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Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness - Page 2

FINAL WARNING: This page of the review is dedicated to discussing spoilers, including things best left surprising. If you haven't seen the movie yet, GO BACK TO PAGE ONE IMMEDIATELY.

Sorry, Zachary Quinto, but you can't compete with the Shat

2009's Star Trek hadn't even calculated its opening night receipts when rumors that Khan would appear in the inevitable sequel emerged. I dismissed a lot of these early rumors, and became very opinionated on the idea that bringing Khan into the mix would be a big mistake. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is unquestionably Star Trek at its finest, and there is no need to replicate that. Besides, Star Trek II was all about old age and regret, and this crew is utterly green. In other words, I strongly believed that the new Star Trek should chart its own course through the final frontier, not retread well-covered ground. So, now that we know that the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness is, in fact, Khan, was I proven right or wrong?

I humbly admit here and now that I was wrong. But I am not the kind of geek who gets angry when a franchise does something he wasn't expecting, so I am thrilled to have been so wrong, just as I was thrilled that The Avengers actually works as a film. Not only does Khan's inclusion make sense--to a certain degree--given that he is brought in by Section 31 specifically because of the destruction of Vulcan, but he continues to push this new crew into facing things they shouldn't be able to defeat. This version of Khan isn't as scenery-chewing as Ricardo Mantalban's Khan, but that actually makes him a little more scary, because you don't know how deep his psychopathology actually goes. The story also poses the hypothetical of what Khan would do if he had access to Starfleet technology (and future technology), and the resulting mega-ship hilariously outmatches the Enterprise.

The hands
Seriously, guys, that's a bit too much

So it's a chess game, as it should be, with Khan's intellect pitted against Kirk and Spock's. The story makes it clear that neither man can beat Khan alone, which continues to highlight the complementary relationship future Spock was so concerned about. (When Spock finally does subdue Khan, he is assisted by Uhura, because Kirk is busy being dead.) I think it works admirably, and I love how Khan's actions unleash Spock's anger, unshackling the emotional side that has been near the surface ever since the destruction of Vulcan.

Still, the climax of the movie gets a little too self-referential for my tastes. There's a fine line between a clever homage and downright plagiarism, and when whole sections of dialogue are ripped from the pages of Star Trek II and put into this movie, it pulls the audience out of the experience too much. It's more cute than clever, and it robs a very emotional scene--Kirk's death--of its poignancy. This invites comparisons between Into Darkness and The Wrath of Khan, but Into Darkness is much stronger when it sets itself apart. Carol Marcus also seems a bit out of place, only included in the story as another way to tie it to Star Trek II.

Admiral Marcus
Peter Weller is an inspired casting decision

And yes, I have nitpicks with plot details, though none of them are as damning as the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations or the everybody's-exiled-on-the-same-square-mile-of-the-same-moon problem of 2009's Star Trek. First of all, why do they hide the Enterprise underwater on Nibiru (aside from it demonstrating to the audience that it's possible before the big climax)? Wouldn't it be easier and more practical to hide in orbit, seeing as how the Enterprise is a spaceship? Secondly, Khan uses a trans-warp device fashioned by Section 31 (using Scotty's futuristic equations) to beam to Kronos early in the movie, but nobody suggests using the same trick to follow him there. And lastly, nobody seems to make much of a big deal out of the fact that, in the end, they have found the cure for death. But hey, nitpicks don't ruin Star Trek for me; they make it better.

What I really love, though, is how the story brings in Section 31 and isn't afraid to get into the darker ideas of Star Trek's post-Roddenberry years. Most of my readers should know by now that I think Deep Space Nine is the most scandolously underappreciated Star Trek series, and Into Darkness--with its rogue admiral, shady politics, and the risk of war for the greater good--feels more like it belongs in Captain Sisko's era than Captain Kirk's. Peter Weller is perfectly cast as the personification of these moral concerns--as the anti-Pike essentially--and he is probably the strongest secondary Star Trek villain ever seen on the big screen.

...and here's a picture of Scotty, just because you know he's always been the real star of the show

This movie also offers a new perspective on some of the ideas of Star Trek II. Both movies are about vengeance, but Into Darkness approaches it from the perspective of youthful arrogance and uncertainty instead of weary regrets. Star Trek II confronts Kirk's brashness head-on from the perspective of a man who has made a fair share of mistakes but is learning to apologize for them, whereas Into Darkness actually shows Kirk making those brash mistakes and learning how to be responsible for his actions. It's a pretty interesting dichotomy.

The writers found a way to make Star Trek relevant again, by mixing the most popular villain of the original series with some more obscure parts of Star Trek's later lore and using the resulting combination to comment on how we react to terrorism. It's not the most provocative, original, or difficult stance to take on the subject, but it's an important one nonetheless, and I'm glad the new generation of Star Trek writers are willing to take on a big, modern issue. Combine that with the improved filmmaking, clever storytelling, amazing action sequences, and fantastic cast, and you have a movie that sets a new high standard for the franchise, one I hope it can continue to reach.


With how they've handled some of the most beloved parts of the canon so well against my expectations, I hereby grant the new Star Trek helmers license to do whatever the heck they want with the franchise.

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-e. magill 5/21/2013

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