With Star Trek Beyond coming out in just a few short weeks I feel it’s time to look back over Star Trek Into Darkness, a film that tears opinion in the Star Trek community like no other. Some enjoy the film for what it is, taking in the action and spectacle of the JJ Abrams directed movie while others claim it to be a pastiche of Wrath of Khan and that it replaces Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as the worst Star Trek movie ever made. I fall quite firmly in the middle of the debate; I enjoy some elements but have problems with others and so what better way to deconstruct the movie than look at the good stuff in one article and the bad in the other. Last week we looked at the positives so this time let’s delve into the film’s issues.
One negative is that at times Into Darkness doesn’t feel like a Star Trek movie or even a science-fiction movie at all, instead it almost becomes a superhero film. I accept that Khan is an enhanced human from the eugenics wars of the 1990’s and his powers throughout the films make sense whether it’s lifting Chekov off the ground with that weird handle on his suit in Wrath of Khan or crushing skulls and kicking Klingon ass in Into Darkness but throughout the action scenes other characters seemingly have superpowers. Nowhere is this more evident than the finale in which Spock is being very un-Spock like, chasing Khan through San Francisco culminating in yet another fist fight. As someone who claims to know his ‘Trek’ from his ‘Wars’ I know that Vulcans are three times stronger than humans and twice as fast (probably due to aerodynamic ears) but this still doesn’t account for Spock being able to hold his own against Khan and then managing to beat him in a fistfight. It usurps the power and prestige that Khan has if all it takes to beat him is an angry Vulcan. On the issue of action scenes there are a few too many fist fights in the film. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good Vulcan neck pinch and a punch up with a Gorn but Into Darkness goes way too far and the issue is highlighted by some shoddy punch sound effects.
Spock dies in Wrath of Khan and comes back to life in The Search for Spock. Over the course of those movies we get a fairly logical explanation of how this happens and as an audience we buy it. However I don’t buy the fact that within ten minutes of movie time Kirk is alive and well on the bridge of the Enterprise, then he’s dead from exposure to radiation and then he’s back to life because he had an injection of some magic blood. Now I can buy that Khan’s blood is different to a regular human’s and can help cure some diseases or illnesses kinda like how in Battlestar Galactica the human/Cylon hybrid’s blood was able to cure Laura Roslin of her cancer but I don’t buy that Khan’s blood can bring dead people back to life. If McCoy managed to inject Kirk as he was dying allowing his cells to regenerate and stopping his death then I could buy into that but it’s explicitly stated that he straight up died and no amount of magic blood should have been able to bring him back.
Kirk. Spock. McCoy. The classic triad from the original series and movies. They had amazing chemistry and were often at the very core of the stories highlighting how in Gene Roddenberry’s utopian future three very different types of people can work together and be friends. That classic triad is absent from Into Darkness. We get plenty of Kirk and we get plenty of Spock but McCoy is left firmly on the sidelines making only a few brief appearances to tinker with a torpedo and operate on a tribble. Instead of McCoy we get a lot of Scotty. I like Simon Pegg a lot and I like the character of Scotty but I would much prefer to have seen some more scenes with the classic triad than with Scotty and his little cabbage-faced friend. Hopefully we get more of the triad in Star Trek Beyond but with Simon Pegg being co-writer on that film I get the impression that we will be seeing a lot more Scotty.
Into Darkness often gets moaned at for remaking far too much of Wrath of Khan and while that’s true to a degree I’m much more annoyed that it also seems to be remaking things it did so well in the 2009 reboot. At the end of the reboot we are introduced, or re-introduced, to these characters and the ending makes it seem like they are about to go off on the classic five year mission to explore new life forms and civilisations (and so on) but at the start of Into Darkness very little has happened and we only get to the five year mission at the end of the movie. A stand out sequence from the ’09 film was the space jump in which Kirk, Sulu and a red shirt skydive down to a big drilling platform. Into Darkness then has a scene which plays out very much like this with Kirk and Khan Space jumping from the Enterprise to the Vengeance. It’s a cool and cinematic scene but I’m left thinking that I’ve seen it before and I wanted something original instead.
Now I included this next point on my list of positive things in my last article but you can look at it in two ways and it’s that Khan is irrelevant to the plot. Now I like this because it allows Admiral Marcus and the fight for the future of Starfleet as a peaceful organisation to take centre stage but it also begs the question “Why include Khan in the first place?”. I like the idea of having an enhanced person as an antagonist in the movie but I don’t think it should have been Khan. Instead of having Marcus wake up Khan he should have woken up another of Khan’s group. The exact same events would follow showing us how powerful and cunning one of Khan’s followers is and making the Enterprise crew wonder that if a mere foot soldier from the eugenics war could cause all that chaos and damage what would going up against Khan, the leader, be like. This sets Khan up for an appearance in a sequel and makes audiences actually want to see the character again instead of leaving the film disappointed in the portrayal of Khan we got. When I watched the film for the first time I was half expecting a twist at the end in which it is revealed that ‘Khan’ is an imposter and is just one of the enhanced soldiers pretending to be Khan and that the real Khan was still in stasis.
What are your least favourite things about Star Trek Into Darkness? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about Star Trek on Twitter @kylebrrtt.