I have been a fan of Star Trek since “the time of the beginning” as an ancient Vulcan matriarch once said. I was there when Kirk, Spock and the crew of NCC-1701 first set out, boldly. To this day there are episodes that I love to watch, mostly because I like the characters so much. My favorites are Spock and McCoy. The six films based on the original series are a mixed bag. The only three I like are what I call the Spock Trilogy – WRATH OF KHAN, SEARCH FOR SPOCK, VOYAGE HOME - the last two directed by Leonard Nimoy. In 2009 J. J. Abrams gave us back Kirk, Spock and the crew of the
and he did a terrific job. Now, in the long awaited sequel, he has given us not just the crew and the ship but one of the two best villains in Star Trek Lore – Khan. Note: imho the other great Star Trek villain is the Borg Queen. Enterprise
After the release of the 2009 film many fans, old and young, posted on the net that they wanted to see a remake of the Khan story. I was not one of them because I would like to see new stories of the beginning of the five year mission, new insights into the characters I have loved for so long, not a rehash of a story that was very well done thirty years ago. The identity of the big bad for the second film was rumored for two years and finally in a literal blizzard of spoilers – the film was released in the
and other countries a week before the UK release – we all found out that the superb Benedict Cumberbatch was indeed a reboot of Khan. And what a reboot he is. U. S.
There are a lot of things wrong with this film – some minor things only a long time fan would notice and some pretty big. There is the totally gratuitous and illogical strip scene involving Carol Marcus and Jim Kirk in a shuttle, there is the illogic of a huge ship being built in a massive facility behind a moon of Jupiter which even in the 21st century someone would surely notice, and there is the truly upsetting engineering mistake of placing the Enterprise at the bottom of an ocean. Constitution class starships do NOT land and certainly do NOT submerge. Happily, Scotty is there to voice the complaints of the chief engineer and the seasoned fans.
There are many critics and fans who are trying to compare the story with the original and find the new film wanting. I am not one of them. In fact, I am very impressed with what screenwriters Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof have done with the old story. WOK was the story of a villain for the 80s. Khan was larger than life, played to the hilt by Ricardo Montalban, one of the few Trek actors who could over act more than William Shatner. The film looked good, the crew was superb and the “death” of Spock hit fans where it hurt the most – one of our heroes had died.
Khan in this film is far more intriguing. He is driven, deeply motivated, and a force that cannot be stopped without a great deal of collateral damage. Not just a mean bad guy from the past who has a grudge against a single star ship captain, this Khan is a victim as much as a perpetrator and there are moments when one can almost feel sorry for him. He is portrayed by one of the most amazing actors currently on film and TV, the superbly talented Benedict Cumberbatch who has thrilled fans with his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC mini series. With his deep voice and penetrating blue eyes this Khan is more disturbing than the original and the story is both darker and has deeper implications about what might be wrong in Star Fleet.
The writers have used a lot of old Star Trek lore in the telling of this film – giving us long time fans little “Easter eggs” that make the experience just a tad more enjoyable. They have reworked the story to leave out some of the dated bits and twist it in a way that will suit today’s audiences and, most important, focus on what is important: Kirk, Spock, the crew and the
. The Khan story – interesting as it is – is just a platform for two young officers to get to know each other better through danger, adventure and death. Enterprise
For me Star Trek has always been about the characters. From the original series to Next Generation – and my beloved Jean Luc Picard! – to Deep Space Nine and beyond, even when the stories were less than stellar the interaction of the characters was enough to keep me coming back. This cast is superb, and each one of them brings life to the franchise that might have died a long time ago.
Zoe Saldana is beautiful and she kicks ass as only a Star Fleet officer can. And she kicks the boyfriend with as much intensity as she kicks the bad guys. Anton Yelchin is simply adorable, especially when he takes responsibility for “breaking” the ship. And John Cho gives his all in one of the best short moments in the film. Karl Urban is the comic relief – just as DeForest Kelly once was – and the voice of conscious for the captain and others on the crew. He has this role down beautifully.
What can one say about Simon Pegg? He is simply terrific. As in the first film he too provides comic relief – and acts as the voice of the audience on a couple of occasions. But in this film he is also the voice of reason in a series of events that are running out of control so rapidly even the Vulcan doesn’t see the warnings. If it weren’t for the two principals, he would have dominated this film. Personally, I hope he dominates the next one.
Then there are the supporting actors – well Peter Weller can do bad while pretending to be good better than anyone and his Admiral Marcus deserves just what he gets. I’m not familiar with Alice Eve but the whole Carol Marcus story line could have been left on the cutting room floor and she would not have been missed.
As for Admiral Christopher Pike - so wonderfully portrayed by Bruce Greenwood – well there is a moment in a bar when he tells his protégé Jim Kirk “they gave her back to me” and he is again the commander of the
. He never gets the chance to beam up, sadly, and I for sorry he didn’t get to command her just one more time. His relationship with the headstrong and slightly arrogant Jim Kirk is one of the best in the Star Trek Universe. Takes a very good actor to make a very big impression in just a few scenes, as he did in the first film. He will be sorely missed. (HINT to JJ – maybe a flashback or two in the next film?) Enterprise
In what was a bigger secret than the identity of Cumberbatch’s character, there is Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime. His appearance alone is worth seeing this film again and again.
Finally, this film is about Kirk and Spock and there simply are no actors alive who can portray these young, seemingly mismatched officers as well as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Pine is a better actor, and thus a better Kirk, than the original. Quinto has taken the role immortalized by Leonard Nimoy – and with that great actor’s blessing – and made it his own. These two bring new life to old characters and make Kirk and Spock more interesting, more believable, and more compelling than even Gene Roddenberry could have imagined all those many years ago.
There is fun in this film, there are wonderful battle scenes, interesting characters, and a lot of heartbreak. There is friendship, love, family and questions that have disturbing answers.
And there is the ship, our ship, NCC-1701, larger than life, beautiful as only she can be. Abrams nearly kills her in this film and I hope he gets over that in the next one. There are some truly wonderful moments – none quite as awesome as the view of her emerging from behind Titan in the first film – and some scary moments. When Scotty tells Kirk that she is done, finished, lost, dead – well, you have to see it to know how much of a kick in the gut that is.
Abrams is going on to direct Star Wars. I wonder if he can reboot that as successfully as he did Star Trek. Doubt it. How often can one director find the perfect cast, get the perfect legendary actor to return twice to a role he gave up many years ago, and make films that satisfy new fans and those of us who have been here since the time of the beginning?
I just hope he will direct the next Star Trek cause he is the reason we have these two wonderful films and he is the one who can take us, boldly, into space to discover all those strange new worlds.