Admiral Marcus, who shows up in a huge ship, snarling, right on cue. Original Spock also makes a two minute appearance who tells the New Spock that Khan is a bad man, a very very bad man.
After many chases, firefights and fist fights, we have a final confrontation between Spock and Khan. Is it a battle of wits? Which one might have expected, since these two are supposed to be the brainiest men in the alpha quadrant. No, its a fist fight on what seems like a floating construction platform, where Khan goes from invincible to popsicle in a matter of minutes. How and why? Ours is not to question why but wait for a sequel to be explained why. I am hoping, that they also explain why Khan’s blood is magical.
Khan was an iconic villain in the original series, and the movies made thereafter. Since I have not seen either the movies or the episodes in which Khan makes an appearance, I don’t really get the significance of Harrison really being Khan. Is he supposed to be extra scary because he is Khan?
As for how an open society can retains its openness and its values, in face of the threat of terrorism, was handled far better in DS9, in the two part story, Homefront and Paradise Lost. It also had an admiral who goes rogue because he thinks that people around him are too soft to handle this new threat. The movie raised interesting questions relevant to the post 9/11 world but then degenerated into mindless and mind numbing summer fare. The cast, including Cumberbatch did an excellent job with the flimsy material they were given. The story did not utilize the characters of Dr McCoy, Scottie and Chekov well. If there is a sequel I hope that they are used for more than providing comic fodder. I for one thought that attempts at comedy were lame. Which is a shame because both Pegg and Urban, the actors playing Scottie and Bones, seem capable of much more.
We need a story worthy of this crew and the franchise. All in all a missed opportunity. Though it did provide a good hour and half of thrilling ride that transports you to a world of possibilities.
Credits (h/t : NYT Review)
Directed by J. J. Abrams; written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof, based on “Star Trek” by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Dan Mindel; edited by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; music by Michael Giacchino; production design by Scott Chambliss; costumes by Michael Kaplan; produced by Mr. Abrams, Mr. Kurtzman, Mr. Orci, Mr. Lindelof and Bryan Burk; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 12 minutes.
WITH: John Cho (Hikaru Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison), Alice Eve (Carol), Bruce Greenwood (Captain Pike), Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott), Chris Pine (Capt. James T. Kirk), Zoe Saldana (Nyota Uhura), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard McCoy), Peter Weller (Starfleet Admiral Marcus) and Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov).