Let’s talk about Star Trek. Actually, before we do that, let me first lay out my biases: I’m a minor trekkie, having grown up with The Next Generation and the various movies. The 2009 reboot ranks as my favourite of the films, excluding The Wrath of Khan which cannot be matched in its awesomeness. However I think that might be set to change with Star Trek Into Darkness.
The film is as you’d expect, full of action and annoying lens flares (seriously if I could, I’d deduct points for the damn lights shining at me throughout the movie on principle). Kirk is as arrogantly handsome as we remember, Spock as annoyingly precise and Bones just as grumpy. This time though Scotty gets a subplot and Chekov a redshirt (nooooo!) and seems to be only one to escape the associated curse. Oh and Uhura is having a tiff which Spock which nearly sees her getting killed. Relationships eh?
But let’s talk John Harrison. Every trekkie knows it’s not a name but an identity used for random redshirts and extras. Actually look, I can’t (pun intended) write this review without spoilers okay? Benedict Cumberbatch is superb and as masterful as always, it was stupid of anyone to suspect he was just playing some random human with vengeance in mind. Of course he isn’t, not a superman of his acting calibre. The problem is, it’s his character who lets the plot down.
Yes it’s awesome to see an honest homage to one of the greatest villains ever created but the problem is, in this timeline, there’s no emotional connection to Khan. He’s just some guy who kills Christopher Pike and tries to take down Section 31. Indeed, when Spock contacts Spock Prime, only to be told that Khan Noonien Singh is Kirk’s greatest nemesis, it feels like we skipped a massive part of his character arc. After all, from the crew of this Enterprise’s perspective, they’ve not yet started their historic mission, much less found the Botany Bay or lost Marla and marooned the supermen on Ceti Alpha V.
Yet Khan – he’s only addressed by his full name by Spock Prime and no one ever bothers to explain how he became a white English guy and not a Sikh of obviously Indian descent. But Khan is ruthless, he is terrifyingly intelligent and only Sherlock could ever turn that kind of genius into proper psychopathy. Oh and have magical healing blood that no one seems to know about. While the hints to Old Trek in the form of co-ordinates, murmurings, dialogue and tribbles was appreciated, the ending of Wrath of Khan was motivational because Spock died. Period. No Khan ex machine. Having Kirk take his place didn’t feel as half as emotive, mainly as we had to wait for the end of Search for Spock before the plot was resolved. Kirk comes back as the same fellow, no brain damage or odd habits, just a little more humility that was sorely needed.
This said, the film was a rollicking success, a roller coaster of fun and special effects. Even the misplaced underwear shot of Alice Eve didn’t seem too out of place, even though it was pointless gratuity. I loved seeing more of the bonded crew, especially Scotty (even with his awful accent) and his little alien pal. It was nice to have Spock speaking dialogue that Kirk Prime is most remembered for, after all our Kirk isn’t know for loitering in the face of danger so for him to go all out and sacrifice himself, well that was unexpected and the entire point of the film.
I will be going to see this film again and, frankly, I really encourage everyone else to as well. You might grumble at the canon, you might not like the new crew but it’s an homage to everything which makes Trek great and memorable. Even if you hate Trek, it’s got Sherlock in it! I defy anyone not to go just for Cumberbatch’s twisted incarnation of his best-known role because if anyone can ever match Sherlock’s genius, it’s Khan.