Legend has it that Alfred Hitchcock coined the term "Sandwich Moment" and used it to describe an event that would occur a day or so after watching a film of... questionable quality. He sometimes used the similar term, "Refrigerator Moment." It's kind of a funny, frustrating, revelation. It feels like you've had the wool pulled over your eyes and suddenly, after the fact, notice it. Like you witnessed a great slight of hand artist at work and just figured out his trick. In a flash, you feel respect for the skill involved, and amusement or entertainment on some level for the ingenuity of the trick, but primarily, you feel like you just got taken.
One of these dudes is an Asian Sikh with Mongol ancestry. Can you guess which one?
And let me say that it doesn't mean you didn't enjoy watching the film. Typically that's not the case at all. Typically the film is more than good enough to keep you entertained. Absolutely. But, upon reflection, the cracks begin to show, quickly, often and the internal logic of the film just falls apart.
I did enjoy it (Star Trek Into Darkness). It was genuinely fun, it had some great lines, it sports the highest possible production values, the performances were all solid, the action was interesting, and it really hustled along with breakneck speed. But lately, I'm discovering that this new breakneck pace that modern films demand is not just a sign of exciting film making. It's also a symptom of something else: a defensive, obfuscating distraction. It's absolutely required to keep you from figuring out what is seriously wrong with the film WHILE you are watching it, allowing you to leave on a high, all jacked up like you just stepped off an awesome roller coaster and feeling compelled to tell everyone you had a great time. But that wears off. And then it hits you: THAT DIDN'T ACTUALLY MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL.
Star Trek Into Darkness was SUPPOSED to make over a hundred million in it's opening weekend. But it didn't. It was supposed to build on the success of the original. But it hasn't. Is it a failure? No. Not really. It's making good money, but it is considered weak by Hollywood blockbuster standards and I believe that it's due entirely to two seriously mishandled elements:
- Mishandled promotion re: the villain. The secrecy surrounding Benedict Cumberbatch's character and how the powers behind STID handled the "big reveal." After the fanboys figured out who the character was very early on, instead of admitting to the fact and changing tactics by embracing the interest of fans and just promoting the hell out of what should have been a slam dunk, they decided to simply DENY IT, telling said fan base "No. That's not it. You're just going to have to see the film to find out". Ultimately they outright lied to try to hide a weak element that doesn't actually help the film at all.
- The script and its many "sandwich moments" created by the writing style of one Damon Lindelof.
Who the hell is Damon Lindelof? Look him up on IMDB.com. He's the guy that is single-handidly responsible for everything dumb and frustrating about the TV series Lost
, and also the recent Alien
spin-off film Prometheus
. He's really good at what he does, and he has completely won over Hollywood (which is nearly impossible to do, so kudos to him). He gets brought in to "fix" scripts, and he's one of JJ Abram's favorite collaborators. Unfortunately. I'm not saying he's an idiot, but I am saying I don't personally like what he does and that it often feels like he treats his own audience like the idiots.
So, in the words of Benedict Cumberbatch's character "John Harrison", "Shall we begin?"
SPOILER AND LANGUAGE ALERT!
I"M GOING TO GIVE THE WHOLE MOVIE AWAY NOW!
AND I"M GOING TO USE FOUL LANGUAGE TO DO IT!
TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON"T WANT TO KNOW,
OR IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN CHASTE!
The movie is filled with dumb shit. I mean a ton of it. But as mentioned, it hustles along so fast, and it's so fun, you really don't have time to let the dumbness sink in and see it for what it is. It's a very effective use of classic "shock and awe" type tactics. But there's really no denying it's fucking dumb.
The film opens on a planet inhabited by a tribal civilization. Cool looking natives with cracked white skin (body paint?), and black eyes that have inhuman eyelids and wear loincloth-y type clothing and such live in the shadow of an angry volcano. As per everything in the film, they look cool, the volcano beginning to erupt in the background looks cool, the blood red vegetation/forest-type stuff looks cool. It's all JJ Abrams cool. Until...
So this is what the natives look like
From overhead we see Kirk (in disguise - heavily covered up in a wrapped hood and long cloak) hauling ass away from some kind of temple. OK. Now we're clearly in a Star Trek movie (although Bill Shatner never moved that fast -ever, so this must be THE NEW, JJ-STYLE WARP SPEED STAR TREK WITH FASTER-THAN-LOGIC ENGINES). He's being chased by the natives. Why? Because he stole something from their little temple - a scroll of some kind. Why? Unclear. I assume it's because he was trying to lure the natives away from the temple area and specifically the dangerous erupting volcano. Why? No idea, but in short order we discover that the crew of the Enterprise is there attempting to save the planet by diffusing the volcano with a "cold fusion" bomb. Got that? Oh, and also, The Enterprise is just off shore, hiding on the floor of the ocean. Because Lindelof.
Here's the plan: Spock is going to be lowered into the volcano on a rope (makes sense!) out of a shuttle. He's going to set up a suitcase "cold fusion" bomb that will neutralize the erupting volcano, and then everybody is going to escape in the nick of time WITHOUT VIOLATING STARFLEET'S PRIME DIRECTIVE WHICH IS TO NEVER INTERFERE WITH A PLANET'S INDIGENOUS LIFE. EVER. "There can be no interference with the internal development of an alien civilization". This means never get involved, never alter the course of their natural development or evolution, never give them new technology, never make contact, never even let them see you!
OK. After a lot of loud and exciting shit and some great, but shallow dialogue, the plan works. Amazing right? BUT... not before Kirk lets the natives see the Enterprise rising out of the ocean while rescuing Spock from the volcano. It looks very cool rising out of the water and, naturally, the natives see it flying off towards the heavens, go batshit, declare it their new God and begin worshiping it. Sure. Who wouldn't?
Let's stop and have a look at that series of events:
Why is Kirk (and Bones) on the volcano planet at all? Why are they trying to lure the natives away from the volcano? Even if they ARE trying to get them to safety, it is explained at more than one point that IF the volcano erupted THE ENTIRE PLANET WOULD BE DESTROYED. Running a mile away would do exactly sweet fuck all.
And this is Kirk's idea of "blending in" with the white and yellow natives. ?
Why is simply wearing cloaks while "dynamically" interacting with an indigenous race not considered breaching the prime directive? Spock actually asks Kirk if they were seen by the natives SECONDS after we watch the natives screaming, pointing and chasing after Kirk. Kirk says NO. As in "No, they didn't see me" WTF? Kirk and Bones steal something akin to a religious artifact out of a temple wearing shit that does not look like anything else we see. Not even close. The natives are in white body paint and bright yellow loincloths. Kirk and Bones are in long, grey robes with hoods. Nobody else is wearing anything similar, let alone much at all. If they wanted to avoid detection, or at least avoid being perceived as an outside force/aliens, why didn't they dress up like the natives? (Because they need to stand out and be easily recognizable to the viewer, but still SEEM to be TRYING to stay hidden from the natives, that's why) Lindelof.
Despite their inexplicable and idiotic attempt to "stay hidden" from the locals by raiding a temple and stealing a religious artifact, they are clearly seen AND HEARD by the natives yelling in English. So... that's too dumb to defend. Super dumb, but required to keep the viewer entertained and distracted during the sequence.
What happens on a remote tribal planet stays on a remote, tribal planet.
Also: why the fuck is the Enterprise hiding underwater anyway? If anything about that craft is designed using real world science, who the hell would have thought that moving through water in a craft designed for the weightlessness of space would be "pretty much the same thing". That is fucking dumb. Really, really cool looking, but fucking dumb. Why would it not simply be in orbit as usual? Why not transport everyone back and forth? In the film, somebody says some bullshit about the planet's magnetic fields making that impossible or some such nonsense, but they actually do beam Spock out of the volcano at the last second anyway, so... Huh? And if they can transport Spock, then why the fuck were Kirk and Bones running around on the surface? Ultimately a thousand other options existed that would have made a hell of a lot more sense, but that's not how Lindelof rolls, yo. Action first, logic way in the back. This is now a franchise that has been outfitted with FASTER THAN LOGIC DRIVE.
Yeah. It does look cool. But... seriously?
Also, who decided that COLD FUSION has anything to do with freezing temperatures? It doesn't. Cold fusion is less hot than standard fusion, yes, but it certainly doesn't make shit cold. That's dumb AND ignorant. And I'm not going to even critique the concept that detonating a "cold bomb" inside an erupting volcano would instantly render it inert. OK, I just did.
Are we really supposed to believe that every Starfleet ship is equipped with a suitcase bomb that requires being activated in person, at the target site? Don't we have things that can fly to a target destination and blow it up, right now in 2013? Shouldn't a snazzy photon torpedo be able to do that from orbit? Magnetic field you say? Fuck off.
Did anybody else notice EVERYBODY that went down to the surface was in a wet suit,
not just Bones and Kirk, who were the only ones that actually went into the water?
And did anybody notice that Uhura had a completely different wetsuit in sexy red, with a cool Peter Pan collar?
If one of the Enterprise's shuttlecraft can't take the intense heat of the volcano's interior and starts breaking up just flying Spock into position, why does a shiny red space suit worn by Spock do the trick just fine? And even if we accept that an atmospheric re-entry-proof shuttle can't handle what a fucking suit can, why should I believe that the cartoonish suitcase bomb would work just fine under those same conditions? Did it have a 60's Batman-style label on it reading: ANTI-VOLCANO BRIEFCASE ICE BOMB? I mean Spock had to open it right up to activate it, exposing and then pushing what appeared to be normal, plastic-looking console buttons and stuff, so how could that be protected at all? It's only FEET away from the lava while the shuttle couldn't get anywhere near that close before blowing apart. It can't possibly be explained to be made out of heat-proof materials, could it? Seems like utter bullshit to me. It's goofy. It's dumb.
