I’m going to bring the full brunt of my nerd here, because if there is one thing you don’t mess with it’s my Trek. Star Trek is the newest spectacle from director JJ Abrams and continues to rewrite Trek history in a way that may shock and surprise some fans. While I was very much entertained by the film, it’s plot and visuals; the characters were lacking and there was a jarring sense of incompletion left when the credits start to roll. This review is going to be in depth as I have thought long and hard in the twelve hours since the movie ended.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a brilliant follow up to the original series episode “Space Seed”, in which Khan attempted to wrestle the Enterprise away from Kirk in order to continue his reign, albeit in the future. What worked about the film is, while Khan had been a one shot villain and was expected not to be heard from again, his return was one of pure vengeance against Kirk. The movie didn’t have to be loud and action packed to be effective and the actors didn’t even have to share the screen at the same time to be able to convey emotions.
Where the timeline changes is that Khan had been found by Starfleet Admiral Marcus, who decided to use Khan’s superior intellect as a tool to create ships and weapons designed for a more militaristic Federation. Kirk and Khan meet for the first time as the former is sent to capture the latter after two attacks on Earth kill many Federation citizens and the senior command of Starfleet’s finest vessels. This change understandably changes the relationship between Kirk and Khan. Both regarded each other as puppets in this film, a means to an end. The adversarial relationship was lost.
While I believe Benedit Cumberbatch to be an excellent actor; I believe this role was horribly miscast. We saw from the original series episode that Khan Noonien Singh, born in India, was played by physically fit and imposing Ricardo Montalban, a native of Mexico. Cumberbatch is in no way a physical presence and this lacking feature makes it impossible to believe he could beat battle hardened Klingon warriors into submission so easily. However, I am in no way stating that he did not play an effective villain. I think it would have been more effective if they had kept his name John Harrison and not play with the classics.
Echoed in this film is one of the most iconic scenes in Star Trek history. The sacrifice that was given in order to restore the warp drive before the imminent destruction of the Enterprise. However, in this film, it is Kirk that gives the ultimate sacrifice by taking the dose of radiation inside the warp reactor. While I still believe the original was a better scene, the heart that was portrayed between Alternate Kirk and Spock. It cemented the fact that they were good friends now. Unfortunately the entire scene is rendered completely useless, for they revive Kirk not twenty minutes later. While the emotional impact that cemented Kirk and Spock’s friendship remains, it is significantly lessened by the fact that the sacrifice is undone. If they wanted the impact to stick, Kirk should have remained dead. If they even wanted to animate him again, why did they need Khan’s blood? They have 72 other Khan-like people sitting right next to Kirk’s bed in the med bay.
The motivations of Section 31 have changed somewhat slightly in this universe. What was once a clandestine and relatively small group of operatives has become a power hungry and militaristic. I enjoyed the original Section 31 as depicted in Deep Space Nine. They were small group of people who were out to protect the Federation from high security threats by using deceit and espionage to complete their tasks. Even in Enterprise, this was founded as one of the earliest and most guarded parts of the Federation. With their inclusion in this universe as a larger and more active role in the Federation, I wonder what they may have in store if used again in the future. That would be a big if indeed.
Where the film excels is in its technical design. You get to see a bit more of the Enterprise’s innards, including the very complex looking warp core; again taking a departure from the clean and tidy look of the series. I very much enjoyed the look of the Dreadnaught class U.S.S. Vengeance, its dark and armoured hull and the bulky edges surrounding the engineering section of the ship. It was another departure from the streamlined vessels and I’ve always enjoyed seeing some of the more boxy looking vessels. Although I’m pretty sure that they just made the Klingon ships out of thrown away Transformer ideas.
I am at odds about the redesign of the Klingons in this one. I feel the look is too far from the original series and The Next Generation at the same time. It was established in Enterprise that generations worth of Klingons would be genetically predisposed to having their ridges removed. However, in the Prime Universe, by the 2280’s, ridge’s had again appeared on Klingons. This might just be an example of prequels retconning certain facts about the universe and causing unintentional continuity errors. We’re even given strong facts about the established timeline in a quick shot of starship models in Admiral Marcus’ office.
I just don’t know where to put my marker on this one. It was a fast paced action film, which I really enjoy. It’s certainly a JJ-verse Star Trek film, with its lens flare and everything moving so quickly you have no idea what’s going on. However it just falls short as a Star Trek movie. Sure it has the elements of the universe and the characters, but we could really use the feel that was put so delicately into the series franchise. Now that the Enterprise has gone on it’s five year mission, I hope we may see more exploration and less Earth in peril plots, which four out of the last six films in the franchise have had. Until the next one, which I hope has a more original villain.
Final Score: 7/10
P.S. It’s spelt Qo’nos. Get it right!