All these years, I’m fairly certain that I’ve been pretty clear that I am a science-fiction / Star Trek buff. I’ve watched nearly every TOS episode, ever TAS episode, every ST: TNG, ST: DS9, ST: VOY, ST: ENT, and every TOS-era and TNG-era film. I used to read Star Trek novels when I was growing up. I’m introducing classic Star Trek to my kids now. I love Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, and have suffered through the ups and downs of the franchise. When J.J. Abrams (and Paramount) first rebooted the franchise with the Star Trek (2009) reboot, I dragged my wife along with me to watch it on the big screen with an open mind. Did I like everything about it? No. However, I saw women sitting in the audience with us, so I said, hey, fine, whatever works. They are opening the door, and introducing the franchise, to a whole new generation. The film didn’t feature any space exploration, or use the medium to touch upon moral or ethical themes, but it was entertaining. Personally, I’ve slowly realized that Star Trek is not its best in movie form. It’s really at its best in episodic television when writers can have the freedom to explore the human condition. In film-format, people are really looking for things to blow up. But you know what, Star Trek 2009 was a start to re-energize the franchise. Four years later, Paramount has come out with a sequel — Star Trek Into Darkness.
What’s my verdict? Oh, I’m sure this doesn’t fit with the collective opinion, but I really disliked this film. To me, it’s up there with Shatner’s mess of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and the corny/cheesy Star Trek: Insurrection. Harsh words, I know, but seriously, wow, an alternate movie title like Star Trek Into Dumbness rings true for me personally. Was it as bad as The Dark Knight Rises? No, I won’t be ranting as severely, but the 2nd outing here could have been more fresh, and less fan service. Let me explain, plot holes and all, so be warned of heavy spoilers ahead.
For the past 2-3 years, Hollywood and Abrams have been hush-hush about the film’s premise. Primarily, “Who was the villain?” Many fans speculated on the discussion threads that it would be Khan Noonien Singh. Abrams and company vehemently denied it, and finally stating that British actor Benedict Cumberbatch would play “John Harrison.” Who? Ah, a new character then. That’s great. The whole point of the reboot was to unshackle the writers from over 50 years of continuity, to start fresh with new storylines, new villains, etc. But what! They said the villain was someone we’ve seen before! John Harrison was on Star Trek before? Was he really Gary Mitchell (crew member embued with super powers), Robert April (1st captain of the Enterprise, and maybe wanted his ship back?), Harry Mudd (ne’er do well, comical fellow), or Trelane (super powered entity)? Then, of course, the IMDB.com Cast page for Star Trek Into Darkness listed Cumberbatch’s character as….. Khan. Say what? All of this freedom to do whatever you want, and you decide to pick the villain from the 2nd Star Trek TOS-era movie to be the villain in your 2nd Star Trek reboot-era movie? Way to be creative.
Once I saw down for the film, I waited for the story to get good. I liked the subtle references to prior Trek, like:
- John Harrison / Khan hiding out on Qo’noS in Ketha Province, which is also where General (and later Klingon Chancellor) Martok (ST: DS9) was born.
- The K’normian trading ship that Kirk and crew use to sneak onto Qo’noS was supposed confiscated during the Mudd Incident of 2259, a reference to ST: TOS loveable Harry Mudd.
- McCoy working on a Tribble.
- Carol Marcus tells Kirk that she learned of his reputation as a ladies man from her friend Christine Chapel, who has become a nurse since her romantic encounter with him. Hey, Nurse Chapel!
- When Kirk and Spock go to talk to Admiral Marcus, you can see ship models on his desk of Zephram Cochrane’s Phoenix Warp 1 vessel, and the Enterprise NX-01 from ST: Enterprise.
- Mentions of Section 31, which is cool…. but also bad. See below.
The film starts out interestingly enough, but halfway through the film, it got….. dumber:
- Why would the Enterprise need to hide underwater? Looks cool? Yes. But in a universe where we can now “transwarp beam” people during warp, or from Earth to Qo’noS, we can’t beam Spock into or out of the volcano from orbit? Since when?
- The Enterprise’s Engineering section still looks like a brewery.
- Spock and Kirk screw up, and get separated to different ships…. for all of 6 seconds then reunited again after the attack on the Starfleet high-ranking officers. Wow, that was a pointless, short-lived development.
- When Kirk and Spock go to talk to Admiral Marcus, you can see ship models on his desk of Zephram Cochrane’s Phoenix Warp 1 vessel, the Enterprise NX-01 from ST: Enterprise, and…. the super secret Section 31 ship U.S.S. Vengeance that no one knows about. Except they have a model of it on his desk.
- Maybe it’s the Star Trek fan in me, but the Klingon homeworld is Qo’noS, but is pronounced like “Cronos.” What did they title in in the film? “Kronos.” Say what? Can we not dumb things down?
- The Enterprise sneaks from Federation space all the way to Qo’noS, but don’t encounter a single patrol? Federation star ship completely unnoticed invades Klingon space, and…. nothing?
- Why is Spock so emotional? Yeah, he’s part human, but he cries in this film? Puh-leaze.
- The whole switcharoo where everything that happened to Spock in ST: The Wrath of Khan now happened to Kirk instead. Again, can we be a little creative?
- Khan’s followers from the Botany Bay are in cryogenic stasis inside of photon torpedoes?
- Speaking of the whole torpedo drama, why was Chekov made into Chief Engineer? Isn’t there an Asst. Chief Engineer? Or an entire team of Starfleet engineers on that ship who could jump and replace Scotty? No, of course not, let’s promote the young ship navigator instead. Makes total sense.
- The gratuitous and lingering view of Carol Marcus / Alice Eve in her underwear served no purpose.
- The Klingon Empire is all the way in the Beta Quadrant of our Milky Way galaxy, and Earth (and the Federation) is in the Alpha Quadrant. Yet the Enterprise and Vengeance make it to Earth in about 10 seconds. Wow, we can get just about anywhere in the galaxy in about 10 mins.
- Where are all of the ships in Starfleet? No one is guarding Earth?
- Why is everyone always running on this ship? Because it conveys urgency!
- Section 31 is supposed to be a secret organization that no one knows about. Except everyone apparently now knows about them. Riiiiight.
- Why would Admiral Marcus want to instigate a war with the Klingons, or any other alien species, for that matter? Is your one super starship going to do replace your non-existent Starfleet that is nowhere to be seen?
- Did you notice that the U.S.S. Vengeance had a big hole in the middle of the saucer section (primary hull), and the bridge was this easy-to-hit bulls-eye in the center of that circle? Yeah, great design choice. Also, this starship has barely any crew? Who fixes everything then?
- Khan (and presumably the rest of his augmented crew) now have magic blood. MAGIC BLOOD! I’m amazed that they can die when their own blood can bring people back to life.
I could keep going, but you get the idea. A film, and reboot of a franchise, of wasted potential.