Next: If Spock was so against breaching the prime directive, and felt so determined to confront Kirk about it, giving him all kinds of shit for two scenes about it, WHY DID SPOCK BREACH THE PRIME DIRECTIVE HIMSELF? Are Vulcans hypocritical assholes now? Just before dropping into the volcano he nags Kirk with the line "There can be no interference with the internal development of an alien civilization" And then he, himself, DIRECTLY INTERFERES. IN THE NEXT SECOND. As Pike points out clearly in the following scene, even the act of stopping the volcano eruption -despite that it would save the planet- breaks the directive as well. The entire "operation" was a complete and utter comic book shit show, and Spock should shut his fucking mouth because his plan was every bit as dumb as Kirk's.
Spock in his Anti-Volcano suit
We also have to endure Zoe Saldana's neutered Uhura deliver the lame, modern, street-cred vernacular line of shit "You got this" to her boyfriend Spock before he gets dropped into the volcano. It's painful. At that point I prepared myself for a moment later in the film where, while arguing with Spock, she wags her finger and states "Oh, no you Di-INT!" Fortunately they cut that scene.
But it was a cool sequence. Right? Sure. Cool and dumb as shit. And that was just the second sequence folks. There's a ton more dumb shit in this film. Two more hours of it.
So this sequence ends with the Title sequence: the logo Star Trek Into Darkness and some dramatic music.
Next up: a short sequence featuring a black couple waking up out of bed.
travel through future London, England to a children's hospital where
they visit their dying daughter. After staring
at the sick girl for a bit, and watching Mom gingerly place a stuffed bunny beside their sick-looking girl (sniff), dad walks out onto the hospital's balcony and is
met by Cabbagepatch Mumblecore (Benedict
Cumberpatch) delivering the line" "I can save her." "Who are
you?" asks the dad, and the camera turns to reveal Sherlock Holmes. It's
Benedict Cumberbatch looking like a character from ANY OTHER MOVIE. I
mean it's Benedict Cumberbatch looking cool all right, but he doesn't
looks special beyond that. This doesn't feel like Star Trek AT ALL.
In the very next, very short scene, we see young, studly Kirk in bed getting some tail. Literally. Check this golden concept out: he's in bed, right? With TWO girls, because... well, because James T. Kirk, and both girls are ALIENS, right? And one of the girls HAS A TAIL. And because in the first film (Star Trek 2009) Kirk was in bed with ONE alien girl, obviously, this being Star Trek 2, he needs to be in bed with two. Pretty simple math. Nailed it.
It's important to point out that this scene is opened with THE BEASTIE BOYS track Body Rockin'
. See, Kirk is a huge fan of all things old. Especially white rap. And I get the white part at least because this film is super duper white. For a fact, JJ Abrams has now made it tradition to place one BB track in every Star Trek movie. In Star Trek 2009, it was Sabotage
. It's not cool. It's a contrived choice designed to make the film hip to the kids and keep the younger demographic happy. Except kids don't listen to The Beastie Boys. Beastie Boys fans, like the Beastie Boys themselves are middle-aged now. So this is pretty clearly just the director amusing himself. Frankly, I think it sucks. And I like the Beastie Boys. It puts a date on the film and it's a distraction. I hate it like I'd hate watching Spock crack open a Red Bull and talk about the logic of having more energy.
Also, this scene lasts exactly 15 seconds. For real. Which means everybody knew it was a waste of screen time, but also that everybody in charge felt it was really important to show Kirk getting laid. Cheap, lazy and dumb. Thanks for keeping it short, anyway.
Then Kirk rushes off to meet Spock. They've been summoned by Admiral Christopher Pike, to his office at Starfleet HQ. Kirk thinks it's because they're about to be awarded with a five year mission to explore deep space. Spock, being Spock, is not convinced. Turns out they get their asses chewed off for breaking the prime directive. Who saw that coming? Not me. Pike is the former captain of the Enterprise, a focal character of the
2009 film and a character played with more heart than this film deserves by Mr. Bruce
Greenwood. He demotes Kirk and assigns both Kirk and Spock to different ships. It turns
out Spock submitted a factual report of what happened and got Kirk into
serious shit, stripping him of the rank of captain and reassigning him
to another ship. Bummer. Spock and Kirk, still very early on in their
relationship are clashing for dramatic effect. That's called dramatic tension,
folks. Kirk and Spock bitch at one another. And Uhura and Spock bitch at one another. Of course Bones and Spock bitch at one another and... basically everybody and Spock bitch at one another. So... Kirk and Spock don't understand each other yet. Keep that in mind for
Kirk trying not to stare at Pike's muttonchops
Oh. Genuine points for the "I am Vulcan sir, we embrace technicality" exchange between Spock and Pike. That's a great one. For real. I enjoyed it. So... that's one for Lindelof, I guess.
Back to London, England where we watch the black Starfleet employee and father to the dying girl revisit the children's hospital. He has clearly cut a deal with Cumberbatch's mysterious character. He injects some magical fluid into his daughter, curing her almost instantly. That is amazing. And idiotic. Lindelof has now neutralized death in the new Trek movie universe. For
real. Just wait, it gets way better. And dumber. Ultimately black Starfleet dad has to payback for his daughter's cure and bombs the shit out of a Starfleet facility, killing himself in the process. Hmmm. Let me think about that. OK. We need this series of events to happen, so it happens. And Lindelof FASTER THAN LOGIC logic dictates, Deus ex Machina (a plot device
whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly
resolved, with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new
event, character, ability, or object.) is acceptable now, so... fine. We swallow all that without issue. Except that it's a really dumb, unnecessary and creates all kinds of huge issues later.
"And BOOM goes the dynamite."
And the way I see it, that Starfleet employee was an absolute asshole for not only killing a bunch of the employees that he used to work with, but for also leaving his wife a widow. Fuck that guy for his selfish cowardice. Why not cure his daughter and then immediately turn in creepy Cumberbatch?
That's just me, though. I like to think out of the box.
Cut to Jim Kirk getting shitfaced in a bar. He tries to hit on a girl (Human no less!), and Pike shows up to dispense wisdom. Pike's muttonchops rock this movie by the way. I may have preferred watching two hours of Bruce Greenwood in muttonchops. They're fucking awesome. Anyway, there's some witty dialogue referring back to the fight Kirk got into in the 2009 film and Pike eventually admits, he's been given back The Enterprise as its captain and that Kirk will be his first officer. It's not a bad scene. And... muttonchops.
"It takes years to grow these, son. Years."
Pike gets a message on his communicator/iPhone that there's an "emergency meeting at Daystrom". and they're off.
ASIDE: Has anyone else noticed that communicators have evolved into the same dimensions as today's smartphones making them much more natural AND less interesting looking at the same time? The magic is kinda gone. I guess that's what happens when today catches up with tomorrow.
Next, we see Kirk at the Starfleet HQ walking past heavily armed guards that tell us "shit has gone down". Kirk raises an eyebrow and, quickly heading towards this super-important emergency meeting, gets onto an elevator... with Spock. Don't think about how amazing the timing of this is considering that Kirk was just with Pike in the last scene, that they left together heading to the same place, and that he will be sitting right beside Pike in the very next scene. Right now we need an aside between Kirk and Spock, so... Lindelof.
Incredibly, Spock apologizes for following Starfleet protocol and getting Kirk into trouble. Kirk accepts the apology but also accuses him of stabbing him in the back. It's kind of fucked up. They both broke the rules, but Kirk trumped Spock by lying to Starfleet in an official report. So... ??? There's a funny moment at the end of the scene, but... Lindelof.
"Stay out of trouble."
So after the bombing, all the top brass of Starfleet assemble in one room and talk about what to do about it. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) has assembled everyone and fills them all in. In one little room in San Fransisco. Sound like a good idea to you? Me either. I have to point out that it is made crystal clear to viewers that the people in the room not only represent the earth-bound upper ranks of Starfleet, but also the "senior command of all the vessels in the region". Got it? Good. Marcus pins the bombing on a man named John Harrisssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry. I fell asleep there. Is that not the LEAST INTERESTING NAME FOR A PERSON OF INTEREST - EVER? Jesus. Anyway, they pin the bombing on him. Marcus says that Harrison is "one of their own and has declared a one-man war on Starfleet".
Now here's the next tidal wave of dumb shit:
As Marcus spills on who this new threat is and gives us all the backstory on bad guy John Harrison, Kirk figures something out that nobody else can, and it's a beaut. I love the way that WITHIN THE FILM, one of the characters points out just how fucking dumb everyone in the room is: That if it's common knowledge that following a major security-threatening event like the bombing, that all top brass of Starfleet meet in this SPECIFIC ROOM in San Fransisco, wouldn't it be a great tactic for a terrorist to bomb something and then ATTACK THIS VERY ROOM RIGHT NOW, WITH EVERYBODY SITTING IN A TIGHT, LITTLE CIRCLE LIKE FISH IN A BARREL? Sure enough, somebody ATTACKS THAT ROOM RIGHT THEN, WITH EVERYBODY SITTING IN A TIGHT, LITTLE CIRCLE LIKE FISH IN A BARREL. Dumb on so many levels.
"Who wants to go in on some wings?"
So, as Kirk points out, this IS the perfect time and place to attack. But just before that, he's sitting at the big, round table with all the Starfleet heavyweights, looking at "security footage" of Harrison near the bombing site - CARRYING A DUFFLEBAG.
Somebody has to explain to me why Harrison was anywhere NEAR that bombing site, when black dad of dying girl did all the work. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASONABLE EXPLANATION TO SUPPORT THE IDEA THAT KIRK COULD FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF HARRISON HAVING BEEN AT THE SITE. It's utter bullshit. And the fancy video security footage FX that Kirk zooms through, in and around are nothing but eye-candy distraction. IT MAKES NO SENSE.
"Everybody get behind a lead character."
So Kirk asks "what's in the bag?" (that Harrison is carrying - note for later). He interrupts the pow wow to say this would be a perfect time for Harrison to attack and lo and behold, Harrison attacks, as I said, AT THAT EXACT SECOND. Does he blow the building up with a huge bomb like he did the other building in London? You know, because that's easy, effective and safe for him? Nope. Harrison, in a small gunship, dripping with weapons (akin to say, stealing an Apache Helicopter and flying it at the pentagon and shooting the shit out of it AFTER a major terrorist bombing which - you would think - would put Starfleet on high alert) effortlessly PARKS THE FLYING ATTACK CRAFT RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOWS, and proceeds to blow the fuck out of the room and everything in it FOR SEVERAL MINUTES without being engaged by any Starfleet or otherwise earth-bound security forces at all. Pike is killed, several others are killed and although Kirk does super-cool Kirk stuff to stop the attack (WITH A FUCKING FIRE HOSE), Harrison gets away clean, with Kirk ultimately vowing revenge, and swearing he will bring Harrison down, no matter what.
