This review contains major spoilers for "Star Trek: Into Darkness." Please do not read this unless you've already watched the film, or don't mind spoilers before you go watch it.
Leading up to the film, I did everything I could to avoid spoilers. But I have to admit that despite those efforts, there were some parts that were spoiled for me before I had a chance to finally sit down and watch the film on Wednesday night for the fan sneak previews in IMAX. Primarily that Benedict Cumberbatch's character of John Harrison was actually Khan Noonien Singh, and that his blood would somehow bring Kirk back to life in what was a reversal of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."
This really irritated me, you know? Paramount Pictures wanted this film to make a killing overseas, to the point that they gave some countries -- like England -- early access to the film. Those people in turn went to the Internet immediately and started to share major spoilers from the film. And, of course, there are always fans who want spoilers, and will eat them up everywhere they go, so they read them, and then they start talking about them.
And then they get angry. And then they don't care who they spoil -- whether those people want to be spoiled or not.
But I can see in this film why spoilers can be bad. If you came up to me and said, "Oh, 'Into Darkness' is nothing more than a rehash of 'Wrath of Khan,' where the bad guy is Khan and he somehow has some super blood that can bring people back to life -- and they do that when Kirk dies. The end," I probably would be like, "Wow, that sounds really weak."
Throwing a concept out there, however, and actually watching how that concept is executed are two totally different things. You give me that one-liner above, and I am not that interested. But you give me the story the way writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof intended through the visionary work of director J.J. Abrams, and suddenly I'm really excited about what I saw.
When I talked with Eugene W. Roddenberry last week, one of the partners in 1701News, I asked him what he honestly thought. I hadn't seen the film yet, and was going to in a couple hours, but I wanted the real thoughts, not just the public thoughts. And Rod is like, "Man, I don't sugarcoat things." If he didn't like it, he would say so -- or probably not say anything at all. And he said that while the film won't be up for any Oscars, when you look at it as a Star Trek film, it meshes more with what fans -- both Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike -- are going for.
And after watching "Into Darkness" twice, and sleeping on both screenings, I have to say I agree. Not going to be on the AFI Top 100 list, but could be among one of the strongest Star Trek films of the entire movie series. Yes, there was a lot of action -- but isn't that what we expect from our cowboys in space? There was also a lot of questionable fictional science, but hey, it's all fiction to begin with.
It is so good to see "Doctor Who" alum Noel Clarke again. And I really enjoyed his scenes in the beginning of the movie, along with something we don't hear very often as the soundtrack of a Star Trek film -- piano.
The loving father, who loves his sick daughter so much that he really is willing to give his life for hers, was very touching. While I might say, "Hey, that wouldn't drive him to a suicide bombing," I can't really say that. I am not a parent with a dying child, being offered a single hope. I don't know how I would react. Hopefully not like that, but not everyone thinks the same way. Plus, Khan has a tendency to manipulate people.
And speaking of Khan, I watched Benedict Cumberbatch's performance and then imagined some of the other people rumored to be in the role in the past, like Benicio del Toro. That is an actor I like a lot, but to be honest, I think Cumberbatch was perfect for the role. His haunting voice, his haunting eyes ... OK, OK, he's haunted.
Before "Sherlock," I had no idea who Cumberbatch was, although he would pop up in various movies. After "Sherlock," I knew very well who he was, and when he was announced as the Big Bad in "Into Darkness," I immediately jumped up in support. And Cumberbatch did not let us down. Despite what I felt were strong performances by the rest of the cast, Cumberbatch still managed to steal the scenes he was in -- and that's OK. He's the Big Bad. He's supposed to do that, and we're supposed to hate him for that.
I know some of my friends had issues with Spock crying. They ranged from "Vulcans shouldn't do that," to "They haven't known each other long enough for this." But I have to say that they have -- and when you save each other's lives a few times, you grow a bond that just, well, it's a bond we know will exist and has existed in Star Trek.
I loved the crying scene. And I felt it was absolutely perfect for the moment. The Spock we have in Abrams' universe is much different from the Spock we have in the original timeline. There, Leonard Nimoy's Spock had to go through some tough times, but it was usually fighting with his father, kidnapping Christopher Pike, fighting with his father, dying once trying to beat Khan, and did I mention fighting with his father?
