Now let me start this off by saying that this isn’t really a review, but really just my long random thoughts on the new film. I can’t get enough of Star Trek, and have read so many Star Trek Into Darkness reviews that I have lost count. I decided to wait a week to throw my own thoughts into the mix, and well in that time my thoughts have only grown. This is probably the longest column on the new film that you will read, I mean it, it’s about 3000 words long. So get comfortable, enjoy and let’s start discussing all things Trek.
It was worth the wait. Only time will tell where Star Trek Into Darkness will fit when ranking the top Trek movies, but for now, I can say without hesitation that I loved this film. When something has so much hype and you build up so much expectation for it, well it’s tough for anything to live up to that. Star Trek Into Darkness was everything I wanted it to be and more.
First off, the film looks absolutely beautiful. Whether we’re dealing with the planet that the film opens on or some of the amazing set pieces, like the Kirk/Khan space jump or even the gorgeous imaginings of future London and San Francisco, the cinematography looks stunning. The visuals as well as Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance are two things that I’m sure everyone can agree on as something that was truly special.
Enough of the intro, let’s jump into it and actually talk about the opening of the film. Now, while the actual name of the planet that the Enterprise crew opens on skips my mind, I can say that it was such a great way to open up the movie. One of the benefits of the second movie in a franchise is that the origin stuff is out of the way; there is no need for explaining anything or setting anything up, we open right in the middle of the action. I felt like the opening did a wonderful job of explaining what the prime directive was to new audiences without having to explain it too much. Whether it’s Spock on the volcano, Kirk and Bones running away from the indigenous population or even Uhura and crew on the Enterprise, it is all effective and the stakes are sky-high right off the bat.
There are also note-worthy quotes right off the bat. I found this to be an immensely quotable film. As Spock accepts his death on the volcano, we see some foreshadowing as he quotes THE quote from The Wrath of Khan. Then we have Kirk asking Bones, ‘What would Spock do?’ in the same situation as Bones replied, “He’d let you die!” It is emotional, and it is breath-taking to hear and look at.
It is no surprise at all that Kirk breaks the prime directive to save Spock. While he does break the prime directive, Kirk exposes the Enterprise, which was hiding in the ocean(!), to the primitive race as we see said race drawing an image of the Enterprise on the ground. The unknown race will now worship the Enterprise as its God and well, Kirk has no idea how much he has affected their world and their development. It would be interesting to revisit the world somewhere down the line and see all the ways that Kirk has changed their planet and way of life.
Some things are unavoidable and simply supposed to happen. I like the idea of that and how it’s become a part of this new Star Trek universe. Sure, things might not happen at all or they might happen in slightly different ways, but to drive home the point: some things are unavoidable. Nero traveling back in time really messed things up (more on that later) in ways that will continue to be felt for centuries. Whether this is an alternate dimension or whatever else you’d like to call it, these are still real people and they will suffer real consequences. I love how everything that happens in this movie, and the next one (and the next), will be an effect from the first movie. This is why I absolutely am on board with how certain things will happen that happened in the original timeline, only with a twist.
Kirk and Spock’s friendship is nowhere near the level that it was in the original series. How could it be? Those characters literally had decades to bond while the Kirk and Spock in this timeline barely even know each other and are just getting over their initial dislike of each other. Now, that’s not to say that their friendship couldn’t get there, it’s just way different when you had three seasons and nearly 80 episodes on the original series alone. Even on the show’s pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, that friendship is already in place.
Kirk and Spock are still testing each other out. Spock is Vulcan so there’s certainly that cold and detached side to him, but he is also human. I believe that is the side that Kirk tries to play to and get out. The human side isn’t something that was really explored in the original series. This Spock is way more emotional than Nimoy’s one. We actually see Spock break down to Uhura about the pain he feels. It’s understandable since he witnessed the death of his mother as well as the destruction of his planet. So yes, maybe Spock did want his escape on that volcano. These movies are focused squarely on Kirk and Spock. This is their entire journey: from before they were born, to their birth and to their eventual death. Because of the changes made by Nero, both hold on to immense pain; pain being the number one thing that these two have in common.
Now…let’s get to KHAN! I love the original Khan character, and I love this version as well. I understand where Khan is coming from, and he should be angry. No, he’s not angry at Kirk since he has no idea who he is. No, he should be pissed at Admiral Marcus and at how he was used like a chess pawn in the chain of events that have been started by Nero. Of course, Khan wants domination in this or any timeline, but when you look beyond that, Khan definitely has a reason to be angry.