"Two more Admirals and I'll beat my HIGH SCORE!"
Lets have a look at that combination of events for a moment:
So, all the starships in the area are brought into orbit for this meeting, and we decide that by far the most secure place to assemble the most important people in Starfleet is in an unarmed, unsecured, undefended office building that any surface craft can fly right up to without incident? During a high alert? Why not meet in a ship? In orbit? Anywhere else?
Speaking of the other starships in the area, where the hell are they? Didn't some of them just lose their captains too? Wouldn't THOSE crew members be pissed and out for blood like Kirk is after losing his mentor/captain, Pike? Wouldn't THEY be on high alert? Nope. No biggie, I guess, and keep this in mind: WE NEVER SEE ANOTHER STARFLEET SHIP NEAR EARTH OR AT ALL FOR THE ENTIRE FILM. Not one. Nobody is fucking home, gang. The centre of the Starfleet universe, our homeworld, where, again, every important Starfleet official is living, and at a time where (as the film supports through dialogue) The Federation is on the brink of war with the Klingons, there is NO OTHER SHIP NEARBY TO HELP DURING THIS SUPER SHITTY INCIDENT OR THE FINAL BATTLE AT THE END OF THE FILM. Later, the bad guy's ship just cruises on into Earth's orbit and nobody seems to give a shit. PEOPLE WALKING AROUND ON THE GROUND are surprised by the appearance of the ship only as it breaks through the clouds like that's the first anybody could have possibly noticed it. That is some seriously dumb shit. We'll get to even more of that dumb shit later.
Like I said, Pike dies. In one final scene with Greenwod's muttonchops, Bruce Greenwood does the classic "gurgling death while being cradled by another character" scene proud and knocks it out of the park on his back with his eyes wide open. Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine are even good. It's a solid scene and even I wept for the muttonchop loss. And let me say this: the franchise just got shittier for killing off Bruce Greenwood. Of course, we've already established that anybody can be brought back from the dead in this new film universe, but never mind that. We are about to go warp speed with the LINDELOF FASTER THAN LOGIC DRIVE.
We see a quick scene of Harrison being TELEPORTED onto a hostile looking planet. Remember that.
"Well... THAT was easy."
Next, the next day, Kirk gets a call from Spock saying that SCOTTY HAS DISCOVERED SOMETHING IN THE WRECKAGE OF THE GUNSHIP HARRISON USED TO ATTACK STARFLEET. Think about that. Everybody in Starfleet is involved in a planetwide dragnet thinking Harrison is still on Earth somewhere. He's public enemy number one. Everybody is on it. Starfleet's best. Every able-bodied man, woman and child in a Starfleet uniform is on the job. Tearing our planet apart. Locking everything down big-time. Right? Sure. And guess who figures out where he went? Scotty. SCOTTY. Scotty for absolutely no good reason has somehow been given access to a key piece of evidence during a critical investigation during a breach of Federation-wide security after a mass murder of upper command officers. SCOTTY. Yeah. Nobody else would bother looking at it - right? Obviously.
So anyway, Scotty figures out (are you sitting?) that, to get away, Harrison has used a (and I quote) "PORTABLE TRANSWARP BEAMING DEVICE" TO SEND HIMSELF SAFELY, DIRECTLY, FROM THE SURFACE OF EARTH, TO THE KLINGON HOMEWORLD. Remember the dufflebag? Yup. Poof. Who the fuck needs a clumsy spaceship? Ships are for suckers, suckers. All you need is a device the size of a fucking dufflebag. From this point forward in this rebooted franchise, anybody can beam anywhere, at any time, when the writer needs that to happen. Magnetic fields you say? Fuck you, says Lindelof.
Back to Starfleet at FTL speeds. Kirk crashes the next meeting of Starfleet top brass. Interestingly, it looks really similar to the last one, but with fewer people and OBVIOUSLY in a different room, so Starfleet learns fast, folks. Kirk just barges right in. NO SECURITY! I mean what are the chances that would happen AGAIN, right? Exactly. Lindelof.
Kirk confronts Admiral Marcus and tells him the bullshit story of Harrison escaping to Kronos and demands to be given permission to follow Harrison to fuck him up. Why Kronos? With things so strained between Starfleet and the Klingons, there's no way anyone would pursue him there, right? Wrong. Have you MET Jim Kirk? By the way, this is a planet that, throughout canon within the Trek franchise, has always been called Qo’noS. Now it's “Kronos”. Why? Because Lindelof don't give a shit and that was hard to spell.
After asking to be reinstated as the Enterprise captain ( I mean why not? It's like going into the late night variety and buying 100 useless things so you can slip in a nudie magazine without the clerk realizing you're too young to buy it. Right?), and requesting permission to go after Harrison, Kirk actually says "Starfleet can't go after him, but I can."
Can somebody tell me what the hell that means? You want to be reinstated as captain - an officially awarded rank within the Federation Starfleet Forces and then you want to take the NEWEST, SHINIEST SHIP IN THE FLEET into enemy space, but that, in your mind, is somehow NOT connected to or related with Starfleet in any official way? Are you SURE the Klingons are going to see it that way? You sir, are talking UTTER HORSEHOCKEY.
So the top dog of Starfleet, Admiral Marcus, played by none other than the original Robocop himself, Peter Weller starts to open up: he admits that the bombing site in London wasn't just a harmless archive building, but a top secret facility known as "Section 31" where all kinds of awesome new weaponry and surveillance technology to spy on the Klingons is being developed. He says that Harrison was "one of his top agents". Kirk says, "Well, now he's a fugitive and I want to take him out" because these days Star Trek characters talk like they just stepped out of Grand Theft Auto. They also state that the province of Kronos where Harrison is hiding is UNINHABITED. Yup. Then Marcus divulges (this is a lot of exposition folks. Not a sign of a great script) that Section 31 had just developed a brand new photon torpedo. "Long range and untraceable. Invisible to Klingon sensors" (for some reason we won't get into right now). Marcus agrees to Kirk's requests and gives him his orders: "You park on the edge of the neutral zone, lock onto Harrison, fire, kill him and haul ass". Admiral Marcus also plays Grand Theft Auto and watches a lot of Sam Jackson movies.
Everybody scrambles back to the Enterprise to embark on this "black ops"-type super secret mission to kill Harrison. On the shuttle ride up to the Enterprise Kirk and Spock argue morality and the inherit problem with firing torpedoes at another race's homeworld. Kirk don't care. They are introduced to blonde bombshell Carol "WALLACE" and she shows him her credentials. That's not a joke. Yet. She's a Lieutenant and specializes in ADVANCED WEAPONRY. Got it? The story is that she was assigned by Admiral Marcus. Got it? Good.
These torpedoes smell like bullshit
On board, Scotty is freaking out about these weird, secretive torpedoes (From Admiral Marcus) that are being loaded onto his Enterprise. In short, Scotty, for safety reasons, won't let them on-board unless he's told what their nasty payload is made of. It is here that we discover Admiral Marcus has sent over SIX DOZEN (72) OF THESE SECRET PHOTON TORPEDOES. Seventy-fucking two!
For one dude! One, single man. See, because we want to avoid starting a war with the
Klingons, so the best way to do that is to FIRE SEVENTY-TWO PHOTON
TORPEDOES AT THEIR HOMEWORLD. Sure. Whatever. You're the boss, Robocop.
No-one will say what's in the torpedoes. They're "classified". When Kirk tries to "Kirk" Scotty into signing for and authorizing them anyway, SCOTTY QUITS. WHAT? That's right, Montgomery Scott walks away from his rank and duties on the Enterprise. Why? Because Lindelof needs him elsewhere later! NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
Then, on the way to the bridge, Kirk and Uhura talk about her relationship with Spock. Yup. It's pretty lowbrow and unfortunate for fans of Uhura. It's funny, but it's dumb. On the bridge, Chekov is reassigned to replace Scotty and they're off!
Kirk addresses the crew and tells them that (due to Spock guilting the shit out of him) he has decided to GO DIRECTLY AGAINST CRYSTAL CLEAR ORDERS BY ADMIRAL MARCUS, and actually capture the outlaw Harrison instead. This will involve taking an away party down to the surface of the Klingon homeworld, arresting Harrison at gunpoint and fleeing without detection. WITHOUT DETECTION.
Now we're in the bowels of the ship. We see Lt. Carol Wallace messing with one of the secret torpedoes. The camera rotates to reveal Spock standing there looking unimpressed. He calls her out, asking what she is doing on the Enterprise and states there was never any order assigning her to the ship. Then he rips off her head. Sorry, no, that was just in my mind. THAT would have made more sense. What actually happens is that Spock deduces that she is Admiral Marcus' daughter and she has been using her mother's maiden name as a cover to slip on board. It's just that easy. Because cruise director Julie McCoy (no relation to Bones) on the fucking Love Boat
TV series did a better job at security and properly identifying passengers boarding than anyone on the Enterprise. DUMB AS SHIT. But FASTER THAN LOGIC strikes before they can resolve anything and...
Now we get to another really annoying trick that director JJ Abrams and Lindelof have now mastered: You know the horror movie device known as a "JUMP SCARE"? Forever it's been a cheap trick employed by Horror movie writers and directors who don't know how to otherwise create tension, in an attempt to make their shitty films seem scarier. They're annoying. But up until now, they've only been used in horror films. However, at several points during STID, jump scares are employed at the tail end of quiet, reflective scenes after actors spit out a ton of exposition, or do a little character work, or whatever. The viewer is taking a breather from the RELENTLESS FASTER THAN LOGIC SPEED OF THE ACTION, enjoying some witty banter amongst the characters and suddenly WHAM!!!!! something loud and shocking happens! The camera jerks, there is a huge bang, or clang, or explosion of some kind and we are suddenly at 100 miles an hour and heading for danger. It's exciting. And it's a cheap trick. And it's annoying like it's always been annoying in lesser horror movies too. Does anybody actually enjoy jump scares? Not this guy.
