Ready? Okay. First of all, for anyone who was following the blog-o-sphere, of which I am now a part of, it was pretty clear who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing. Yes we had years of "he-is," "no-he-isn't," "no-wait-he's-who?" nonsense. To me, that game only hampered the film. It certainly built up a lot of anticipation for Trek fans, but I think if we hadn't played these identity games we could have had a much better movie. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Into Darkness but not as much as I would have liked. I feel like JJ Abrams and the writers got caught up in all the "They have to do Khan!" hysteria, that they lost themselves and the spirit of the new franchise they had established in the 2009 film.
I've never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan all the way through, but I know enough about it that I feel like the Into Darkness team hit all the beats they thought they had to hit. I feel like this hurt the film. The Into Darkness team failed to do for Khan what Christopher Nolan and his team did for the Joker in The Dark Knight. We didn't get a re-invention that was so well done that it can live alongside the original performance like Heath Ledger's Joker does alongside Jack Nicholson's.
So, rather than get an new original Trek story, we got a rehash of the 1982 film, in that it used Khan as a villain and a Starfleet officer dies, but not the one you might think. Everything else I'm assuming is new to this alternate timeline. The basic plot is that "John Harrison" aka Khan is mad at a Starfleet Admiral because he is some ancient warlike superhuman that was cryogenically frozen for 300 years along with some others of his same race. He's mad because the rest of his ship's crew is still frozen, and for this he wants revenge. Does this seem like the best way to un-freeze your friends? Probably not. Who is Khan and what race is he? Where does he come from? Is he human? None of this is addressed in the film via exposition or flashback, its mostly thrown at you while the bombastic score plays on because they just revealed it is in fact Khan. I guess the audience is expected to forget about all of this backstory and just accept that Khan is super-strong, smart, mean, and wants to kill Starfleet.
Instead of Khan's revenge being the main plot and conflict of the film we have this other plot about Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) wanting to start a war with the Klingon Empire. We see the Klingons, but only one without their dopey helmets on, on an "un-inhabited" part of their home planet. I thought it was a cop out, personally. Save on set decoration and make-up by being on this rocky terrain, with these conveniently placed rocks, and conveniently covered aliens in the middle of a foggy phaser battle. Why is Khan here at all? We don't know. Somehow it's the Admiral's plan to launch torpedoes here to kill Khan and start a war, but why did Khan go there at all if he's at odds with this Admiral? After that we get an even bigger Enterprise called the U.S.S Vengence, seen here. In the film its described as a ship designed for war, that can have a minimal crew. We know its badass because its bigger than the Enterprise and its painted black. If it needs minimal crew then why is it so large? I would think that something more frightening would be a tiny, undetectable ship that is super-powerful, and doesn't completely look like a bigger Enterprise. Couldn't we come up with a different Federation starship design? Some dialogue in the film makes a big deal about the Enterprise being the flagship of Starfleet, and then we introduce this monstrosity.
Don't get me wrong, the film is still enjoyable. The actors are all great in their roles, its just that the story is too convoluted for their own good. Spock and Kirk are becoming better friends, and Scotty is more useful, although it is interesting to note that in this film, like the last, we see more of Scotty off the Enterprise than we do on it. That is the biggest strength of the film, is that the actors seem at home in their roles and are so fun to watch, even if we don't know why they are all doing what they are doing all the time. The action scenes are thrilling, there is less lens flares (a plus!) and funny character interactions, all of which I liked. I just took major issues with the plot. Hopefully the next film can go into brand new territory for Star Trek and tell an original tale instead of rehashing old ones.
3 out of 5 Stars