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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness - Review

Star Trek Into Darkness follows Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise as they go on a manhunt for one-man weapon of mass destruction named John Harrison. Little to they know that the problem may not just lie with John Harrison, but with Starfleet itself.

I was excited for Star Trek Into Darkness, despite the dumb title, for the sheer fact that I have grown up watching Star Trek. I wouldn't describe myself as a "trekkie" but I do know the storylines and have seen just about every TV show and movie thanks to my father. I also really enjoyed J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek film back in 2009. I chose to avoid a majority of trailers and teasers for the sheer fact that buzz about the plot and characters started very early. There were rumors circulating about exactly who John Harrison was starting directly after the Super Bowl teaser if I remember correctly. I just didn't want the crap so I chose to stay away from it the best I could. This is one case where I am happy I did because from the trailers I did see, they focus on the first half hour or so of the movie and ignore the best parts and I loved that.

And just to say, this will have spoilers so beware. The big reveal of who John Harrison is was in the trailer and people called it, but you might want to skip this if you haven't seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet.

So in case you know nothing about Star Trek, didn't catch it in the trailer, or whatever else... John Harrison is Khan.

In case you didn't know or need some catch up, Khan is a genetically engineered tyrant who escaped a 15-year exile by Captain Kirk and returned to seek revenge. The history according to Star Trek Into Darkness is he was the leader of a genetically altered race who tried to conquer Earth and wipe out whoever they deemed inferior. The plot of the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan basically followed the USS Enterprise in an attempt to stop Khan from acquiring Genesis, a powerful terraforming device. The Wrath of Khan is generally referred to as the best of the Star Trek films and is credited with renewing interest in the Star Trek story after a lackluster Star Trek motion picture in 1979.

Now back to business... This story arc for Star Trek Into Darkness is a bit confusing and I had to talk to my dad after the movie was over. It basically takes you before the "Space Seed" episode where Khan first appeared or just shifts into an alternate Star Trek universe and replaced "Space Seed."
Basically we start as Captain Kirk is relieved of his duties as Captain of the USS Enterprise after compromising Spock's life and defying Starfleet protocols. After an attack on a Starfleet archives building in London, Kirk is shifted to Captain Pike's command as First Officer of the Enterprise and Spock was ordered as First Officer to another ship. While in a meeting in San Francisco, the fugitive known as John Harrison opens fire on Starfleet Headquarters and kills Captain Pike. Admiral Marcus then reinstates Captain Kirk and instructs him to take his crew and the Enterprise to hunt down Harrison on the Klingon planet of Kronos and basically start imminent war by shooting photon torpedoes to kill Harrison. Kirk follows orders and takes the crew to Kronos where their engines are damaged and they are forced to move on a small transport vessel where they are ambushed by Klingons. Harrison arrives and immediately surrenders after discovering how many torpedoes the Enterprise holds.
This is where it got good, imo. When Harrison is on the ship he is subject to a blood sample and a short interrogation by Captain Kirk and Spock. He entices Kirk to listen despite Spock's warnings and Harrison reveals himself as Khan. He elaborates on a plan to rescue his people, who are frozen in the torpedoes, and says Starfleet has imprisoned him and tortured him because he was the only one who awakened from the cryogenic sleep. Just as soon as you feel sympathy for Khan, Spock decides to contact himself (aka, Leonard Nimoy) where he explains that Khan is the most dangerous man he had ever encountered and advised his younger self against dealing with him. Spock asks his older self if he was able to defeat him and the only information we hear is that it was at great cost. In case you didn't know, in The Wrath of Khan Spock is killed by Khan while trying to save Kirk's life. In this instance, Kirk is killed while attempting to save his ship and entire crew and Spock goes after Khan to seek revenge for killing his friend. In other words, Spock was using his half-human side for a bit.

The thing that I did like about Khan is how they made him seem like an asset despite never losing his madness. When he made it onto the Starfleet warship with Admiral Marcus is when Captain Kirk truly realized that they had just helped Khan and he in fact did not help them at all. I also think Spock makes one badass captain and definitely outsmarted Khan in the end by using full logic and truth. I think that Benedict Cumberbatch was by far one of the best villains I have ever witnessed on film. The way he played the character was incredible. The way he played off the other actors was just a joy to watch.

There were some problems, though. They are pretty small and from what I have seen on the internet so far a majority of die hard Star Trek fans do not like Star Trek Into Darkness. Here is what I noticed:

1. Why did Chekov get promoted to Engineering? Why not promote a crew member who is actually in Engineering?

2. Why not just beam Spock into the volcano in the first place? Actually while we are at it, what was the point of that entire first scene? If it was just to show that Spock was willing to die to get the job done they could have done that another way without these weird crusty looking creatures on a planet with red foliage.

3. Bones (Karl Urban) was nothing but comic relief.

4. Lack of real importance for Sulu other than his brief acting Captain moment.

5. How did Admiral Marcus keep the giant combat ship and Khan and his frozen pals a secret from his own organization?

It is things like this that could potentially ruin the movie for people and I can see and understand that. I chose to not turn into a total sci-fi nerd and just enjoy the movie and I really did. Star Trek Into Darkness is a great sci-fi movie, but I can see where the problems lie and that J.J. Abrams was basically playing house with the characters he had at his disposal without really paying attention to the rather extensive library of Star Trek episodes and movies that have already happened. I kind of fear what he will do with Star Wars Episode VII now.

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