So BANG! Right at the end of the Carol (Webber) Marcus/Spock conversation, the warp drive breaks down explosively and the Enterprise spins out of warp. Did I mention, BANG?! It looks cool, though, of course.
So, plan B. Kirk's new plan is to disguise his away team as "traders" or "arms dealers" or some other goddamn thing. He leaves the bridge and puts Sulu in charge, racing off to shuttle bay 2. As he leaves, he says "Mr. Sulu, make sure that Kanorvian (or something like that) ship is ready to fly".
Sulu sits down in the captain's chair, gets on the comm to the shuttle bay and says my favorite shitty line from the film -the flimsiest fucking string of absolute shit ever "Get the trade ship we confiscated during the Mudd incident last
month fueled and ready. Captain Kirk is on route to you now." Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!! It's the ultimate "No time to explain/don't question what I'm saying/ignore the man behind the curtain bullshit line ever. It was awesomely dumb. I mean OF COURSE they're cruising around with a confiscated alien ship. Right? I mean what they REALLY need is an unmarked, unregistered NON STARFLEET, NON-HUMAN ORIGIN spaceship that holds just the right amount of people and can go really fast and is super-maneuverable. Right? Like most "trade ships." Right? PAINFULLY, CONVENIENTLY DUMB.
In truth, the explanation of the ship's presence and the entire "Mudd Incident" is detailed in the STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS PREQUEL COMIC BOOK, but even WITH that additional information - which 99.99999% of viewers in theatres won't have - it's bullshit. And even the comic only features Mudd's DAUGHTER, not even the man himself. It's a lame shout out to fans, referring to the immensely popular Trek character known as Harry Mudd. Harry Mudd is the character responsible for introducing the fuzzy Tribble aliens to the Trek franchise way back during the original series, and this little BS injection is the only reason that a TRIBBLE is appearing later in this film as well. More on that horseshit later. It's all an utter throwaway and having that ship available just when they need it is total Deus ex Machina. Because LINDELOF!
Then, of course, everyone dresses in black, they get on the Mudd ship, and they fly down to the province of Kronos that is suspected to be hiding Harrison. A region, I have to point out again, that is UNINHABITED. That's right. Humans breed like rabbits and ran out of room on Earth long ago, but "Kronos is huge, yo! Klingons have got tons of huge space they don't even use! Like the southern hemisphere is their unfinished basement they just store old sports equipment in. Either that, or there really aren't that many Klingons, or something? I have no idea. It seemed really dumb to me, but the exploded moon featured in the shot as they descended towards Kronos COULD explain it. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
(1991), the Klingons
are forced to pursue peace when their homeworld's moon, Praxis,
explodes catastrophically, crippling energy production and tearing apart
Kronos' ozone layer. Maybe that's happened already in this franchise. Thanks for filling us in. And if it is a shitty inhospitable wasteland now, what is Harrison surviving on? Fruit Roll-Ups? Harrison is probably beaming in food, clothes, swanky furniture Netflix and anything else a swinging bachelor would need with his portable I-can-do-anything-machine, so no big deal.
Which franchise is this again?
Following that, the film goes full-on Star Wars and there is a chase scene involving the Mudd ship and several clearly military Klingon ships that chase it through the derelict regions of Kronos. See, it's empty NOW, but at one point, it was hopping, so there are tons of cool architectural obstacles that we can fly through and around and recreate the scene in Return of the Jedi where the Falcon barely makes it out of the Death Star before it blows up. Sort of. Or the First film's Death Star attack with the X-wings. You get the idea. Star Trek is now Star Wars. Hey, fun fact: Damon Lindelof is a HUGE and self admitted FAN OF STAR WARS. Probably just a coincidence.
"I used to bullseye Wamp Rats in my T-16 back home, they're not much bigger than two metres"
Now Sulu, from the Captain's chair, as directed by Kirk, "radios"
ahead and warns Harrison that if he doesn't play nice and allow himself
to be arrested, he will be torpedoed directly to hell with the 72
special, super-secret photon torpedoes sent by Admiral Marcus. Got that?
Good. Because there'd be no WAY that this broadcasted message just sent AT an
unfriendly terrorist NOT using a specialized Federation frequency or
some other sort of plot device to explain how it couldn't be picked up by ANYONE ON KLINGON, right? It wouldn't immediately alarm the Klingons that
either a ship is coming down to a specific area to capture a renegade
human and take him away, ignoring and ultimately insulting an entire
race of hostile humanoids, OR that 72 photon torpedoes are coming instead.
That's not gonna be noticed, right? Probably not. Why would the locals care about that?
It was probably just COINCIDENCE that these Klingon security ships
appeared and hounded the Mudd ship/away team almost immediately. What's super dumb, is
that THAT IS EXACTLY HOW THE FILM EXPLAINS THIS TURN OF EVENTS. Just bad luck. !!!!!
And here we have the second "Jump Scare" thing. Kirk, Spock and Uhuru, on the Mudd ship start bitching at one another and Uhuru tries to tear Spock a new one for being cold and insensitive. Yes. it's amusing and really inappropriately dumb. But it's a fairly distracting and quiet scene, so we need a BANG! to wake the audience up! BANG! KLINGONS! HOW DID THEY DETECT US? Well, they aren't as dumb as humans are apparently, heard Sulu's transmission, saw them coming on space radar, or some completely reasonable thing and reacted in a completely reasonable way. So tough shit, idiots!
So... do you work out?
Anyway, Uhura, being the only person that speaks Klingon, steps out onto the Kronos surface to confront a Klingon security party, who are now holding Kirk's Mudd ship/away team at gunpoint. She says some Klingon jibberish attempting to justify their presence and their mission to arrest the universally dangerous Harrison by using KLINGON HONOUR as her leveraging point, but incredibly, it doesn't work. BUT, we do get to see the new, updated Klingons, and like everything else visual in this film, they're pretty cool.
Cool helmet. Cool face. Klingons are back!
Next, all hell breaks loose, the Klingons attack the away team and it looks dire until... dum dada-dumb! Harrison jumps into the action and kicks six kinds of ass, leveling the entire Klingon security group including several SHIPS, using Cumberbatch coolness and a big-ass gun that shoots bolts of Cumberbatch. Kirk then confronts Harrison. Harrison asks how many torpedoes he was threatened with, Kirk says seventy-two, and suddenly, Harrison surrenders. Just like that. But.. Kirk, being just filled to the brim with Kirk, freaks out at the sight of the man who killed his mentor (Pike) and tries to give Harrison a serious beat down, punching and kicking him for about 30 seconds before becoming winded and giving up. Harrison is not phased. Doesn't bleed, doesn't blink. Harrison is ice cold and built like a brick shit house. Got that? Good.Because previously we were told by Admiral Marcus, he was just another human Starfleet agent. Maybe not. DUM DUM DA DUMB
Even Jesse Ventura would be jealous of that gun.
Back on the Enterprise, Uhura kisses Spock on her tippy-toes and skips off like a schoolgirl, Harrison is put into a cool-looking cell with a force field door and most of the crew's attention returns to repairing the Enterprise (still damaged from some mysterious failure during warping towards Kronos), and getting Harrison back to earth. That all sounds pretty reasonable right? Sure, but...
Remember that the Klingons have just been invaded on their home turf. Twice if you think about it: once by Harrison and the second time by Kirk's away team. They've had a good number of ships destroyed and fellow Klingons killed by Harrison and Kirk's away team. They've got every reason to be pissed and we've seen a bunch of them act really pissed already by justifiably attacking the human invaders. The Enterprise is still wounded, without warp capabilities, and close enough to Kronos to send messages back and forth and to even 'hail" Harrison on it's surface during Sulu's "stand down and surrender" scene, right? So... the Klingons are pissed, the Enterprise is wounded, anyone with eyes could have watched the Mudd ship return to the Enterprise and followed it there to retaliate... and... what do the Klingons, a fiercely proud, warring race of warring warriors who love war, but hate humans, do? SWEET FUCK ALL! WE NEVER HEAR FROM OR SEE ANOTHER KLINGON OR KLINGON SHIP AGAIN! Take that, common sense! Why? Because Lindelof put a button on that shitty subplot the second it got in the way! Bam!
Smell my finger.
After being put into the security cell, Kirk demands to know how it's possible for somebody else to be cooler than he is, so BONES TAKES A BLOOD SAMPLE from superman Harrison. OK. Now give that a second. have you EVER in any episode or film within the STAR TREK FRANCHISE EVER, I MEAN EVER, SEEN BONES DO THAT? TAKE A BLOOD SAMPLE? I don't recall that. Doesn't he just SCAN the subject with the tricorder, or a medical scanner or one of those cool back-and-forth scanning beds or some such shit? I mean, Harrison is now on the ship, in custody, in a cell, is it impossible to think that some such resource wouldn't be available to Bones from almost anywhere, knowing they can scan and identify people and living shit ON THE SURFACE OF A PLANET WHILE IN ORBIT? Holy "jump the shark, Batman". But... keep in mind, this NEEDED to happen, because Lindelof.
Harrison starts saying vaguely ominous-sounding things to Kirk, eventually stating boldly that if Kirk doesn't listen to him, that all of the Enterprise crew will die. Spock tells Kirk to ignore the guy, but Kirk doesn't. Kirk does what Kirk wants, and Kirk wants to listen to the bad guy. So Harrison starts to really open up. And this is where the gigantic reveal of who John Harrison really is happens. And I really do need to reiterate for the record that, "John Harrison" is truly the worst, dullest, most mind-numbingly boring bad guy name that I can remember. It could have been ANYTHING. They invented the name from scratch for this film specifically and then used it as the crux of their marketing campaign and that's the best they could do? John Smith wasn't available? I can guarantee you that trying to promote this film using the name John Harrison, instead of the character's true name, KHAN NOONIEN SINGH was a fucking dumb idea. For a bunch of reasons. So that's the big secret: Balsemic Cummerbund is playing this franchise's version of one of the greatest Trek characters ever written. And it's a bad idea, poorly executed from start to finish.
