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.
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.