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Star Trek Into Darkness

I finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness today. My initial reaction was "thoroughly satisfied", although now that I've had some time to think about it and finally read others' reactions, I am recognizing some things that could have been better. Still, I did really enjoy it, and I think it was better than the previous film.

It seems to me that by now, people should be expecting it, but for the sake of formality:

SPOILERS FOLLOW. (I originally wrote this as a forum post elsewhere; I've just remembered that I can use the LJ-cut feature here to help hide the spoilers. Yay LiveJournal.)


I think the filmmakers were in a tough position of having a lot of popular demand for Khan and facing the challenge of whether to try that and risk the inevitable comparisons, or be perpetually plagued by some vocal group always clamoring for it. I myself didn't want to see them do it, I wanted the new franchise to be new; Khan's been done before, do something else. That said, I think they did an excellent job of re-imagining it, mostly being successful in hitting the references to the original while doing a different take, and mostly being successful in bringing emotional and dramatic heft to it without the benefit of playing directly off an actual existing connection between Khan and Kirk or between Kirk and his ship and crew. I'm saying "without the benefit" of these things although of course there is some connection between old and new Kirk, because we know that in context the new Kirk doesn't yet have the long history that we saw with the old one, and we know that things are different in this version so we can't fully rely on the old relationships and history to carry the stories with the new one.

The reversal of having Kirk be the one to sacrifice himself to save the ship and crew was really well done, building naturally out of the story and this version of Kirk's character, again without the benefit of the previous Kirk's well-known bond with his ship—that was something established throughout the seasons of the original series, here it had to be established largely within this film alone. And not surprisingly, they actually relied more on Kirk feeling bonded to and responsible for his crew rather than the ship as such. I particularly liked how while old Spock had to do some precise hands-on recalibration of the warp core, new Kirk simply has to brutally kick the damn thing into place; that was a nice character touch. In contrast, having Spock cry "KHAAAN" was a bit goofy, though forgivable in the context of Spock's arc about feeling versus caring.

I liked that the second-tier bridge officers mostly had at least moments of being cool, probably in order of Scotty getting the best deal, then Uhura, then Sulu, and finally poor Chekov was screwed for the sake of comedy/drama—but given that he had to don a red shirt, I suppose he got off lightly. Oh hey it just occurred to me, no universal translators apparently, as it's a plot point that Uhura speaks Klingon; yay for making the communications officer actually have to use communications skills. (It's a lot better than the nonsense in The Undiscovered Country about them having to translate Klingon on the fly, using printed books, because "the universal translator would be recognized" and unacceptable.) Anyhow, Uhura didn't get quite the heroic central role that Scotty did, but she did get to participate as an important team member and be involved directly in the action, so that was good.

In contrast, Carol Marcus came off fairly poorly, being there as a plot device, damsel in distress, and sex figure—but not a character. It's perhaps notable that Wikipedia's plot summary of the film doesn't even mention her at all, because as a character she has no effect on the story at all; anyone could have filled her role. I actually did like the brutality of Khan snapping her leg because it made sense for his character and the situation, but it would've been much better if she'd had the opportunity to be some kind of threat. She's introduced as a weapons specialist, so perhaps she could have known something useful about the USS Vengeance and done something to forestall its attack, for example.

I liked that they made a reasonable extension of the genetically-enhanced people—they have highly regenerative capabilities, which is partly why they are stronger and more durable—and used that to dodge the whole Search for Spock scenario. At the same time, doing so undercut the drama of Kirk going to fix the warp core because as soon as that problem was brought up, I knew how they were resolving all of that. And as I saw someone else point out, it does seem a bit problematic story-wise that now apparently they have a synthesized magic elixir for reviving the dead, although I think maybe Bones had a bit of dialogue suggesting it wasn't all that easy a fix. On the other hand there was that little girl whose mysterious health issue was apparently all cleared up instantly, and the tribble being revived, so… They're smart enough that I wouldn't expect it to be ignored, but it may just get a brief handwave in a future film.

I was highly amused when Section 31 was brought up, I hadn't expected that and liked that they were acknowledging it. Which reminds me I also liked the nods toward Sulu eventually becoming a captain. Actually there were several of these nods throughout the film, which were fun for me as a fan, and a nice way of not just acknowledging that connection but incorporating the parallel-universe concept unobtrusively.

The main thing I'm left hoping is that the next film actually fulfills the promise of the final scene. A theme emerged in this film of Starfleet being sidetracked from science and exploration into a military operation, and certainly the majority of the films have been more about military defense rather than scientific exploration. So let's see them live up to that promise, and do a film that's actually what classic Star Trek was mostly about: boldly going where no one has gone before. Unfortunately, that promise has already been undercut by having Carol Marcus be a weapons specialist, rather than a biologist as in the prime universe, and then joining the crew at the end of the film. I don't know whether the actress is already signed up for a sequel or not, but unless they do jump forward past the five-year mission for the next film, the character should be there. She is a science officer and a physicist, but still, it's her weapons expertise that would likely be called upon in the next film. In any case, it's too soon to worry about that. There will be another film, no doubt, so it's just a matter of waiting to see how it develops. And as I said at the start, I felt that trying to re-do Wrath of Khan was a bad idea, but in the end I think they did a good job of living up to that legacy, so there's reason to give them the benefit of the doubt about how they'll proceed with the next film.


Edit: Oops, I'm supposed to put all the stuff IN the LJ-cut area. Well, I caught it fast enough, I doubt anyone saw it.


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