Review – Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser Poster

Cumberbatch as Khan surrounded by securityBut the thing that bothered me the most was the true identity of the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch. For months the Internet has been abuzz wondering who he might be, with the majority of rumors saying that he was playing Khan. I had hoped and prayed that he wasn’t playing Khan because, as much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch, you don’t hire a pasty white British guy to play a Sikh. Ricardo Montalban was hired to play Khan in the 1960s, and he wasn’t a Sikh either–Latino is not exactly Indian–but they could have just hired a white guy and made him look Indian, which was pretty par for the course at the time. They had at least hired someone who wasn’t white to play the role, and a major role in the episode at that. The idea of hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to play Khan in 2013 felt like going backwards, being even less inclusive of minorities than a show from the 60s. Imagine that.

So, who does Cumberbatch actually play in the film? Sigh. He plays freaking Khan. Don’t get me wrong, he did an amazing job with the part and completely stole the movie, but I was so disappointed that they actually cast a white man in an Indian role in this day and age, that once his identity was revealed it took me a while to get back into the movie. Unfortunately, I had already seen this coming and had just been in denial ever since the clip was released online of Cumber-Khan telling Kirk that there were 72 reasons why he should listen and they were on his ship. If you know your Star Trek, you know that Khan was one of 84 genetically altered humans who escaped Earth on the SS Botany Bay, but only 72 survived (of course Khan was included in that number, but maybe an extra super human survived in this universe). Once I saw that I was afraid, after having convinced myself that they wouldn’t actually do something as stupid as hire Cumberbatch to play Khan. I kept thinking that they couldn’t, wouldn’t, go through with it. But sadly, they did.

Kirk and Spock's hands against the glassIt’s not just the issue of casting that bothered me. The story was affected as well by the writers depending too much on Wrath of Khan to keep this movie afloat. The allusions to the film, one considered by many fans to be the best of all Trek films ever, started early with Spock quoting that iconic line, “The needs of the many…” right there in the opening scene. It culminates in something you can see coming a mile off thanks to some heavy-handed foreshadowing: the ship is about to be destroyed because of engine problems, but it’s too dangerous to go into the engine core to fix it. Of course, someone goes in and fixes it, saving the crew.

Except this time Kirk ended up being the one making the ultimate sacrifice, reversing his role and Spock’s. I’m glad that they did that, because if Spock had done it then it would have felt like nothing more than a redone WoK. Though it did still feel a bit like that anyway. And when they had the characters start quoting/paraphrasing things from WoK, I had to stop myself from covering my eyes in embarrassment. The references became too much; they felt ridiculous, and the characters seemed to play it out in an almost perfunctory way. When Spock yelled the famous “KHAN!” line I actually laughed out loud. The writers used WoK as a crutch, and it felt like this film was never quite able to stand on its own without relying on it.

I liked this movie, but I liked it as just a regular action movie. It didn’t really feel much like Star Trek to me, despite the overdone homage to WoK. It felt like a space adventure wrapped in Trek clothing and underneath it was something else. This film was a fun ride, but it did not live up to what I had hoped for. I was glad to see the crew back together again, and I enjoyed the set up of the plot, but when it became a rehashing of WoK I was dragged out of the movie and couldn’t focus on anything else except the glaring problems. I think my final rating would be a B. I’m probably going to see it again, but it doesn’t match the first one in my opinion. Feel free to sound off your own opinion in the comments below.

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