Star Trek: Into Darkness

24 May


I recently saw the latest in the alternate universe that is J.J. Abrams Star Trek series.

Action packed and a fun ride, but filled with problems.

There was a lot of references to Wrath of Khan.  A lot.  And before I go on, I’m gonna warn you now, there’s a few spoilers.

For spoilers, nothing to do with DC Comics (though the pic is cool).

For spoilers, nothing to do with DC Comics (though the pic is cool).

Star Trek into Darkness deals with a lot of very close to home issues, that being terrorism.  We see London attacked in the movie and a madman leading the charge to destroy as much as he can on his way to proving himself superior to Starfleet and the rest of the world.  He’s introduced as John Harrison, but we later learn his real name is Khan Noonien Singh.  We’re also introduced to Carol Marcus, who will be notable as being Captain Kirk’s ex-wife as introduced in Wrath of Khan.

Two major problems arise with this movie (and these don’t include the plot points of having Kirk die and brought back to life and Spock shouting KHAAAAAAN!).  The first is the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.  Khan’s name is very South West Asian, and to be more to the point, very East Indian.  Yet, here’s a Whitey McWhiterson cast as the role, only because Cumberbatch is really big in television and movies right now.  Seriously, couldn’t have found an actual man of colour to play the role?  Worried that it might have insulted sensibilities because a man of colour is playing the role of a villain?  Or just white washing a role that is known so well in Star Trek universe?  To be fair, the original Khan was played by Ricardo Montalbán, a Mexican radio and television star.  He wasn’t East Indian either, but during the time of the 60’s when the original series aired, there was a lot of racist actions that appeared in television (the “chop suey” accent of Chinese characters, and let’s not go into how Nichelle Nichols was paid as a day worker, and the execs tried hard to limit her time, thankfully the writers ignored that).  Still, we live in the 21st Century (or at least we’re supposed to) so how hard is it to put in the casting call “East Indian decent” for the role of Khan?

The second is the treatment of Carol Marcus in the movie.  She’s a brilliant scientist but as soon as we see her, she’s objectified by Kirk.  Spock makes mention that the Enterprise already has a science officer, which is odd, considering the crew compliment of the ship (seriously Spock, do you do all the science?).


But let’s skip past that.

Obviously, it’s a bit of a setup (and shout out) to events in Wrath of Khan where we learn Carol Marcus and Kirk used to be married and they have a son.  However, it’s done rather cheap, like a last second thought.  And the scene where Carol changes in front of Kirk so the audience has a shot of her in her undies…

What was the point of that scene?  Really?  It was obviously gratuitous, and objectifying of the character of Carol Marcus.  And before someone says “but she’s beautiful”, please note that she’s also pretty hot FULLY CLOTHED!  The scene had nothing to do with the plot except satisfy the perverted fantasies of a bunch of fanboys who wanted a bit of on screen wank time for themselves.  If it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, then toss it out.  Was there a purpose that she had to change in front of Kirk?  Not really, she probably could have found a small change room and change just as easily.  If it was purely to have some form of nudity in Star Trek, then that’s stretching it.  I really adhere to the Alfred Hitchcock school of nudity; showing less is showing more.  That scene, if it really needed to be in the movie, could have been done with Carol Marcus seen in head and shoulder view on the screen standing behind a divider from Kirk.

Abrams has taken Star Trek and gone astray from what it originally was.  Philosophical exploration was just as much a part of the franchise as was the action involved.  The movies before Abrams came along even explored this concept, and they managed to do it in the heat of battle.  In Generations the main point brought up is that time is the enemy with teeth that stalks her prey.  Voyage Home was a big eco film, displaying that shit gets real if we keep screwing over the planet.  Undiscovered Country was about change and that some people are very resistant to change.  Those bits of philosophy were still able to breathe in the movie along with all of the action.

As for the current run of Star Trek films, they’re action filled and fun, but they are a far cry from Star Trek films and television shows of the past.


Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Fun, randomness


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Star Trek: Into Darkness

  1. JunkChuck

    May 31, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I just found and have enjoyed your blog, and it seems you’ve pried some ideas loose from the inside of my mind. First off, the Alice Eve scene—because, let’s be honest, this is all about the girl, not the character, was absolutely gratuitous, even if the (nudge nudge, wink wink) purpose was hypothetically to show her not putting up with Kirk eyeing her up. I do love the WTF expression on her face, and the confident, almost militant, posture—but it wasn’t the, uh, first thing I noted. Carol Marcus was the one woman in whom Kirk1 met his match, and this scene probably should have been done differently, as you suggest.