You must go through a lot of Windex around here.
Let's explore that for a bit. Let me start by saying that I love Benadryl Slumberparty. I make fun of his name, but I'm a huge fan and I think he's one of the best actors working today. He's fantastic. And he was given a particularly thankless job by this big dumb, movie. Here, Khan does uncharacteristically (compared to the original TV and film series version of the character) dumb shit, runs around a lot, punches and smashes things, sits and stands very still in a borderline creepy way and generally growls out a ton of exposition in an attempt to give the character and his marginalized story some desperately missing gravitas. And it's only because he's so good, that it even works at all. However, there is NOTHING to this character aside from Cumberbatch's considerable skills. He's paper thin. I can see really clearly why Javier Bardem turned down the role. That's right: Javier Bardem was offered the role first and turned it down. And Javier Bardem would have make a hell of a lot more sense. And so would have Benecio Del Toro who also went to talk to JJ about playing the role. And he also saw it for the shit it is.
Knowing that the role was originally played by Ricardo Montalban, it makes perfect sense that they went after Bardem and Del Toro. But they knew the role - as written - was hollow and dumb and said no. Hiring Benedict Cumberbatch to play the role was a huge, lazy mistake. He's all wrong for the part. He's awesome, and he does great work in the film, but hiring him to play this sad representation of such a previously great character is like pouring jet fuel into a vespa scooter. It's not going to make it perform any better. It's going to fuck it up. If anything, it makes seeing what this role really is and all of it's shortcomings even easier because he sticks out like a sore thumb. Benedict Cumberbatch is not Khan Noonien Singh. Not even close. It's not his fault. I, of course, blame JJ and fucking Damon Lindelof!
It's like they were separated at birth!
Khan Noonien Singh is of Mongol ancestry. He's an Asian Sikh, formally played to perfection by a Mexican actor in said actor's role of a lifetime. The Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek film ever, even now, even after the existence of Into Darkness is still considered the finest Trek film of all time, and for good reason. And Montalban's Khan was voted one of the top ten greatest film villains of all time by a ton of people and film fan groups including The Online Film Critics Society. And this big, shiny, dumb movie doesn't even get close to matching that legacy.
Cumberbatch's voice and on screen presence are magical. But they're all wrong for this part. And hiring one of the whitest men who ever walked the planet to play an Asian Sikh is a joke. Whitewashing? Of course it is! It's fucking lazy! It's BORING! And no matter how cool Cumberbatch is, he can't even get close to the regal, majestic savagery that Montalban oozed in every frame of Wrath. Montalban's Khan was a brilliant and insane lion. A powerful, savage killer with the brain of a genius. He made you nervous if you even got close because you knew instantly you were in the presence of someone way smarter and crazier than anything you'd ever seen before. Khan is a king! Khan is a Mongol warlord with a rich, multi-ethnic ancestry that SHOULD look proudly, profoundly different than every other Caucasian actor on screen. This franchise is painfully white. Apologies to Zoe Seldana, but even she has been marginalized and
forced to play a seriously disappointing and neutered Uhura this time out. Think about it: their best solution for an actor to play Khan is Whitey McWhiterson? Sorry. That's horseshit. That's not just dumb. That really is an insulting and ignorant choice that turns this incredible opportunity into yet another culturally monotone Hollywood role and film.
What do you mean I don't look Asian?
There isn't even an attempt to make this version of Khan LOOK interesting. He wears the same boring black cloths and long, black coat that every goddamn movie villain would wear in a thousand different films. Despite having an awesome voice, it's obviously and clearly "the Queen's English" so he doesn't sound the least bit exotic or diverse either. He's got the same fucking accent that Carol Marcus in her underwear has. The incredible legacy of Khan Noonien Singh has now been reduced to just another white, generic, snarling, fist-clenching black hat. SUPER. FUCKING. DUMB.
What's even dumber is that this film doesn't even need Khan at all. It's not a story about him. He SHOULD be the focus of any film or episode he appears in, but he's not here. And this incredible character with so much built-in love and adoration is just jammed clumsily into STID to very little effect. This story already had a villain (I haven't got to the real villain in my critique yet - hold on). It didn't need a second one. They just threw Khan into the mix in a lazy attempt to win over fans and give themselves some more credibility and marketing cache - which they also screwed up.
Can you imagine having what is considered one of the greatest movie villains of all time to drawn on and absolutely throwing the opportunity away by forcing him to share main antagonist duties with a better defined and more clearly motivated character? Holy shit! What a mess. If Khan is going to be your bad guy, THEN GIVE HIM SOME FUCKING ROOM TO WORK! Don't you DARE strip him of everything that makes him special and memorable so that he can fit nice and tidy-like into your meandering mess! Are you kidding me?
Anyway, back to STID. Harrison Khan is in the shiny cell and he tells Kirk to open one of the mysterious photon torpedoes and also to check out some coordinates, near earth, so that he will understand what Harrison Khan has done and why.
Flash back to Earth. Scotty in a bar getting shitfaced with his little cauliflower-faced minion. Strangely Beastie Boys music is not playing. Kirk calls him on his communicator/iPhone. That's right, because we can call iPhone to iPhone anywhere in the galaxy, in real time, with no lag and best of all... it's totally free. Fine. Whatever. Kirk actually has the balls to ask Scotty, who, based on his performance at the Starfleet massacre, should be working for Interpol solving the world's greatest mysteries, to go out near Jupiter and check out the coordinates that Harrison Khan just gave him. Yeah. Scotty isn't an active member of Starfleet at this point, remember. He's a civilian. But, he's also Montgomery Scott. So... no sweat?
OK. Back to the Enterprise. Bones, Spock and Kirk are all talking about how to open up one of the secret photon torpedoes as per Harrison Khan's request. The only qualified crew member was apparently Scotty. (*Think about that) As they bitch at each other, suddenly it strikes Spock: Carol Webber (Marcus), the extra science officer supposedly assigned by Admiral Marcus, is a WEAPONS SPECIALIST. Now what's really screwy about this is that, although Spock saw right through her ruse to get on board almost immediately, and despite having several conversations with Kirk and others since, HE HAS YET TO TELL ANYONE AN UNAUTHORIZED PERSON IS ON BOARD. Until right now. And she just happens to be a weapons specialist. A SEXY WEAPONS SPECIALIST. And although every starship in the fleet is armed with hundreds if not thousands of photon torpedoes, only the chief of engineering (and hot blonde women) are capable of opening them up for any reason. Sure. Sounds reasonable. Lindelof.
So Kirk goes to Carol Marcus and she opens up about being the Admiral's daughter, about sneaking on board to further investigate these mysterious torpedoes and admits that despite her dad usually giving her access to anything, she was denied any information about these particular weapons. She also found out that they had DISAPPEARED FROM ANY OFFICIAL RECORDS BEFORE BEING BROUGHT ON BOARD. Suspicious, right? OK. That's another shitty exposition-filled monologue, but Alice Eve does a nice job. But then it goes right into deep end of dumb: As they walk towards the weapons bay or wherever the secret torpedoes are, she diverts Kirk into a shuttle craft. For absolutely no reason. In theory she would have quarters somewhere, but we instead go into a shuttle. So she can change her clothes. Because I guess she's very much like Mrs. Howell from Gilligan's Island ("What does one wear to an explosion?) who has a different outfit for every occasion and obviously she never unpacked her suitcases from the shuttle that brought her to the Enterprise, right? But, wait. Wasn't she on the same shuttle as Kirk and Spock? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
So, yeah, she pulls Kirk into this seemingly random shuttle, tells Kirk to turn around, and strips down to bra and panties. We never see her finishing the switch into another uniform because... well, who gives a shit? The point was to get Alice Eve into her bra and panties. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. For real. And even Damon Lindelof has admitted this was stupid and even apologized publicly for it:
Via his Twitter:
I copped to the fact that we should have done a better job of not being
gratuitous in our representation of a barely clothed actress.
also had Kirk shirtless in underpants in both movies. Do not want to
make light of something that some construe as mysogenistic.
- What I’m saying is I hear you, I take responsibility and will be more mindful in the future.
- Also, I need to learn how to spell “misogynistic.”
So that happened. Ultimately Carol Marcus suggests that opening the torpedo on board is too dangerous and says they should take on to a nearby planetoid to do it safely out of range. And that she would like the help of Doctor McCoy to do it. So they do that.
In other parts of the ship, Kirk confirms with Uhura that Starfleet has been notified that they have Harrison Khan in custody, but that Starfleet has not replied... mysteriously. Also, Chekov tells Kirk he has found the source of the problem with the Warp Drive, but that it's bad and will take more time to fix... mysteriously.
After some witty banter, a Gorn joke and a pretty cheap MacGuyver-like "diffuse the bomb in seconds" bit, Bones and Carol Marcus (who requested ASSISTANCE from Bones, but actually DOES NOTHING) open the torpedo. Gasp! THERE'S A BODY INSIDE!!! WHAT? Mind blown!
Nope. Sorry. I saw The Wrath of Khan AND The Search for Spock. I've seen the "bodies in torpedoes" concept before and saw that coming thirty minutes ago. What is hysterically funny about this strange turn of events is... what WOULD have happened if Kirk had followed Admiral Marcus' orders? Would he have fired 72 people at Kronos? 72 torpedoes with no payload, filled with PEOPLE? Would they have noticed that after firing the first one, that there was a WET CRUNCH instead of a huge BANG? Or was he supposed to fire what he thought was seventy-two megaton photon torpedoes SIMULTANEOUSLY at one dude wearing a coat? ONE SINGLE GUY? Does anybody see a problem with this logic? Or lack of it? Anyway... NO TIME TO EXPLAIN! Cut away to...
