Directed by JJ Abrams
After a botched mission to a primitive planet, Kirk (Chris Pine) gets demoted to second in command of the Enterprise. After the bombing of what amounts to a library, the newly promoted back to captain Kirk and crew must capture and stop Commander Harrison (Bindlespink Cinnabon), who turns out to be genetic superman Khan Noonien Singh, from saving his people and exacting revenge on the Federation.
With a title that sounds like a run-on sentence, how could you go wrong?
The biggest sin is that they turn Khan Noonien Singh from a megalomaniacal superhuman madman into a very strong perturbed British aristocrat using the name Harrison. The whole film is a very very very very very very very very combination of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and “Space Seed.” From two great stories we get an inferior Frankenstein.
They get the Prime Directive wrong here-at least its interpretation in that era at the minimum. The Prime Directive does not prevent you from saving a planet from total destruction. At least not in the past but TNG contradicted that once or twice. It just prevents you from getting caught doing it. Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) implies when he meets with Kirk that he should not even have saved the planet since he altered its destiny. That is not how it works. There are several instances in the Star Trek franchise that precedes this movie where planets or small villages were saved, and the assorted crews avoid detection doing so. One episode of TOS (Season 3 TOS-“The Paradise Syndrome”) is all about them trying to deflect a planet killing asteroid.
Kirk’s character development from the first film was reset. The minimal growth experienced in the previous film was all brushed away. Kirk is once again basically a hyperactive impulsive hormonal frat boy rather than an intellectual who cares about his crew and considers his actions against adversaries. And the relationship between Kirk and Spock was turned back as well. They had ended as friends, but they were not the friends they were at the end of the last movie in this one because it seems Spock had learned nothing even though he had learned something in the last movie.
They mention the mysterious Section 31 here. The library like facility that is bombed is a Section 31 facility. Originally Section 31 was an autonomous intelligence type organization that operated outside of Starfleet control even though the Starfleet charter kind of authorized it. Section 31 first appeared in DS9 and this bit of information was well established then. Even Odo remarked how all great powers have an organization like Section 31 and listed off a few real and fake ones. Here now Section 31 is apparently a very well-known intelligence organization that is deeply integrated into Starfleet rather than a mysterious organization with no headquarters. I bet they have an amazing dental plan too.
And why do they need to call together a bunch of starship captains to hunt down “Harrison”? Plot wise this makes no sense. They are calling in a fleet of spaceships to hunt down an individual terrorist that has not left the system or even the planet. Starfleet Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) stated no warp signatures were detected leaving the system since the attack. And does it make sense to anyone that no warp signatures were detected leaving the system that is the hub of Federation power? That is like no cars leaving a capital city. Traffic to and from the seat of power of any organized group would be regular and heavy in comparison to other areas of that group. Multiple cars leave Washington DC every day.
The appearance of Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) is fine. That I do not mind but the actress who originally played her, Bibi Besch, had no British accent. Not even a hint of one but here Dr. Marcus sounds like she just showed up from deepest London. They should have muted it. Fake an American accent. Did this new timeline suddenly make her very British? And that fails to explain why her father Adm. Marcus has none.
After the attack on the library that is followed by “Harrison’s” assault on Federation Headquarters, the Enterprise is dispatched on a mission to attack the Klingon homeworld of Kronos (should be Qo’noS) because transwarp beaming is suddenly possible for no clear reason. That is a major leap in ability that makes starships pretty much obsolete. Also, there is consternation among the crew about it being a military operation and while they are explorers, Starfleet is also the defensive arm of the United Federation of Planets. Military missions are part of their job.
The Wrath of Khan and even “Space Seed” constructed the animosity between Kirk and Khan via acting and dialogue. The fight in “Space Seed” and the battles in Khan were a culmination of what had been occurring in the story up to that point. You saw them match wits. Into Darkness says “Screw that! Let’s just have them punch each other and blow some stuff up.” They rip off the most superficial basics of two classic stories and being superficial decide that punching is better than character development.
Once again the high school level romance between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is on full display. All I can say is “Ugh! As if! Gag me with a spoon.” It was all weak and bad writing. Separately the actors are fine in their respective rolls but together they create something bad. A creature less than the sum of its parts. And why is Uhura so often put into the center of the action? She is a communications officer. She should not even really be necessary to communicate with aliens since the universal translator exists and it has generally looked to be a mobile device that when necessary can be connected to the Enterprise computer. Her duties do not extend much beyond the bridge. The ship’s communications officer is even integral to the finale. What?
This film tries to turn Earth into some kind of softened cyberpunk future. That is not the future of Star Trek unless that timeline line change had serious repercussions in ways that are nonsensical and turn Star Trek into something it is not. Peace and prosperity reign upon the human race. We are better now. Want and need is all but unknown on Earth. That is part of Star Trek’s appeal
In Star Trek II (which this film liberally bastardizes) Spock went right into the chamber because there was no time to suit up properly. In this film there looks to have been plenty of time for Kirk to suit up properly before he went into a similarly irradiated chamber that was vastly larger than the TOS engineering section or the engineering section here looked to be. And that ending when Kirk and Spock are talking through the glass is just an atrocious version of a scene from Wrath of Khan that contained some of the best acting in any Star Trek film. Worse, Kirk gets resurrected here by space magic in the form of a serum synthesized from Khan’s super blood. SUPER BLOOD!! Good grief! Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof are hacks!
I know this has been touched on by plenty, but you seem to be able to come and go from Starfleet as you please and moving up and down the ranks is pretty casual. It is an exploratory organization that also serves as the defensive arm of Starfleet, but it definitely has ranks and rules but if people don’t feel like Starfleeting today they can just go to a bar in this universe. Scotty left for an entire day and then came back as if nothing had happened. And apparently security is pretty crappy because Carol Marcus who is a scientist was able to fake convincing enough orders under her mother’s maiden name to slip on to the Enterprise because she was suspicious of her father. It is never quite made clear what made her suspicious or what she thought was in those tubes, but it is clearly not people that she thought was in them.
The revelation that Harrison was actually Khan feels like forced fan service rather than an interesting twist-especially given the change in complexion and physique from Ricardo Montalbán to Billabong Syntax. If there was ever a more inappropriately cast actor like Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan, I am hard-pressed to think of one. Either that or the character’s name was probably meant to be John Harrison the whole time in the script and some studio executive told JJ Abrams that this would be a great twist and being a hack writer that does not like Star Trek he said “Sure thing boss!” Whatever the reason, it made a terrible movie even worse.
And that is putting aside the reality that Adm. Marcus defrosted a 200-year-old superhuman dictator that he knew to be Khan to design a superweapon. Why? Considering the massive leap in technology from the time of Khan to the time of Kirk that makes no sense. Khan only knew about slow moving (in comparison to warp capable Starfleet vessels) sleeper ships. Why would you even consider picking him to make a supership? That would be like asking an Amishman to design a laptop.
Star Trek Into Darkness is another well produced shallow piece of material with a Star Trek name slapped on it. It is a dumb space-based action film that leeches off of superior material. It is a poor man’s mix of two classic and far superior Star Trek stories. Star Trek, when it is really good, is not only action driven but character driven and touching on deep ideas. Here the movie is all flash and little substance. In my opinion this is the worst of the Star Trek films. It is a good watch for spectacle but not a good watch for Star Trek. Skip it!