The genius of J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK: NOT THE MOTION PICTURE BUT STAR TREK (2009) was not just that it had a good gimmick for recasting the original cast of characters and restarting their adventures without denying the existence of their old ones. It was also the way it worked for both Trekkos and regulars. I was able to see it with a girl that grew up watching Star Trek and she loved it, but I enjoyed it too even though, come on. We, as citizens of the world, were all able to share it and enjoy it together equally as brothers and sisters.
Party’s over, though. Trekkos want their shit back. I’ve heard complaints from fans about the new ones not being truly in the spirit of the old movies and syndicated tv series. I mean it seems weird to be mad at the filmatists for having fun things happen instead of just people having long conversations in one room while looking at a screen with a picture of space and then walking down a hallway and then going back to the first room, but I do think they’re probly semi-legitimate grievances. STAR TREK did carve out its own niche where it’s different from the other shows, and is about explorers and talking and philosophy or whatever. So maybe some of the new movies shouldn’t be about fighting an evil warlord. And if you guys all agree you want to go back to the approach they had for the previous 20 years then I’m fine going back to only watching one every six or seven years and then saying “Yeah, that was fine I guess. James Cromwell is always good.”
But STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS aka STAR TREK 2: THE [SPOILER] OF [SPOILER] is still pretty balanced. This time the Star Trek girl and I were able to have equally strong feelings about it being okay. I guess with the characters and world already established we’ve gotten some of the fun stuff out of the way, now we’re just left with a plot about a villain trying to do something villainous and some twists and reversals on famous things from previous Star Trek. Fun, but kinda empty. There’s an obvious war on terror allegory in there (Star Trek thinks we should’ve tried to capture bin Laden instead of shoot him I think?), but it doesn’t feel too heavy… until the end credits when they dedicate the film to post 9-11 veterans. A little much, there. Might be a little bit of the “EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is the dark one so that’s how you do a good part 2” syndrome.
The story still focuses heavily on Star Fleet Captain and #1 Beastie Boys fan James Ti Kirk (Chris Pine, SMOKIN’ ACES), who’s still struggling between a great respect for and friendship with Spock (Zachary Quinto) and being annoyed as fuck at his by-the-book-to-a-fault, emotionless Vulcan ways. The big conflict in the beginning is that Kirk breaks the rules to save Spock from a space volcano and Spock repays him by filing a completely honest report that gets his ass fired. I hope part 3 is more of a mismatched buddies movie, preferably a remake of LETHAL WEAPON.
Then there is a bombing, real life Harry Potter character Benedict Cumberbatch is the suspect, he runs off to a predominantly Klingon neighborhood to hide out (Space Afghanistan), and the Star Gang are given a mission by Peter Weller (DRAGON EYES) to blow him up. Which might be a bad idea because of morals, starting wars, etc.
[I’M JUST GONNA SPOIL SHIT FROM THIS POINT ON] I think we all guessed this but yeah, Cumberbatch’s character eventually introduces himself as Khan.They tried to not advertise it since it’s not revealed for the first third of the movie, and more power to them. But if there’s two things the internet will not tolerate it’s 1) surprises 2) spoilers.
I want to point out that he never says his full name, nor does he put it in writing. For all we know he’s a totally different Khan than we’re thinking of, which would explain why he looks and sounds and acts and dresses like a totally different guy. In my opinion there is an 80% chance that it is actually some dude named Con, short for Conrad, and he just happens to have almost the same backstory as the other more imposing character Khan played by Ricardo Montalban in the original part 2. I mean I’m sure Khan wishes he could do kung fu and space parkour like Con, but then he wouldn’t get to wear that cool jacket and have long hair, so he’s not gonna cry about it.
On the other hand, this guy does have alot of wrath. I noticed he was pretty wrathful. But if we’re gonna go along with this conspiracy theory that it’s the same Khan Noonein Singh character then we should consider a few things. According to the backstory, Khan ruled the earth from 1992-1996 and then was frozen. That means he has not had a chance to see THE MATRIX, it’s only a coincidence that he dresses like Neo in this one. If he went to the movies in the months before he got frozen we can guess he probly saw INDEPENDENCE DAY, maybe TWISTER or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, perhaps FARGO. Actually he does seem more like a guy that would see FARGO then some of the big blockbusters. Maybe SLING BLADE too. Maybe TRAINSPOTTING.
But it’s hard to say. His last movie could’ve been SPACE JAM. Last CD purchased could’ve been All Eyez On Me.