Scotty. In a shuttle. A Starfleet shuttle. Cruising past JUPITER. IN A SHUTTLE. OFF DUTY. A SHUTTLE WITH NOTHING BUT IMPULSE DRIVE. It's like riding a fucking bike through space and somehow he just casually travels from one end of our solar system to the other in minutes? WHAT? HOW? HOW DOES THAT WOR... Lindelof.
*NOTE* An anonymous reader was good enough to correct my
understanding of what a standard -issue shuttle is capable of:
"Impulse drive according to Star Trek canon, is good for speeds up to and
beyond 0.9c. Given that the mean distance to Jupiter is about 1
light-hour away, it's entirely reasonable that Scotty could have made
the trip relatively quickly (i.e. in about 30 to 90 minutes, give or
take) That, of course, ignores the question of how he obtained the
shuttle, and managed to evade any/all detection en route..."
So, Scotty discovers a massive, secret space station behind Jupiter. Looks sort of like the space docks where they build and repair/refit ships, but it's all closed in. Now get this: he cruises right up to it. At a snails pace. In empty space. Nobody says shit. This is a SECRET FACILITY WITHOUT ANY PERIMETER SECURITY AT ALL. We've now firmly established that Starfleet doesn't really believe in security. Cutbacks or something. Dig that idiocy. It gets better: The big door on one end opens, letting several OTHER shuttles inside. (Don't ask from where or what the fuck they were doing out there. Supposedly this is the USS VENGEANCE bridge crew, but where are they being shuttled in from? Another ship? Earth, like Scotty? They approached from the opposite direction! NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!) So Scotty just sort of slips into the group and sails inside with them. UNNOTICED. Try that even today. In a fucking airplane and see how that goes. Try getting through the gates of a government or military base ON EARTH RIGHT NOW by slipping into a group. See how that works. I'll wait. Holy shit Lindelof! Are you even trying?!!! Anyway, Scotty gets inside. Of course. Because Montgomery Scott is not only Sherlock Holmes, he's now also James fucking Bond.
OK. Back on the Enterprise: The opened photon torpedo with a dude in it sits in sickbay. Bones and Marcus are there and Kirk struts in. Here's a beauty: Marcus explains that they made enough room to fit the cryogenic tube keeping the dude alive BY REMOVING THE FUEL CELL. OK. Now they're just pissing me off. They just proved that IF Kirk had followed orders and IF he had shot all 72 fucking secret, people-filled torpedoes at Cronos AT ONCE, that they would have just been spat out of the firing tubes and then... stopped. Right outside the Enterprise. Because they HAVE NO FUEL! So HOW was THAT plan supposed to work? WHY are they on the Enterprise? WHY are they filled with people? Now it's impossible to even think this was a plan of Marcus' to kill all 72 of these people when the torpedoes (IF FIRED ALL AT ONCE AT A SINGLE MAN) crashed into the planet. NO! TIME! TO! EXPLAIN!
Bones explains the dude inside the torpedo is alive, but that without the proper SEQUENCING CODE, trying to revive him would probably kill him. Because of course, cryo-tubes are always protected with very difficult to crack encryption? "How advanced?" is the cryo-tube technology asks Kirk. "It's not" says Carol Marcus. In fact, "It's ANCIENT". SEE? IT'S TOO OLD TO UNDERSTAND. IT WAS MADE IN THE FUCKING 90's AND 300 YEARS LATER WE COULDN"T POSSIBLY FIGURE IT OUT. Actually, the only logical reason the crew can't revive these people is because Lindelof. Because that would mess with his story. That's all. It's total and utter bullshit. And it gets better. It's BONES that tells Kirk the dude inside is 300 YEARS OLD. BONES. But we've established that THEY CAN'T OPEN THE TUBE. How can he confirm that? Does the tube have a "best before" date on it? Or AS USUAL, did bones just fucking SCAN this guy? The mysterious shielding has been removed now. But wait! Earlier, Bones had to take a BLOOD SAMPLE to understand Harrison Khan. Just what the fuck is going on in sick-bay these days? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
"I can't even reset the clock in my Oldsmobile!"
"Why is there a man in that torpedo?" Kirk now confronts Harrison Khan in his cell and asks him the obvious question. Harrison Khan says "I don't know. Ask Lindelof". No. Unfortunately that's not what happens. Once again, Busybee Crunchywax has to deliver a mouthful of lame exposition explaining all this crazy, nonsensical bullshit. But he gives it all he's got, which is plenty - lucky for us.
His response is... get ready for it... "There are men and women in every one of those torpedoes captain. I PUT THEM THERE". But the best part of this incredibly dumb exchange is that all Kirk and Spock do is glance at each other. Nobody asks... WHY?
WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT? WHAT ON EARTH WAS YOUR PLAN? HOW DID YOU DO THAT? ALONE? BY YOURSELF? YOU WORKED ON 72 SECRET TORPEDOES IN A SECRET STARFLEET FACILITY, AND SECRETLY BROUGHT IN 72 CRYO-TUBES, WITHOUT ANYBODY NOTICING, AND CAREFULLY CUSTOMIZED 72 SECRET WEAPON TORPEDOES, AND CAREFULLY PLACED ALL 72 TUBES INTO ALL 72 TORPEDOES ALONE WITHOUT ANYBODY ELSE HAVING ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THIS HAPPENING? AND YOU NEVER ONCE THOUGHT THAT YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS MIGHT IMPROVE MARGINALLY IF YOU, SAY... WOKE UP SOME OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE TO HELP YOU, BEING AS YOU CLEARLY HAD ALL THE TIME AND ROOM AND RESOURCES YOU COULD EVER WANT TO DO WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANTED INSIDE A SECRET WEAPONS LABORATORY? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?
Sorry. That's where the script really "Jumps The Shark". It continues being dumb, but "in the moment" kind of ways from here on out. This is dumb because the only explanation would have involved a huge, dumb backstory and tons of resources and time to pull off. Nobody asks "why". And Harrison Khan doesn't explain. Doesn't even hint at what this master genius plan would have been. Why? Because Lindelof. Because there IS no way to explain this from any angle. It simply had to be this way for the pieces of his shitty script to fit together. Nobody ever asks the most obvious questions because they can't be answered.
Kirk just asks him the greatest redirect ever, "Who are you?" which diverts the viewers attention and allows Betsyross Culltheherd to roll up his sleeves and make this shitstorm entertaining while sitting still, in a little shiny room. He really did earn his money on this thing. And again, thank God they had someone as good as he is, even as wrong as he is.
So Harrison Khan explains that he is a "remnant of a time long past". Ecch. That he was created in the 90s and the exiled and put into cryo-stasis. That after the destruction of Vulcan (Star Trek 2009), Starfleet began an aggressive exploration of distant quadrants of space. Maybe I'm too simple to see the obvious connection there, but I dn't quite understand the motivation? Was it to find an alternative planet to house the Vulcans? Thanks for explaining. So, apparently during this aggressive search of deep space, Starfleet found his ship (They never mention the name Botany Bay) and crew and revived ONLY HIM. Because Lindelof. Again I have to point out that despite Starfleet mysteriously being smart enough to only revive one, and coincidentally having that be Khan himself, WHY DIDN'T KHAN WAKE UP ANYONE ELSE? WHEN HE WAS WORKING ALONE, CASUALLY, UNATTENDED, UNWATCHED IN THE BASEMENT OF A SUPER-HIGH TECH FACILITY, ON THE 72 TOP SECRET TORPEDOES? Horse. Shit.
Harrison Khan explains that the name and identity of "John Harrison" was a construct of Admiral Marcus. A secret identity devised to keep his real identity hidden while Harrison Khan helped Marcus'... secret agenda to weaponize Starfleet. None of that makes sense. The secret identity for a guy working in secret at a secret facility on secret weapons really only gives that guy (Harrison Khan) an identity that would make it possible to escape and turn on you. Because you just gave him clearance and reason to be everywhere you don't want him to be. So, THAT was a stupid plan, Admiral Marcus and you clearly got what you deserved.
The next pile of horseshit is something even Kirk finds odd: Why would Admiral Marcus need the help of a 300 year old man that has had NO CONTACT WITH TECHNOLOGY SINCE iPODS WERE INVENTED? Harrison Khan just states "Because I'm better." "At what?" asks Kirk. "Everything" says Harrison Khan. So... I GUESS there's no arguing with that? It really is pretty dumb, but, OK? He can somehow catch up and not only understand 300 years of technicalogical advancement almost immediately, but push it even further than anyone else - of any race - could up until now? OK? I mean, this is all so dumb that there really isn't any way to refute such a MAJOR SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF, but I still call bullshit. It works because Lindelof.
This is what an interesting, unique, and ORIGINAL looking villain looks like.
And THIS is what a boring, generic, forgettable villain looks like.
Even in The Wrath of Khan, the genius of Khan is shown to be limited by his experience -BECAUSE he's been asleep for 300 years- and provides that film's Kirk with an opportunity to exploit and defeat an otherwise superior opponent. It was a cool, perfectly logical and grounded in backstory chink in Khan's armour. It made for a great, calculating and tactical battle. Here... we just have to accept that Harrison Khan can do anything - almost literally - except MAKE FUCKING SENSE. It's such a sad way to treat such an awesome character and such a rich and interesting backstory. In one short, shitty scene, Khan has been altered to be an almost impossibly perfect superman AND a confusingly shortsighted dope at the same time. No actor, no matter how good, can make up for that. Oh, and I guess we've just decided to dump his original heritage in favour of something Caucasian. We don't even talk about how he is supposed to be an Asian Sikh with Mongol ancestry. "Fuck that", says Lindelof. "White is right!"
Harrison Khan also explains that it was Admiral Marcus' plan to have Kirk fire all 72 torpedoes at Kronos and that it was Marcus that somehow disabled the Enterprise (in such away that even at this point in the film after hours of intensive investigation, they haven't figured out ???) making sure that the Klingons would figure out who was responsible and retaliate, giving Marcus the war that he is obsessed with and has always wanted: a war with the Klingons. It's pretty awesome because Harrison Khan actually says that having the Enterprise fire the volley of torpedoes at Kronos and being crippled and unable to retreat afterward would lead to "THE ONE, INEVITABLE OUTCOME." Which, as stated, would be the Klingon's pursuit and attack on the Enterprise, starting a war. Except that, as I've pointed out earlier, that never happens. The Klingons are sleeping right now, I guess. And yes, it's true that the Enterprise never fired at the planet, but holy shit people, they did fly a ship down there, engage in combat, destroy some ships and kill a bunch of Klingons and then fly directly back to the Enterprise. IN THEORY, this war should have happened anyway. There is more than enough justification. But we can't have that happen because Lindelof. That's a cool idea and a solid motivator for some relatively important supporting characters, but it's now in Lindelof's way, so it get's parked and replaced with the latest shiny object he can flash in our faces: which happens after this drivel of dialogue.
