Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
***THE SPOILER ALERT LIGHT IS ON***
I attended an evening showing of Into Darkness one week ago this evening with my wife and daughter, and then again the following Saturday with a small group of students from the school where I teach. So as of this writing, I have viewed the film twice. I was blown away both times and have to say that I do love this movie. That being said, I also have to say that there are some things that did bother me a little, which I will address later in this post.
The film opens with Kirk and McCoy running through some heavy underbrush while being pursued by a primitive group of people. Kirk has stolen some icon belonging to this civilization and prompted this pursuit to divert the primitive’s attention from what Spock is about to do, which is quell an active volcano that threatens to wipe out those indigenous to the planet. Spock lowers himself by tether into the volcano, but the tether breaks. Spock, determined to carry out his mission, decides to sacrifice himself. Meanwhile, Kirk and McCoy escape to the Enterprise waiting at the bottom of the ocean. Despite Spock’s protestations that he will violate the Prime Directive by rescuing him, Kirk orders the ship to fly out of the ocean in full view of the primitives and rescue Spock.
The Enterprise is recalled to Earth, Kirk is informed by Admiral Pike that he is relieved of command and that he will serve as First Officer under Pike because he is not experienced enough to command a starship. Kirk is also informed that Spock is being transferred to another command. The ink on the new orders doesn’t have time to dry before a secret installation belonging to Section 31 (a clandestine arm of Starfleet Security dedicated to protecting the interest of Earth and the united Federation of Planets, introduced in the Deep Space Nine series), is destroyed by one of their own agents known as John Harrison. This prompts a meeting of several high ranking officers at Starfleet H.Q. including Pike, Kirk, Spock and Admiral Marcus. Kirk figures out that the bombing of the Section 31 facility was staged to bring these officers together and then Harrison appears on the scene in a gunship in an attempt to kill everyone in the meeting. Pike is mortally wounded while Kirk manages to disable the gunship, but Harrison escapes to an unpopulated area on Qo’noS, the Klnigon home word.
Kirk persuades Admiral Marcus to give him back command of the Enterprise, reinstate Spock as his first officer, and to go after Harrison. While Marcus does give Kirk back his command, he also orders kirk to kill Harrison rather than try to bring him to justice. He is to use 72 prototype photon torpedoes being delivered to the ship. Upon arrival on Enterprise, Chief Engineer Scott is refusing to take delivery of the weapons because he cannot find out what is inside the casings. Kirk Orders Scotty to take delivery which prompts Scotty to resign from the crew. Chekov is promoted to Chief Engineer and the crew is joined by Carol Marcus, daughter of Admiral Marcus, under a false identity.
Upon arrival at Qo’noS, the Enterprise’s warp drive malfunctions leaving the ship stranded. Kirk, Spock and Uhura depart for the planet’s surface to apprehend Harrison in a small, non-Starfleet ship. The small ship is forced to land, and the trio is confronted by Klingons. In an attempt to negotiate with the Klingons to let them apprehend Harrison, things go wrong and the Klingons indicate that they are going to dispatch the three Starfleet officers. Enter John Harrison who adeptly dispatches the Klingons and then turns on Kirk and company. Kirk tells Harrison that he will apprehend him or their location on the planet will be attacked with a photon torpedo barrage. Harrison asks how many torpedoes, and when Kirk tells him that there are 72, Harrison immediately disarms and surrenders.
While in the brig, Harrison reveals himself to actually be Kahn. He explains that he is a product of genetic engineering and was chronically frozen for waging an unsuccessful war to wipe out all those that were inferior to him and his fellow genetically engineered followers. He then tells Kirk to open one of the torpedoes, and gives him a set of Spatial coordinates. Kirk orders McCoy and Carol Marcus to take a torpedo and see what’s inside and then contacts Scotty to investigate the coordinates given him by Kahn. Kirk learns that the torpedoes actually contain 72 of Kahn’s compatriots. Kahn explains that Admiral Marcus awakened Kahn to help use his superior intellect to help develop weapons to wage war against the Klingon Empire, and that Marcus was using Kahn’s compatriots as hostages to force Kahn to cooperate.
Kirk figures out that the warp drive of the Enterprise was actually sabotaged on the orders of Admiral Marcus, and that his trip to Kill Kahn was supposed to be a one way mission to cover up Marcus’ complicity in the matter. In the meantime, Scotty takes a shuttle to the coordinates indicated by Kahn and discovers a shipyard housing a massive vessel. Scotty stows away on the ship that is getting ready to launch from the shipyard.