Khan has been frozen for nearly 300 years. Khan fled Earth in hopes of one day getting another chance to rule. Then, he is woken up and well, he has no idea what is going on, except for the fact that now Earth’s commanders need him to help them. They need his warlike mentality and so they pretty much hold Khan’s crew hostage. Khan really was at their mercy and had no idea what would be done to them. Khan putting the bodies in the photon torpedoes was pretty much a hail-mary play.
So yes, Khan is angry, he is ice cold and calculated. Only this time, his hatred is towards Starfleet in general. I love that this Khan got the chance to really show his physical side and really show how much of a superior being he is. I got goosebumps while watching Kirk pummel Khan over and over again, as Khan just stood there emotionless while Kirk just tired himself out. The same feelings were there as he singlehandedly took out a squad of Klingons. That’s not to say Khan was all brawns. He’s also a brilliant mind and a terrific speaker, only this time we got to see the total package.
Some things are unavoidable. This is the recurring theme in these films. This leads me to the tragedy of Christopher Pike. Pike is such a tragic character in the Star Trek universe. We’ve seen Pike really feel the weight of the Captain’s chair on the original series and we’ve also seen him sacrifice himself as he ended up paralyzed and unable to speak. Even in the first Trek film, Pike is only the Captain of the Enterprise for a flash. He’s also tortured by Nero and confined to a wheelchair and then a cane. It is all unavoidable as his death proves. The death doesn’t come for nothing though since Pike was Kirk’s mentor and father figure. The Kirk/Pike relationship are highlights of the film as well as their conversations. The Kirk/Pike relationship really is the heart of the film.
Kirk is immature. This Kirk is nowhere near where Shatner was in the original series. Yes, you can see glimpses of Shatner in this Kirk, but at the moment that ego is bigger. Kirk still has that sense that he cannot be hurt, and he still doesn’t really understand how he is in charge of nearly 200 lives. Pike tried to drill these things in his head since recruiting him to join Starfleet. Kirk only begins to realize it after Pike’s death and his own brush with mortality. Pike saw a cocky kid, but a cocky one with flashes of greatness. Pike was not immune to his fate however, and it really is a shame that he couldn’t out-run his destiny.
Back to Khan: Khan has no idea who Kirk is, and vice-versa. Now, perhaps Khan believes that people of Earth should know who he is since he once ruled one fourth of the world, but that’s pure speculation. The two have no prior relationship. All Kirk knows is that Khan is dangerous and he knows what he is capable of. Seeing Kirk and Khan form an alliance, even if it was short-term, was quite the treat to watch. The two fighting a common enemy, even as they didn’t like each other or forgave each other, was still the wonderful stuff of fan-fiction. Of course we knew that Khan would not hesitate to betray Kirk, which he did, but it was still a great way to play with expectations and this new universe. We have no idea what Kirk and Khan will become, this is all brand new, but man is it going to be great to watch.
This all leads to the real villain of the story which is one of the men in charge of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus. Heading towards the end of the film, I could not stand Marcus anymore. I certainly did not have the sort of anger for Khan that I did for Marcus. Everything Admiral Marcus did was downright despicable, even if it was based out of fear. Perhaps he was too extreme at points but then again, that’s the point. Admiral Marcus is scared. He is scared for Earth and he is scared for himself, but it still doesn’t excuse any of his actions. There is no doubt about how he has corrupted Starfleet and led them to become more of a military-based organization.
There came a point for me in the film, where I just wanted Marcus off of my screen. When Khan actually got his hands on the Admiral, I was pumped and while yes, it was gruesome when Khan just crushed his head, I can’t say that it wasn’t deserved. Much like Khan, Admiral Marcus also had evil intentions and had to be stopped.
I love how so many things tie together. This leads us to the ship that Marcus had built and took command of, the Vengeance. It’s really an amazing sight, especially when you see it side by side with the Enterprise. The Vengeance is a war ship plain and simple. The Admiral is desperate and is almost thirsty for war so this ship is one of his answers. I also loved the speculation leading up to this film about how it was a Next Generation vessel or how the villain was really Jean-Luc Picard. It all ended up just being speculation, but at least it was good gossip.
