Written By: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, & Damon Lindelof
Series: Alternate Reality Films
"Star Trek Into Darkness" is a strange film....when I initially saw it, I thought it was, for the most part, an improvement on the previous film. But upon rewatch, I've discovered that this film not only doesn't hold up well...but it also is filled with nonsense and plot holes that you just miss as the film whizzes by. For the record, I am not in the business of holding back spoilers here (I am really writing this with the assumption you have seen it), so if you care to not know anything of the plot, characters, or ending...then move on.
So let's get started: This film has this weak script that holds itself together because the film is flashy, moves fast and has an initially likable cast. In seeing the film a second time things really started to bug me, and I realized how many things this film got wrong, not only in a Trekkie continuity problem kind of way, but also as it's own film. The writers aren't terribly smart...they specialize in big dumb blockbuster summer movies...and as a result their script is essentially just a list of things they think would look cool...and everything in between those scenes is just connect the dots to get from one set piece to the next.
Now this film had to really work hard to make the idea of Khan wanting some kind of vengeance make sense. The original episode Khan just has a big ego and believes he should have the Enterprise. But when he was brought back in "Wrath of Khan" (his more famous appearance, thus what the majority of the viewing public remembers Khan from) he had been fueled by revenge against Kirk for leaving him on a planet that didn't sustain life long after they were dropped off. So because in his more famous appearance all Khan wants is revenge, they have to make Khan want revenge! But it doesn't necessarily make sense for him to want revenge if they just wake him up, so this elaborate back story is invented in which he was awoken by Marcus and then he used Khan to create a super weapon and held Khan's people captive...now it makes sense for him to babble about revenge and we can get non-fans to think "yep it's Khan alright!".
So instead of a genetically superior human being from the past, Khan is now a Superman with magic blood. He is also a pale Englishman as opposed to a tan Indian with a flamboyant Hispanic accent. So since Khan is a completely different character to his original counterpart...why the hell do we need him to be Khan at all? Because Khan has name recognition to non-fans that this production team are aiming at. Some one with only a passing interest in Star Trek would watch this and go "oh yeah I've heard of Khan". That is literally the only reason.
See when I first saw the film I was kind of into the John Harrision idea. He was this rogue Section 31 agent who for some reason is attacking Starfleet buildings and personnel. So you make the story be that he was this experimental super soldier created by Marcus and his cohorts for this Klingon War he fears. Harrison goes rogue because he doesn't like what has been done to him and he disagrees with Marcus plan to create a super weapon or super ships. Then Kirk can capture Harrison, we can avoid the whole nonsense scene where Khan tells Kirk who he is like it is a big fucking deal but it isn't because Kirk has never seen Star Trek before, and the rest of the movie can be about these guys teaming up to take on Marcus. You could even have Kirk give his life to save the ship, and be resurrected by Harrison's super blood, because whatever he can have some kind of magic blood...because he isn't Khan and there are no rules for what this character can be and do yet.
But we don't get that, he reveals he is Khan and for some reason Bones takes a blood sample from Khan for reasons that never really add up beyond the fact they decide McCoy needs a sample of his blood. Then Bones injects the blood into a tribble as an experiment, which in my initial viewing I brushed off, but upon my rewatch I suddenly realized what weird behavior this is. "I think I'll take a sample of this strangers blood and then start injecting it into dead animals". That is the behavior of a psychopath. Obviously the point was so McCoy could see the tribble alive and realize he could bring Kirk back to life, but when your major plot points require such leaps of logic, maybe it's time for a rewrite.
When I saw this in the theater, I was having a decent time. Like the 2009 film, I was enjoying the ride despite the convoluted script. Where this film lost me completely was the end. I stuck with it despite my disappointment that they felt the need to rehash Khan, because put a spin on things by having Khan and Kirk work together. But then they stun Khan and he has to take over the role of main villain from Marcus to get his REVENGE! on Kirk and Earth (because nobody will watch a movie set in space if Earth isn't in danger...you lazy hack writers).