Zachary Quinto's Spock has seen so much more. His entire planet was destroyed, and his mother was killed right in front of him. He just lost his mentor, Christopher Pike, meaning he'll never get a chance to kidnap him and take him to Talos IV. And he almost died himself in the middle of a volcano. Nimoy's Spock had trouble controlling his emotions sometimes (like the big smile he gave everyone when he realized he had not killed Kirk in that famous Pon Farr ceremony). But imagine going through all of that, and seeing how well you stay composed.
I do have some issues with the Kirk resurrection scene, which you can see in the next segment below, but not the fact that superblood brought him back to life. I have heard some people complain about that, but really? You're complaining about that? But support the idea that you can shoot a body onto a planet that is being instantly terraformed by the Genesis Device, and that even though Spock's body is not a part of the Genesis Matrix, it somehow regenerates with the planet. And even when everyone else heads down to the planet, Spock continues to age while everyone else doesn't.
Yeah. No holes in that. I'm OK with superblood saving Kirk. I just wished it was handled a bit differently. And for that, you'll have to keep reading on to ...
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
The plothole that I really thought could have been handled differently is the idea of Khan's blood. There is a thing in writing that you can't make something so powerful that it makes people immortal and unbeatable, and I fear that's what is happening with Khan's blood.
We see that not only does Khan's blood have healing powers, but it also has the power to resurrect. So you're telling me that Dr. McCoy has just found the cure to death? Does this mean that none of our characters will die (nor will anyone in the Federation)? Even worse, Khan is still alive and still able to generate blood. Yet, they put him back in cryosleep instead of just keeping him in a coma and extracting his blood.
OK, maybe turning someone into a blood farm is against protocol ... but couldn't someone have just mentioned that?
If I were sitting in that writer's room when they were breaking the story, I would've adjusted things a bit. I mean, you have to make it to where you don't have this unlimited supply of superblood sitting around waiting to resurrect people. You could've had McCoy not use up all the blood, and had just a little bit left, which he used on Kirk after Khan died. You could've had some throwaway line that once Kirk got his transfusion, Khan's blood lost its ability. I mean, there are just ways you could've closed that door to stop people like me saying, "Ok, why aren't they using that blood on everyone else?"
Also, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate transwarp beaming. It's another superpower that was granted -- this time in the 2009 film -- that is just too super. In the 2009 film, if they had actually launched that shuttlecraft and went to warp and then did a transwarp beam, I would've been much better with the concept. But to say that you can beam someone hundreds of lightyears onto a ship moving faster than the speed of light from a simple shuttlecraft with limited power? That's just insane.
Why would we need starships? Why not just beam around and explore? To me, Orci and Kurtzman practically put the Enterprise out of a job by the time we meet Scotty in the first movie. And that's just wrong.
And that leaves another plothole. Instead of risking the Enterprise by going into Klingon space ... why not just beam Kirk, Spock and Uhura to Kronos? Why go through the whole thing of getting a ship and flying around. Yes, for dramatic purposes -- but it's something that simply doesn't make sense when you think about the practicality of it all.
Finally, warp drive and the FTL drives from "Battlestar Galactica" are not the same thing. In "Battlestar Galactica," the ships can fold space completely and jump from one point to another almost instantly. Warp drive takes time to get you places. It's basically driving really fast down a vast black road.
In the new universe, Vulcan is less than an hour away by warp, and Kronos is about the same time. Wow ... that's really faster than light ... like way faster than light.
Based on this science if the Enterprise can travel such huge distances in a short amount of time, by the time Kirk and Spock run into Scotty in the 2009 film, with the Enterprise at warp for many hours, the Enterprise should already be on the other side of the galaxy, or on its way to Andromeda. Also, the USS Voyager in "Star Trek: Voyager" could have cut its travel time from the Delta Quadrant from 70 years to maybe seven hours.
On top of that, while the effect of having the Enterprise booted from warp was pretty cool by the USS Vengeance, why would the Enterprise need to still be in warp if they were so close to Earth? Shouldn't they have dropped out of warp and dropped to impulse? Isn't being in warp inside the solar system dangerous, as established by "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"?
You know, Bob and Alex, if you ever need a Star Trek expert (I do have experience in this, believe it or not!) ...
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
"Star Trek: Into Darkness" stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller.
The film was written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. It was directed by J.J. Abrams.
"Star Trek: Into Darkness" is now playing in theaters everywhere.