Do you think it would be embarrassing if they took him out of cryo-freeze and he was wearing a Spice Girls t-shirt? I don’t think so. I think it would humanize him.
Anyway, the first movie had young Kirk listen to “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, in this one it’s “Body Movin’ (Fat Boy Slim remix)” during a threesome with twin sisters who have tails. (not kidding.) So it would be interesting if these two got into a conversation about that. Of course Khan would only know up through Ill Communication, but that’s their best stuff anyway. He would be able to describe to Kirk what it was like having those albums as contemporary music instead of oldies.
Despite being very white and not in any way Montalbanesque, Cumberbatch is pretty decent casting because he does project an arrogant intelligence and has a good dragony voice. Come to think of it he’s more like Hans Grueber than Khan. But he’s a good version of a pretty standard villain. I prefer Eric Bana in the first one, he was much stranger.
For a time they do find kind a way to be surprising, they have this evil terrorist explain the full context of what’s going on and all the sudden he doesn’t seem as bad. And he has special abilities and shared goals and they actually work together. But it’s not a Riddick situation, it turns out he can’t be trusted and it goes back to the standard bad guy battle that you expect. I would’ve liked it better if in this timeline the ultimate villain was more of a loose cannon good guy. At least it would’ve been something different. Going back to what was expected is kind of a waste. I hope for the next one they just come up with a new story instead of trying to comment on a previous one.
Anyway, it should be called STAR TREK 2: THE BRIEF COOPERATION OF KHAN. Or CON.
As far as the criticisms about Abrams turning what was formerly peaceful, thoughtful science nerd sci-fi into violent action, I don’t think it’s entirely fair because that’s in fact what this story is all about. Weller is using the Kryptonian fate of Vulcan as an excuse to rattle sabers, he’s trying to militarize Star Fleet and purposely start a war with the Klingons. He’s the bad guy. Kirk, meanwhile, learns the lesson of not listening to assholes like that. He takes the mission for revenge purposes (or wrath) but Scotty (still Simon Pegg) tries to talk him out of even having torpedoes on the ship and then resigns because of it. A conscientious objector. And not as a joke, he turns out to be 100% correct and also saves the day by not being aboard the ship because he resigned.
On the other hand, it is true that in the climax Spock fills in for an indisposed Kirk by abandoning his logical, emotionless ways to run around with a laser gun and kick ass. So that sort of betrays the larger message of the movie that problems should be solved with intellect and careful consideration. And although they perfectly set it up for the next one to be about exploring and not about military conflicts you can imagine that fans of the first two might be thrown off by that.
It was good to see this cast again, including Bruce Greenwood as Kirk’s tough lovin’ mentor. It’s kind of weird though that they keep talking about “do you remember when I convinced you to join? it was in a bar just like this” and stuff like that. Guys, this is not part 7, you don’t have to remind us of the beginning. This is only the second one. We can rewatch the first one. You don’t have to give us so much “previously on Star Trek” business.
I do think Bones (Karl Urban, DREDD), Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana, COLOMBIANA) get a little short changed in this one, they could use a little more to do. Uhura at least gets a cool scene where she negotiates with Klingons in their own language, something she picked up while signing autographs at conventions, no doubt.
Oh yeah, and Chekov (Anton Yelchin, li’l Michael Biehn from TERMINATOR SALVATION). I forgot to even list him, he was in this one so little.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t care about any of this. What you care about is where was Tyler Perry? That’s what I want to know too. I don’t think his character is in this one. A little trivia: apparently the alien sitting in front of the holding cell was played by Heather Langenkamp from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Also Amanda Foreman is in there somewhere, she previously worked with Abrams on a television show called “Felicity” according to research that I did. I don’t think she’s the one with the hip blond haircut though, I don’t know who that was.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this movie, but it’s not as fun as the first one. If the next one’s not any better I think we can write this series off. And if STAR WARS isn’t a whole hell of alot better I got some villagers on call and I’m buying them all pitchforks.
viewing format: Real Imax, fake 3D. There’s really not an organic way to watch this since some of it was shot Imax, but none of it was shot 3D, and you can’t watch it in 2D Imax. The 3D is more noticeable than many conversions, but sometimes gives them bizarre head shapes and stuff. The worst part is the opening action scene which has lots of whip pans and shakiness that probly read fine in 2D but in fake 3D left my eyeballs spinning like a cartoon car crash.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.