Checkov manages to repair the warp drive bus discourages Kirk from using it. Just then, the massive ship, the USS Vengeance, arrives on the scene with Admiral Marcus in command. Marcus demands that kirk turnover Kahn to him. Kirk refuses stating that Kahn needs to face justice for his crimes and orders the Enterprise to warp to Earth against the advice of Chekov. Marcus pursues the Enterprise, catches up with Kirk and crew in earth orbit and begins pummeling the Enterprise. Being outgunned and severely damaged by the Vengeance, Kirk agrees to hand over Kahn and his 72 compatriots in exchange for the lives of his crew. Marcus refuses and prepares to destroy Enterprise. Kirk reminds Marcus that his daughter, Carol, is on board and Marcus has her beamed onto Vengeance, and orders Enterprise destroyed. There is suddenly a power outage on the Vengeance caused by none other than Scotty.
While Enterprise is too damaged to take the fight to Marcus, Kirk allies himself with Kahn, knowing that Kahn designed the larger ship, the two of them board the Vengeance, unite with Scotty and take control of the bridge. In the process, Kahn betrays Kirk, kills Admiral Marcus and injures Carol. In the meantime, Spock contacts Spock Prime on “New Vulcan,” to learn what Spock Prime knows about Kahn. He is told basically not to trust him. Kahn negotiates with Spock to exchange the 72 torpedoes for the boarding party and the exchange is made. But Kahn does no know that his compatriots have been removed from the torpedoes and they are armed. A battle ensues, the torpedoes aboard the Vengeance are detonated and both ships begin to plunge toward earth.
Kirk goes to engineering, enters the warp core to effect repairs. He manages to re-align the components in the warp core, but he takes a lethal dose of radiation. The Enterprise, with power back on line manages to regain orbit while the Vengeance plows into downtown San Francisco. Spock is called to engineering where he attends the last minutes of Kirk’s life, and upon Kirks death, flies into a rage and goes after Kahn. McCoy discovers that Kahn’s blood can reanimate the dead, thanks to a tribble he injected with Kahn’s blood, and Uhura follows Spock who is in pursuit of Kahn to make sure that he does not Kill Kahn.
The scene cuts to McCoy treating Kirk in Sick Bay, who has been revived. The Enterprise then departs on a five year mission.
While I stated at the outset that I love this film, there are a few things that I found mildly problematic in my mind. Star Trek, in my humble opinion has always been about two things; good stories and characters one cares about. While I think the story of Into Darkness is good, even if it is a rip-off and retelling of the Wrath of Kahn story, I think that the characters lost some of their depth that was laid down in the 2009 film, so perhaps it might have been a step backward for the Trek universe according to JJ Abrams. As a long time Star Trek fan there are a few points that I think need to be addressed:
- Carol Marcus: Why? From what I can see, the only reason for Alice Eve being in the film was for her value as eye-candy. While she is admittedly a very attractive woman, the gratuitous underwear scene did nothing to advance the story, and was unnecessary. Beyond that, the only other reason for her was as a bargaining chip for Kirk in an attempt to keep Admiral Marcus from destroying the Enterprise.
- Kirk’s Sexuality: Kirk is being painted as a sex maniac in Into Darkness. His bedroom scene was just as unnecessary as Alice Eve’s underwear scene. People who know Star Trek joke about Kirk’s sexual appetite all the time, but we all really know that when Kirk seemed to be gratuitous, it was usually to distract an adversary and gain the upper hand in a situation, or if he was under the influence of things beyond his control. Watch the original series, you’ll find Kirk behaving in a very professional way almost all of the time. (No I am NOT a prude, just for the record. Sex in movies is just fine with me, if and when it is appropriate to the story.)
- Spock’s Emotionalism: I am feeling uncomfortable with Spock’s recent tendencies for sustained emotional outbursts. Upon Kirk’s death in the film, Spock launched into an uncontrolled sustained rage that would have resulted in the Death of Kahn had it not been for the intervention of Uhura. This is so unlike a Vulcan that it causes me a degree of distress. While I understand that in the more recent incarnations of Star Trek, Vulcans are not devoid of emotion, they spend their lives learning to control their emotions. The complete loss of this control would deeply humiliate a Vulcan, even one that is half human.
- Scotty: As I mentioned before, Simon Pegg is brilliant, but I think that Mr. Scott is laying down a few too many quips and seems to me to be more comic relief. He needs to be written better. His role in this film reminds me of that scene in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier when Scotty hits his head while bragging about how well he knows the enterprise.
- The Chemistry: Where is the chemistry between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy? I am not seeing it in Into Darkness. Kirk and Spock always seem to be at odds and argue about almost everything, and McCoy was all but absent in this film, just popping in every now and then with a McCoyism. There are some things that you just cannot change in Star Trek, and this is a big one.
I am thinking that JJ Abrams, while a brilliant film and television director and producer, and his writing staff for Star Trek don’t really understand what Star Trek is about, and as a fan of Trek, I am so hungry for something new that I will take anything. The flaws I mentioned above are actually minor as far as I am concerned, but should be addressed. I am wondering if perhaps JJ shouldn’t step aside for the next one, concentrate on Star Wars, and let someone who knows what Trek is all about take over the reins.
Well, there it is...