Once Khan was demanding revenge, I was starting to lose interest, but Spock had a neat plan of sending his dumb torpedoes to Khan and blowing him up. Then there was an exciting Enterprise crash sequence with Kirk fighting to kick the Warp Core back into alignment to save the ship. I liked this sequence right up until it became just a lazy rewrite of the "Wrath of Khan" ending. The original scene was meaningful because the two characters were old friends and it was played perfectly by the actors who had genuinely known each other for years. In this the only reason Kirk and Spock are even friends is because that is what Kirk and Spock are supposed to be. There is nothing in the first film that shows that they are good friends...it is heavily hinted that they will become best friends, but they are most certainly not best friends at the end of that picture. This film squandered the opportunity to actually show the audience what good friends they've become by making them seem at odds for the bulk of the movie, only to force us into thinking they've been friends all along during Kirk's death scene, which loses a lot of emotional impact by just rehashing the scene and lines liberally from "Star Trek II". It feels like they hit copy and paste from the original film and just rearranged a few things, added in a couple of lines here and there to make it seem more relevant to the film they had actually made. It is terrible lazy writing that is meant to evoke an emotional response based on nostalgia alone.
Then Kirk dies, Spock yells "Khaaan!" which has awful delivery and feels shoehorned in because it is a famous moment, and then Spock chases Khan, who apparently is still alive and well and ready to crash his ship that should've exploded into Earth...and Spock chases him in a boring fast paced chase scene that just made me want to go home the first time I saw this. It literally just bogs the movie down with a long pointless chase and fight scene. It would've been vastly more effective to have Khan dead when the torpedo thing happened and not drag the movie out further because why not.
Spock, for the record, isn't even really Spock in this movie. It was successful with audiences that Quinto played Spock as this seeming emotional Vulcan with all these emotions and passions ready to bubble up to the surface. I can only assume it was popular because teen angst is popular. I was only lukewarm about the whole thing. In this movie he is rarely the logical Spock I actually enjoy, but this asshole who lets his emotions control him when it is convenient, then acts like an emotionless and unfeeling jerk when it suits him to ignore others feelings. Also was it really necessary for Nimoy to Skype in a scene in which he reminds audiences that Khan is a bad guy? It is really difficult to let this new cast come into their own if we keep reminding everyone about the old cast that was superior in most ways!
Now let's talk about Uhura and sexism! So Uhura isn't a professional who can stand her own with the boys in this movie, no she is instead been relegated to girlfriend of one of the leads, who will interrupt a dangerous mission to argue with her boyfriend about feelings and their relationship...oh women, won't they ever learn? This is so offensive to me. Why must she even be dating Spock? Clearly she only banged Spock in the first movie to get the job she wanted (equally sexist portrayal by the way), and now she can't even focus on her job as a professional without getting into a tiff with her boyfriend? Then there is Carol Marcus who for no reason in the middle of a mission or something she just takes off her clothes for one shot of her in underwear. Abrams and Co. probably don't even realize how sexist their film is, but it is a real slap in the face to women, who at this point in history should be portrayed with a little more depth, let alone woman living in the 23rd Century. Boy I miss the days of Kira and Dax!
Ultimately this film is enjoyable if you shut your brain off and don't watch it again...unfortunately if you watch Star Trek for intelligent entertainment, you will be disappointed. It certainly does not hold up to rewatches. It has been argued that they would never make a film in the vein of old Star Trek again, because it doesn't appeal to the masses to make a more serious science fiction story in an adventure backdrop...to that I say they should look at the box office draw both "Inception" and "Gravity" had in recent years. Exciting sci-fi/fantasy films with enough action to draw in viewers, but plenty of moments that slow down and smell the roses. If "Gravity" can be a huge success and have a similar level of scientific accuracy as classic Trek (as both had some accuracies and inaccuracies as well as a few leaps of logic)....I see no reason why Trek couldn't someday return to it's roots.
NEXT TIME: Krall