Warning: Spoilers ahead
Like many other die-hard fans I recently had a chance to take in Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise. We've been waiting for this one since 2009 when the JJ Abrams helmed reboot warped into theatres. Was the wait worth it?
For me: no.
Let's take a step back. The 2009 film could have been one of two things, a reboot to get the franchise up and producing again or a great tribute film full of in-jokes for long-time fans and revved-up action for the unwashed masses. The sequel, for me, would decide this.
The plot, in short, is that a mysterious figure is terrorizing Starfleet. Using a proxy he blows up an important research station. He then attacks a meeting of admirals and captains that is discussing the attack, killing Captain Chrisopher Pike (which, I guess, beats spending the rest of your life horribly scarred and sitting in a wheelchair that can only go 'beep'). In the meantime Captain Kirk saves a primitive population from being destroyed by a volcano but gets demoted because he broke the Prime Directive (don't interfere with primitive cultures, just sleep with their women on the sly) to do so. But with Starfleet's finest either dead or bleeding profusely from the attack Kirk is tasked to capture the terrorist which he does, almost a little too easily. He's all ready to celebrate when he learns that the terrorist is a former pawn of an ambitious Starfleet admiral which used him to build a dreadnought, the USS Vengeance. There is a big exchange of phasers between the Enterprise and the Vengeance and in the end the bad guys are destroyed and the Enterprise gets rebuilt.
Lots of cute lines, great action and amazing special effects. So why was I disappointed?
Well, who was this mysterious bad guy? None other than Khan Noonien Singh.
Yes, that Khan, the one from the original episode Space Seed and the greatest Trek movie ever, The Wrath of Khan. Khan, you may recall, was a genetically modified superman who, in the aftermath of World War III in the 1990's, fled into space in cryogenic freeze with his followers. In the original series timeline his ship, the Botany Bay, is found floating in deep space. Khan and his followers are revived, he tries to take over the Enterprise and they are exiled to a remote savage planet. In the new timeline the Botany Bay was discovered by Admiral Marcus who revives Khan and uses him to build the USS Vengeance while holding the rest of Khan's people hostage.
So there's a twofold disappointment here. The first is that, with a whole reborn galaxy to work with, Abrams et al go for the comfy, easy repeat by dragging out the most infamous Trek villian ever. Then they fill the movie with "sneaky nods" at the original with a twist. Were you expected Kirk to scream "Khan!" again? No, this time it's Spock. (I don't give a damn about his personal proclivities. Zachary Quinto is a wuss compared to Shatner, it does not work when he does it).
And more than that, Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch who may be a great actor but is also pasty white. Khan was Indian. They're brown! In the original Space Seed they at least had the good sense to use a well-tanned Ricardo Montelban. This time we have to sit with serious faces as a guy the colour of milk announces "My name is Khan!" Puh-leeze.
So yeah, more and more it looks like the 2009 movie was a great tribute and the future holds a bunch of generic acting and stolen lines. Pity.