WARNING – SPOILERS WITHIN. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ THIS YET.
I stepped out of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS feeling very conflicted. While sitting in the theatre wearing my ridiculously uncomfortable plastic yellow IMAX 3-D glasses*** I had really enjoyed the movie. It was a fun ride and at the end of the day that’s all I thought I was really looking for in a big studio franchise flick.
I really like this cast and am consistently shocked at how well they channel the original Trek actors while making it feel fresh and managing to avoid becoming a parody of the source material.
Even though I enjoyed it well enough, while the credits rolled I realized something was really irking me about it. One thing really. The WHOLE thing.
Wasn’t the point of having Spock bust up the intergalactic timeline in the first “new” STAR TREK back in 2009 so that Paramount could take a brand new fresh take on one of their oldest franchise properties and breathe new life into it?
It was an opportunity to say “Hey kids – forget what you know about STAR TREK! Anything can happen now! We can take this ship anywhere and not be beholden to canon or the mortality of our original cast – WE CAN BOLDLY GO WHEREVER THE HELL WE WANT!”
So where did they go with this amazing new lease on TREK?
STAR TREK II: WRATH OF KHAN.
Oh. Oh yeah. That’s right. Anything else would have required risk and genuine interest in respecting the source material and the spirit that created it in the first place.
What must the STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS studio pitch meeting been like?
“JJ Baby, just take the kids and do a new Khan flick. Folks love the Khan. Made a bazillion dollars back in the day. Believe me JJ – Khan is the way to go. By the way JJ we notice you’ve been having lunches with George Lucas? What’s going on there – you know we own the “Raiders” franchise if you want to have Short Round slip into a time warp and then cast Sulu as Shia’s new sidekick . . . “
So they decided to redo WRATH OF KHAN – but not really because the movie they made actually takes two episodes of a TV show and the movie that then occurs some 30 years later and just bashes them together into some kind of movie mash up thing that hits all the same notes with much different instruments.
They cast Bennedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison and swear up and down during pre-production and actual production and post production that he’s not Khan. Everybody for the most part plays along except for a marketing guy who apparently missed a memo and WHOOPS lets the cat out of the bag a few months before release. They probably killed him. Poor bastard. But the bottom line here is that it the way they BASH it all together, it doesn’t matter if it’s Khan. Or John Harrison. Or George Harrison. Hell It could have been any ONE of the Beatles and been more satisfying than Khan. Having Cumberbatch play GENGHIS Khan would have had more emotional impact than when “John Harrison” reveals his identity to Kirk
Why? Because KIRK HAS NO IDEA WHO KHAN IS! It does not matter what his name is!
They have NO HISTORY! Not to mention the fact that anyone who has not seen the original series or STAR TREK II ALSO has no idea why Harrison being Khan is “big deal”. Because it’s NOT.
It’s like if your local news said that a murderer in custody was named Tom Smith but then five minutes later – turns out its Tom Smythe.
“Our bad. Anyway – he killed a guy.”
See? The Khan “twist” has no place in the narrative. It’s just for the audience and only SOME of the audience who already know the OTHER movie.
It’s feels sorta like when John McClane says “Yippy Kay Ay in the Die Hard Movies.
Movie #1 – made PERFECT sense. Hans Gruber had called him a Cowboy – no brainer.
Die Hard 2 – doesn’t really make any sense but okay whatever . . . we can give you ONE for free.
Die Hard 3 – huh?
By the time it’s 2013, I’m getting the impression that John McClane must say “Yippy Kay Ay” to hail a cab.
It’s only there because they studio thinks WE want it there. Well we only want it when it makes SENSE to the story you are telling us NOW.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS has other sins besides a lack of originality. It telegraphs its punches like a first time boxer.
For what ungodly purpose would Dr. McCoy decide to experiment on a dead Tribble with Khan’s blood if not to use said experiment to bring someone back to life later in the game. I mean weren’t there OTHER more important things going on at the moment that should have taken his attention before this experiment?
By the way – it wasn’t terribly clear – did Dr. McCoy cure DEATH?
That might make an interesting movie . . .
What if Starfleet cured DEATH? THAT might make an interesting social commentary . . . THAT might make a good story . . . what would happen to the Universe if if no one died anymore . . . if EVERYONE became a GOD . . . THAT might make an original take on the human condition . . . an interesting Science Fiction tale. . .
“But it wouldn’t make “STAR TREK Money” so somebody get JJ on the phone and let’s figure out how to do that entire Borg thing start to finish in an hour and thirty seven minutes.”
It’s not that I am against using elements from the original series or films because I’m not. It’s just that what I would REALLY like is to see something I haven’t seen before.
I assumed that’s what we’d be getting after Spock “messed up” the whole universe in 2009. The promise of that actually made it easier to accept as a plot device. NOW I’m pretty sure the next STAR TREK flick will be about Kirk and Spock going back to 2015 to rescue . . . DOLPHINS! See? It’s like a brand new thing.
***If you are going to have the audacity to charge me $19 dollars a ticket to watch a movie in the IMAX 3-D format, how about making glasses that don’t stab me in the temples for two hours and make me look like I’m fronting a Devo tribute band? These horrendous glasses make me feel like I need a safe word to wear them for more than 10 minutes.