So, again, we're talking about these fucking torpedoes out in the open and it sure seems like everybody knew everything. And now that every detail is out in the open, would anybody like to explain why Harrison Khan put those bodies in them or how Marcus wouldn't be aware of that fact, or what was supposed to happen if they actually got fired or any of that shit? No? Of course not. Just let the words fly by and smile at the pretty pictures.
It gets sticky now because when Kirk calls bullshit on Harrison Khan's story and says he WATCHED Harrison Khan in the gunship open fire and murder a room full of people, Khan says this little gem: "MARCUS TOOK MY CREW FROM ME. USED MY FRIENDS TO CONTROL ME"
OK. Sit down and let's work this out. Harrison Khan then admits that he tried to smuggle his crew to safety "in the very weapons I had designed". OK. Fine. But he then states that he was discovered. Right. Conveniently AFTER finishing all 72 torpedo transplants. Fine. Whatever. So he is discovered and they... take them away I guess? But if this little operation was DISCOVERED, then why the fuck would Marcus ask Kirk to take the torpedoes with no fuel and only a people payload to start a war, knowing that they don't even function as torpedoes anymore? Huh?
Harrison Khan then says one of his dumbest lines. After they took away his torpedo people, he says that "I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO ESCAPE ALONE. BUT WHEN I DID, I HAD EVERY REASON TO SUSPECT MARCUS HAD KILLED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE PEOPLE THAT I HOLD MOST DEAR. And then he starts crying about it. After the fact. When he knows they're fine and on the same ship as he is. And despite the fact that he's a cold-blooded, killing, war machine. So what the hell is he crying about? Nothing. The actor is just trying to make it all sound dramatic AND divert attention away from the absolute ridiculousness of the story.
Harrison Khan, you stupid asshole, you could have woken them all up at almost any time when you were working BY YOURSELF for Starfleet. You could have BEAMED THEM TO SAFETY ANYWHERE USING YOUR SNAZZY PORTABLE TRANS-WARP TELEPORTATION DEVICE TOO! BUT YOU DIDN'T! YOU DIDN'T DO SHIT! YOU DECIDED TO UNDERTAKE THE SLOWEST, DUMBEST, MOST COMPLICATED PLAN EVER and when your stupid plan was discovered, you RAN AWAY and then ASSUMED your crew was killed, and based on that WILD ASSUMPTION, decided a clumsy revenge and escape plan was your next best move. And AFTER you escaped, you never thought to confirm that your crew was dead? You just walked away and ASSUMED they were dead? No big deal? I mean what OTHER possibility is there, right? RIGHT? This guy is brilliant and dumb as fuck all at once. Somebody PLEASE get Ricardo Montalban on the phone. What? He's dead? I don't care. I'd rather watch his corpse get wheeled around on a fridge cart over this utter garbage.
Chicks dig "classic" Khan.
Anyway, this Kirk, Spock, Harrison Khan pow wow is cut short by Sulu stating over the intercom that a ship is coming in fast at warp speed. "Kligons?" asks Kirk. "No" says Sulu, "the Klingons are super-fucking high and have no short-term memory". Harrison Khan puts the button on this scene with "Warp speed? No. We both know who it is". Dum Dum Da DUMB! As Kirk runs off to the bridge, he tells a nearby redshirt (A big guy, I think his name was private Brick Slabchest) to move Khan to the sickbay and post six security guards on him. Hm. That's... mysterious. Didn't Kirk watch this guy waste an entire security party of Klingons and ships? Well, six minimally armed guys can probably handle it. Interesting move, Kirk. Cut to...
Kirk in his recaro captain's chair looking tense. Everybodyon the bridge looks tense. SUDDENLY... POOF! A GIGANTIC FEDERATION-STYLE SHIP, TWICE AS BIG AS ENTERPRISE appears out of warp and sits almost nose-to-nose with the Enterprise. Cool shot. Dramatic as hell. "Whoa"! says the audience!
Does this paint job make me look fat?
THIS is the real bad guy of the story. Not shitty, neutered dope, Harrison Khan. It's Admiral Marcus in his new, super-awesome starship, The USS VENGEANCE (original right?). We can verify that this is the bad guy because the Enterprise, like ALL federation ships, is WHITE. This big, nasty looking ship, despite having a similar profile and configuration, is DARK GREY. Almost black. So... it's the bad guy. Because it's black. Or really close to black. A really dark, evil-looking blackish grey. So... yeah.
I feel the need to point out the in The Wrath of Khan, clearly the film being echoed by this one, nothing so heavy-handed was required. In that film, Khan took control of another, standard-issue Federation ship, the USS Reliant. It was a different configuration, and looked recognizably different, which made it easy for the average viewer to tell them apart, but the ships were clearly evenly matched. Can you see how that's better? It came down to the captains: Kirk vs. Khan on an even playing field. Two, standard starfleet ships going toe-to-toe out in the middle of nowhere. In fact, the Reliant looked slightly smaller and certainly didn't have a goofy bad-guy name like the USS ASSKICKER. Or the USS I DRINK BLOOD, or the USS GONNA CUT OFF YOUR HEAD. It was a harmless ship, with a harmless name made dangerous only by the dangerous man in command of it. That's the difference between smart, sophisticated, nuanced writing and dumb, lowest common denominator (LINDELOF) writing. You should feel a little insulted by how dumb they are treating you by dazzling you with this puppet show of childish, derivative iconography and archetypes. Its become Punch and Judy time around here.
The USS Reliant from The Wrath of Khan
Admiral Marcus and Kirk get on their main screen communicators and start using subtext to tell each other to fuck off. It's not a bad scene. Anyone mesmerized by Cumberbatch's performance should take another look at Peter Weller's. He's great. His character doesn't have to say anything anywhere near as stupid as Harrison Khan's either, so I can actually enjoy the performance and every appearance the character makes. It's a treat. The only thing I DON'T like about Admiral Marcus is his USS Vengeance uniform which reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen pinafore. After filling the screen with the safest and most obvious, and predictable wardrobe choices ever, JJ and crew put Marcus and his bad guy Vengeance crew in something akin to a bright blue floral pattern. It's weird and offputting. Maybe it's designed to be a distraction. Maybe it was designed by Harrison Khan's superior and more savage intellect and I just don't get it. Either way, it just seemed like the film's actual bad guy dressed in a clown suit for his final showdown. It's a shame.
So Marcus tells Kirk he's pissed about him not following orders (and trying to fire torpedo duds without fuel and no way to reach or do any damage to Kronos) and Kirk explains they had to improvise after the warp core malfunctioned. This dialogue works. It's not bad, until... Marcus admits to making a tactical error in waking up Khan and trying to exploit his intellect in an attempt to be better prepared against whatever alien forces attacked next. And then he asks Kirk to hand Harrison Khan over. Kirk asks what he's supposed to do with the 72 men and women still hiding in the torpedoes "Fire them at Kronos, killing them all and starting a war?"
So this bit annoyed me to no end because we've already established that the torpedoes don't work. They can't work. They have no fuel cell. They have no payload. They can't function in any way like a real photon torpedo, SO ENOUGH ABOUT FIRING KHAN-CICLES AT KRONOS ALREADY!
Eventually Kirk backs off and reluctantly agrees to hand over Harrison Khan after telling Marcus that he's being kept in Engineering. But this is merely a ruse. He's buying time. Fine. But we know that Kirk had him moved to Sick-bay. This misdirection seems pretty useless. If Marcus' scans can't find him on board in the Sick-Bay, how could they find him anywhere else on board? Did they just scan the security cells and give up? I don't get it. They can scan entire planets and find a single person, but the Enterprise is too big? And really, what difference does it make anyway? Until Kirk drops the Enterprise's shields, isn't this "move-Harrison-Khan-around-to-keep-him-hidden=from-Marcus-shell game completely pointless?
Anyway, at the last second, Chekov confirms that they have warp capability BUT that it's really unstable and using it would be a bad idea. So, of course that's what we do. Kirk, turns tail and runs away from the USS HEADLOCK towards earth and, in theory, reinforcements. Maybe. If anybody gives a shit. So far Starfleet hasn't been exactly sharp.
As the Enterprise heads home at full warp speed, Bones and Carol Marcus (the Admiral's daughter, remember) seem to be giving Harrison Khan a physical. They tell him to turn his head and cough, and as is usually the case, they SCAN HIS BODY with a medical scanner. Hm. Interesting. Then WHY the blood sample earlier? DON'T ASK QUESTIONS!
Ensign Shecky is absolutely teeming with confidence back there
Harrison Khan, sitting super-still, then says "If you think you're safe at warp, you're wrong" in his typical creepy, ominous voice and Carol Marcus, having admitted to being exposed to EVERYTHING BUT THE TORPEDOES that was being developed by her dad, realizes something important and gives that line an open mouth gasp and runs off. RUNS OFF. Doesn't simply move to the ships communication panel just two feet away. No, she RUNS ALL THE WAY FROM SICK-BAY TO THE BRIDGE to tell Kirk her dads cool, dark grey ship, the USS KICK TO THE NUTS can go faster than standard warp speeds and will catch them. And it does.