In the early part of the film, Scotty asks Kirk is Starfleet is about exploration and keeping the peace or is it becoming a military organization. It really is a fascinating question and one that ties in to these new Trek films. The point is, because of Nero and the destruction he has caused to the timeline, Starfleet was forced to heighten its security, build bigger ships and better weapons. Nero opened up a big can of worms. It’s crazy to think about how one person was responsible for so much change. We know that the Admiral fears for an Earth-Klingon war so it led to the discovery of the Botany Bay. We also know that first contact has already been made with the Gorn, which deprives us of the awesome Kirk-Gorn fight. And yet, I’m reminded of things that won’t happen at all like Kirk and Carol’s son, and what about the crew of the Next Generation, Deep Space 9 or Voyager? Surely, they won’t all just find each other like the crew of the Enterprise did. Who knows if some of those characters will even be born in this timeline.
So, about those Klingons. We are told by Admiral Marcus that the Klingons have already conquered two worlds and that the empire also has Earth in its sights. So because of Nero and all of the Klingon ships that he has destroyed, an already battle hungry, warrior race is now even angrier. Admiral Marcus and Khan have planted the seeds for war by having Kirk and his crew follow Khan to Kronos, armed with those torpedoes. Surely, such a proud race wont just sit back and scoff at the fact that a bunch of its people were taken out by a bunch of humans.
It will be interesting to see if that is where the third film will take us since it seems unavoidable. One thing is for sure however, Starfleet is armed and ready. Nero has made both the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire step their game up.
How does the death scene in Star Trek Into Darkness differ from the death scene in the Wrath of Khan. Well, besides the obvious role reversal of it being Kirk instead of Spock, the friendship in the original timeline is stronger, but it’s also so much more than that. Spock was way older than Kirk is in this film. Spock also made the logical choice to sacrifice himself while saving the Enterprise since the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one). Kirk in this movie however, is only a pup. He is just getting started. Kirk does realize that he risks his life on a daily basis being out there in the uncertainty of space, but is he really ready for death? Not really, at least not yet.
The biggest difference in the two deaths, I believe, is the age difference. While dying Spock is calm and has accepted his fate. Kirk is terrified. I believe that it’s the thought of things ending right when they’re just getting started. It’s also knowing that you are so young and how much you still want to do. So really, it’s the opposite of the Wrath of Khan. Where Kirk feels old and yearns for his youth, the Kirk in this new timeline still has so many years in front of him. Of course, no one is really ready for death and it can come at any time.
In the climax of the film, Spock and Uhura chase Khan down the streets of San Francisco. They are successful in capturing him and he is put back on ice. My question is, how angry (if at all) will Khan be at Spock and the Enterprise crew? If he is ever unfrozen, it’s certainly not the same situation anymore. The anger directed towards Kirk is no longer there. He has not been stranded on Ceti Alpha 5 and he has no wife to lose. He has joined the rest of his crew in deep sleep. Is it really that bad? Khan respects honor and much like in Space Seed, he was defeated and he can accept that.
All of the other stuff that really triggered his anger is no longer there and will not happen. I bring all of this up because I began to wonder how and why Khan and his supermen will be revived. Perhaps they will be called upon by Starfleet once more and their assistance will be needed in the eventual Earth-Klingon war. That would certainly keep things fresh and drive home the point that all bets are off and anything can happen with this new Trek. One thing is is for certain, the crew of the Botany Bay will not just be forgotten. Whoever is in charge of the next Trek film is in a great situation already.
Much like the last film, the iconic ‘Final Frontier’ lines are recited at the end of the film, it’s enough to give you chills and once again the film ends just as you are left wanting more. Kirk and his crew have been granted their five-year mission and man, imagine the possibilities with this young crew heading off to explore deep space. What I wouldn’t do for a new TV series, with this new unpredictable timeline and this crew of actors. While episodes like Arena, Balance of Terror and Space Seed, among others, can no longer happen, think about the other possibilities. After all, the mirror universe still exists and the Guardian of Forever is still out there somewhere.
The possibilities, much like space, are limitless. I really do hope that this crew, at least the key members, are together for a long time as they just continue to make film after film. Make no mistake about it, Star Trek is alive and well; Star Trek Into Darkness has proven that. Loving this new Trek takes no love away from any previous version of Star Trek. It all matters and any new Star Trek is always a gift, let no one tell you otherwise.