Star Trek Into Darkness Has A Khan Problem

(Left to right) Zachary Quinto is Spock and Chris Pine is Kirk in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Star Trek Into Darkness contains as much action-packed fun as its predecessor but the problem lies in using Khan as a villain again.

It’s going to come up at some point so better to get it out of the way sooner than later. We need to talk about Khan. Why was it so necessary to bring him back instead of coming up with a new villain? There’s such a big canvas to come up with new characters for the Kelvin timeline. Don’t get me wrong as I enjoyed watching the movie but I feel like there’s a missed opportunity in the villain department. My issues with the filmmakers bring back Khan notwithstanding, Benedict Cumberbatch brings his all and owns the role.

J.J. Abrams on Khan in The Enemy of My Enemy:

“To me, it was the combination of the opportunity of taking something that was extraordinarily rich and mythic and also update it not only with a new actor but take that character and update it in a way that hadn’t been used before. He was really the one character that we were going to completely reinvent the way we tried to reinvent the main characters.”

The film takes place in 2259. Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) loses the Enterprise when he violates the Prime Directive to save Spock (Zachary Quinto). Anyone in Kirk’s position would probably do the same thing and it’s a sight of beauty to watch the Enterprise launch from under the ocean. Anyway, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) gets command of the Enterprise back while Kirk is gets a demotion and Spock transferred. Everything changes when John Harrison/Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) enters the picture and destroys Starfleet.

Khan’s introduction in this film is different than that of the Prime timeline. In this film, he’s awoken by Starfleet Fleet Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) and responsible for building weapons. Marcus–the real villain of the film–hides this from the rest of Starfleet. In fact, his daughter, Carol (Alice Eve) is the only one who is initially suspicious of his activities. When you bring on long range stealth torpedoes, there’s bound to be some brushback from the crew. Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) leaves the crew and Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) replaces him. As it turns out, the torpedoes were not just torpedoes. The film gives us our first look at the Klingon home planet of Kronos, which doesn’t end well for the Klingons. Their appearance makes up for the scene getting deleted in the 2009 reboot.

Star Trek Into Darkness comes to a climax in San Francisco with a fight between Spock and Khan. It takes Uhura (Zoe Saldaña) intervening in order to save Kirk’s life. All this is happening after Kirk sacrifices his life to save the ship. This is where the using Khan as a villain becomes frustrating. It opens up an opportunity for Leonard Nimoy to cameo in his final Star Trek appearance on screen even though he previously said he wouldn’t appear. However, it also means audiences are going to see something of a rehash of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Things are different to an extent but some things do not change. Instead of Spock repairing the warp core, it’s Kirk making the repair. Both Spock and Kirk have a scene through the transparent door as in the earlier film.

As the film comes to an end, the Enterprise is about to embark on its five-year exploratory mission. The mission comes just a few years before it takes place in the Prime timeline. One of the advantages that come with rebooting the franchise is that they can make changes to the timeline in this way. Unfortunately, this also means making some stupid decisions that I don’t like. Why do they have to kill off Admiral Christopher Pike? When you look at what happens to the character in the original series, there’s an opportunity to change his future.

Visually speaking, the production design and visual effects are just as stunning as in the first movie. Granted, some sequences get topped in the sequel but that’s beside the point. One such sequence in this film is where Kirk and Khan fly from the Enterprise to the Vengeance. The visual effects team manage to outdo themselves in Star Trek Beyond with the Enterprise launching from the Yorktown station.

Michael Giacchino’s score for the film is superb. His entire work on the franchise also pay homage to what’s come before. But in this film, he takes what we know and love and finds a way to make it darker.

It wasn’t until rewatching the film this week that I realized that Noel Clarke was in it. If it is any consolation with his previous behavior, his character dies early on during a terrorist attack. Another problem with the film is that they could probably do without the scene of Carol Marcus in her underwear.

Star Trek Into Darkness takes the visual spectacles up a notch while going darker than its predecessor, explores a theme of vengeance against an enemy, and the question of how far is too far before one crosses the line.

SCREENWRITERS: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof
CAST: John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldaña, Karl Urban, Peter Weller, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Paramount released Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters on May 17, 2013. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.