    The casting of Cumberbatch is, frankly, a matter of who the heck could have done this better? I suppose there are some great Asian actors, but Cumberbatch is the man right now. There are very few actors capable of moving the audience from menacing to almost sympathetic to downright chilling in a matter of minutes. The ethnicity didn’t bother me. It wasn’t like it’s an old westerns with Charleton Heston painted red, in a bad wig and a bunch of turkey feathers talking pigeon “me thinkum you soldiers got firewater” to the cavalry. If there was any problem with Benedict, it was that he’s so damned good he almost stole the movie from Quinto. Almost.

    That said, I would humbly argue that this film is more philosophical than, at first glance, it seems. The terrorism plot point certainly resounds in a post 9/11 world, but not just because of the terror (destruction of Vulcan=World Trade Center) but also for the horrific moral descent that we (I’m an American) continue to experience in the aftermath. A clutch of vipers in airplanes could not break our spirit, but it will be up to historians to decide how savagely our thirst for revenge rendered our souls. It seems to me that had Nero and Spock Prime not crashed through time, Admiral Marcus would not have poured the foundation for Section 31 and the balance-of-power changing dreadnaught. We’ve killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people, embraced torture and deceit, flaunted the good will of our allies and chewed up yet another generation in pursuit of those who hurt us. It is no coincidence that Marcus christened his dreadnaught “Vengeance.”

    Wrath of Khan is, likewise, about much more than adventure and revenge. It is about growing up, growing old, and staring headlong into the abyss despite the demons clawing at our ankles. Kirk faces his future with failing eyesight and flagging poise, a deep change from when we met him in his prime: a consummate leader, passion and bravery balanced by confidence, intelligence, and experience. He was brash, but not so brash as Kirk v.2. That man never met his father grew up undisciplined, rebellious, and angry. He is thrust into crisis, and ultimately command with the benefit of the tempering that Kirk1 would have gained as a junior officer. His brashness is, to some extent, a facade for a man of great capabilities scrambling to breath above the churning waters of necessity. At one point he admits it: I don’t know what I’m supposed to do! But I know what I can do.

    And there is the genius I think a lot of folks are missing about this film. It is not about explosions, or politics, or even Khan. Khan was about Kirk2 finding his way to the future by facing the ghosts from his past. Darkness is about Kirk2 the kid growing into the Kirk I met in re-runs in the early 1970s. The weaving of Wrath and Into Darkness is wildly clever, and deeply satisfying to an old, stealth geek like me–but it’s that paradox, almost Elizabethan in a twisted way, between Kirk1 accepting his age and declaring “I…feel…young!” in the final scene of the original movie, and Kirk2 stepping onto the bridge in Darkness and leading the crew out on the Five Year Mission. At the end of the film, he has become that man we knew, the Captain of the Enterprise.

    As the credits rolled, two thoughts occurred to me. The first was that I wished Kirk2 had said “first star to the right and on until morning.” The second was that I hope—irrationally, I’ll admit—that Kirk2, who has suffered so much loss and upheaval, gets the one thing Kirk1 never had. I hope that David lives.

    And…okay…back to staring at the picture of Alice Eve….

  2. Tim

    May 31, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I understand that Cumberbatch is the go to guy right now, but he wasn’t the best option, he’s just the most openly seen at present.

    And as Abrams himself said, this reboot was to be a new movie franchise for a new generation that would never have seen Star Trek before, so having a lot of call backs to the old Trek and Wrath of Khan is a little confusing.

    I can understand the feeling with regard to terrorism in the film and it’s affects to Americans, but that affect doesn’t ring with a lot of other fans around the world (even me, as I’m Canadian). I still feel as though it did miss the mark in quite a few areas.

    Admittedly, Abrams won’t be in the director’s chair for the next film, as he has commitments to the Star Wars franchise now (isn’t there a law that you can’t do one if you’ve already done the other?). So, I guess we’ll have to see what comes next. After all, while I love the old Trek and the television sequels, I still recall the original Motion Picture back in the 70’s wasn’t the greatest of film attempts for the Star Trek franchise. And, one never knows if this will produce a new Star Trek television show that may take place after Voyage (there’s been talk about that), and there’s already talk about Enterprise Season Five being made for Netflix.


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