Star Trek Into Darkness: Revisited
I re-watched this movie a couple of times recently. I still enjoy the movie very much, yet despite my enjoyment there was something gnawing at my stomach with this movie and I had a difficult time putting my finger on it. Then as I watched it again twice I finally figured out what is bothering me.
There are two important moments in the film and in my opinion this franchise had not yet earned the importance of them. Let me explain: I still have mixed feeling about them using Khan as the villain. It was done so well in the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with Ricardo Montalbán I really wanted them to leave it alone. It didn’t need to be redone in my opinion. This takes nothing away from Benedict Cumberbatch and his acting. He did a superb job in the role. It just didn’t feel like Khan to me.
Here is why. The movie was basically a remake of both the original series episode Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In a sense Star Trek into Darkness emotionally piggy backed on the known threat that Khan was in those two shows. It even took a cameo by Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime to drive that point home. The problem, as I see it, Star Trek Into Darkness did not earn the tension, the threat, that Khan was in this movie. To the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek Into Darkness they had no clue who Khan was and in many ways, since Kirk or Spock really did not have much of a relationship with this Khan, he really wasn’t the big threat that the movie likes to pretend he was. We, the audience, felt the threat that Khan was in the movie because we had a multi-year relationship with the character!
Sure, Khan/Harrison did some bad things at the start of the movie but he could have been any villain. Heck, they could have made Cumberbatch the rouge Captain Garth of Izar from the original series episode Whom God’s Destroy. It would have worked just as well. Or he could have been a totally new villain with the same story and it would not have made much of a difference. So for me, this version of Khan lacked the history with the crew of the Enterprise to be such a big deal.
The same type of issue shows itself with the death of Kirk. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the death of Spock was so powerful because both the crew and the audience had a long standing history with the character. In the rebooted Star Trek these relationships are not as well established. Just because we throw the name Kirk and Spock on these actors doesn’t mean we have the same emotional connection with these characters as we did/do with the original characters and actors and their portrayal of the characters.
In this universe/time-line Kirk and Spock are barely friends. At the start of Star Trek Into Darkness Spock betrays Kirk for violating the Prime Directive and it creates a problem for this growing friendship. Toward the end of this movie Kirk dies instead of Spock and Spock, in anguish over the loss of his friend, screams KHAAAAAN!! like Shatner did in the Wrath of Khan. However, the whole things feels hollow. This Kirk and Spock do not have the multi-year history as friends which made the death of one of them so moving. These two characters have not earned that intimacy yet! Sure, you could see this new Spocks reaction over Kirks death as a way to say that he regrets betraying Kirk at the start of the movie, it still lacks the emotional jolt the scene was going for because these two characters are not yet solid in their friendship.
Having said all of that I still do like the movie. It has a good story and good acting along with great special effects. Benedict Cumberbatch was spectacular. I just wished he wasn’t playing Khan.
In the next movie I do hope they do not rehash other characters from the original series. Well, at least not as the main villain. In truth I hope I hope they do give us someone and something new. I desire to see the new crew in exploration and wish that the enemy they face is some new anomaly or force of nature.
Posted on May 30, 2014, in Captain's Log... and tagged 20001: A Space Odyssey, Akihiko Hirata, Chris Pine, JJ. Abrams, Khan, Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek Into Darkness, Zachary Quinto. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.