So whatever. This is all pure fantasy, so anything is possible I guess. Sure. That's not what bothers me. What bugs the shit out of me is how Lindelof treats his own scripts' internal logic and the rules of canon that have been established for decades and even within this film itself. Lindelof logic states that technology can do whatever we want it to, whenever we want it to and without complication, BUT that it will always fail or suffer from the simplest of limitations whenever we need that as well. It's just fucking dumb. In my screenwriting class I tried to stress this to my students and called it CONSISTENT CREATIVE ARCHITECTURE. Just make some choices and stick to them. It's not fucking hard. This turn of events isn't even important because the next showdown COULD have happened back at earth, or the warp could have blown up and allowed Marcus and the USS NIPPLE TWIST to catch up anyway. There were a hundred more logical and consistent ways to get the next scene to happen, but it happened this way to create a cool shot of the Enterprise racing along at warp, getting mowed down by the USS PUNCH TO THE FACE and blasted out of the way, spinning out of control; to just do something cool looking that hasn't been done before, whether it makes a lick of sense or not. And remember, this new super-ship was designed in its entirety by a man who has been frozen for 300 years. Not bad, eh? He took one look at the science of warp drive and did one better. No sweat. I'm Harrison fucking Khan. I can do anything. Because Lindelof.
So Kirk is running around the bridge asking everybody what the fuck is going on. Sulu says the Enterprise is "237 thousand kilometres from earth". Understand that's closer than Venus. And Venus is the closest planet to Earth, so there is nothing but open space between the Enterprise and Earth. Now remember that this is at a time of heightened security/red alert-type shit for Starfleet and that ALL vessels in the region were called to Earth (what, YESTERDAY?) to get in on the big pow wow called my Admiral Marcus. So in theory, there will be a shit-load of other ships, nearby right? Or at the very least, a few? Some? More than none? NOPE. NOBODY ELSE IS AROUND. Apparently Starfleet had to just recently liquidate its entire fleet to pay for the repairs on that office building that got blown up. Cutbacks or something.
*NOTE* Again "Anonymous" has corrected and confirmed these observations:
"The MOON orbits earth at between ~360 and 400 thousand kilometers
distance. So the point you referenced is WELL WITHIN the orbit of the
moon. Between these two bodies, the earth on one side, or the moon on
the other should have been a giant backdrops in virtually any scene
relating to this encounter. Also, within the canon, there should be
several heavily armed Starbases nearby.
The Enterprise is seriously screwed up. Shields down, major hull breach, bad news-type stuff all over. As the USS ATOMIC PILE-DRIVER shot it out of warp, big holes were blown in the hull and we, the audience, were treated to a couple quick shots of crew members getting sucked out into warp space. Pretty awesome. But sadly, it has very little weight to it. We don't know any of these people, so it's pretty hard to give a shit. Again, I look back at The Wrath of Khan, that featured similar scenes of the Enterprise getting beaten up really bad, getting ripped open, and having crew members killed and sucked out into space. But that creative team was smart enough to give us a chance to care. Early in the 1982 film, we meet a super-nerdy cadet in the engineering area, directly under Scotty's command. We get to hear him speak and chuckle about how green and innocent he is. Later in the film, after a vicious attack by the one true Khan, Scotty gets to walk onto the bridge carrying the dead body of the kid. THAT'S HOW YOU DO IT.
Admiral Marcus and his hot rod ship continue to blast the living shit out of Enterprise until Carol Marcus, the admiral's daughter begs Kirk to let her speak to her father. She's on board SECRETLY remember. The admiral has no idea that she's there and the hope is, that once he's aware, he'll stop trying to drop kick them all to hell. And it works. He's surprised. Alice Eve has another monologue about not believing her dad is a bad guy and that if she's wrong, he'll have to destroy the ship with her on board. In a particularly weird choice by director JJ, she delivers this monologue with crazy lens flares obscuring her face. I did not understand that. She does a nice job and no other character had to endure similar obfuscation in any such pivotal scene. The boys running the show there at Star Trek HQ really treated Alice Eve pretty poorly if you ask me. I'm surprised they didn't have her deliver these lines in a tube top on a trampoline.
Anyhoo, Marcus outsmarts them. Sort of. Now that the shields on Enterprise are down, he just simply transports his daughter onto his ship, removing their only real defense. It's a slick move and it does seem like a smart one by the admiral. Of course this doesn't explain why he couldn't do the same with Harrison Khan, at that same point, but DON'T ASK QUESTIONS!
Admiral Marcus is now clear to blow up the Enterprise. Kirk begs that he spare the crew, saying he'll give the coordinates to Harrison Khan immediately if he blames only Kirk himself for the breach of orders and rogue actions. Marcus declines in a great moment of bad-guy bad-guy-ism and hangs up, giving the order to open fire. Then we see the gigantic photon phallus cannons, unique to the USS BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA start powering up and turning towards the helpless Enterprise. Uh oh. It looks bad.
Kirk turns to his crew and says "I'm sorry". Yeah. Not sure how I feel about that, but.... anyway, Uhura looks down at the floor telling us to be sad. Sad music plays. BUT, SUDDENLY... The USS VILLAINOUS TENDENCIES powers down! The big cock and balls cannons shut down and the whole ship goes dead! What? How is this possible? Well... I'll give you a hint: Who is the only crew member of the Enterprise that we haven't seen on board for this entire adventure? You know, the guy who pedaled out to Jupiter and snuck into a top-secret base in a standard shuttlecraft. That's right, SCOTTY. SCOTTY has "manually reset their systems" from inside the ship, whatever the fuck that means. He "pulled the plug" on an entire starship. From one spot. And shut everything down all at once. OK, sure. Right. I get it: Lindelof. And of course, this means that SCOTTY, not only slipped into a top secret facility, but also somehow managed to get on board the ship without anybody taking notice. And has been walking around it undetected ever since. Sure. Sounds reasonable. I think I'm getting the hang of this: whatever we need to make happen, happens exactly when we need it to happen. Got it.
"They didn't even stamp my hand!"
Scotty asks to be beamed aboard Enterprise, but there's not enough power available, so he goes running off down a dark corridor. A dark corridor. Right. I need to point this out: there are usually a LOT of crew members on these ships. The original 60's Enterprise had almost 500 and these ships keep getting bigger and bigger. The new JJ Enterprise is TWICE as big as the Shatner TV ship and the USS CHOKE HOLD is twice as big as that, so there should be something like, what, TWO THOUSAND people on that thing? Maybe? I don't know, but lots, right? Makes sense, taking into account the Trek franchise logic that's been considered creative law for decades and- what the fuck am I saying? I forgot about Lindelof for a second. That's right! This is a special, Harrison Khan-designed ship that is ALMOST FULLY AUTOMATED! Get it? I'm not joking. The movie wants you to swallow that. It's FUCKING EMPTY EXCEPT FOR BRIDGE CREW. Choke it down, folks! Take a big swig of water if you need to, but CHOKE IT DOWN! Now... it all makes sense. Right? No. No it doesn't. But it DOES allow for everything Lindelof needs to happen without complication. It's absolutely dumb, lazy convenience. Scotty gets to wander around an empty ship and fuck with it because Lindelof. Check.
The USS Your Mother Was a Hamster and Your Father Smells of Elderberries.
Now back on the Enterprise bridge, there is a stalemate between the two ships, but despite being temporarily safe, Spock tells Kirk that they are unable to attack or flee due to all the damage. Their "Options are limited". Kirk responds in a Kirk-ish way with "There is one option" and walks away. I love that. He just walks away in the middle of a critical conversation. And, of course, nobody asks what the fuck he's talking about because these characters have worked with Lindelof and JJ for one and a half movies now and know NOT TO ASK QUESTIONS!
But Spock does begin to badger him and Kirk eventually admits that he plans on creating an alliance with the man who murdered his mentor. Because we need that to happen now. Bringing Harrison Khan with him over to the USS FLAMING NUNCHUKS to... do something awesome is a plot necessity, so just let it happen. I'm not sure what the plan is at this point. Kirk says he's acting on gut feelings and despite Spock wanting him to listen to logic, that doesn't use logic. It's actually a great line when he says "I have no idea what I'm SUPPOSED to do, I only know what I CAN do." That's two points Lindelof. I dig that one. It's a strong line and it gives us valuable insights into how he thinks and what his motivators are. I wish their were more "high yield" lines like that in this thing. Kirk also tells Spock that he is the better man to lead the Enterprise and leaves him to do just that.
Kirk goes to Khan who is just hanging out in Sick-Bay. He demands that Khan tell him everything he knows about the USS ROUNDHOUSE KICK TO THE NOSE. Khan says exactly what I expected: "Twice as big, three times as fast, dripping with advanced weaponry" AND MY FAVORITE PART: "MINIMAL CREW. Unlike most Federation vessels, it's built solely for combat." Kirk offers to cut a deal with Harrison Khan in exchange for the safety of his torpedo crew. Harrison Khan doesn't believe it, saying "You can't even guarantee the safety of your own crew." Bam. Shit just got real. Of course, the second that Marcus and the super-ship are back in action, everyone on board the Enterprise including both crews are dead, so... huh? Then, just when this convo should start getting really interesting, Kirk turns and, looking at Bones working at his desk for no good reason, says "BONES, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT TRIBBLE?" Yeah. Good fucking question. And screw that conversation with Khan anyway. It's clearly not important when there's a ball of fur sitting over there we can talk about instead.
Bones calmly (it's not like everyone is in danger, or A HUNDRED CREW MEMBERS HAVE BEEN KILLED AND INJURED RECENTLY) states that he's injecting Harrison Khans "platelets into the deceased tissue of the necrotic host". Uh... OK, Bones. Whatever. But that is a little weird. Especially RIGHT NOW? It's not like the chief medical officer should be busy elsewhere. Nah. Bones is just playing Angry Birds on his tricorder, randomly fucking around with that inexplicable blood sample and the inexplicable dead Tribble on his desk. I mean, what else is there to do right now but inject this Harrison Khan blood into the dead body of a Tribble. Right? The crew can suck it up and put on their own fucking band-aids. "Khan's cells regenerate unlike anything I've ever seen, and I want to know why" says Bones. So... I'm gonna stick it into this dead thing for shits and giggles. Whatever.
Kirk, knowing better than to ask questions, just turns back to Harrison Khan and asks "Are you coming with me or not?" Clearly nothing more to talk about here, so... cut to...
SCOTTY, on the black ship, talking to Kirk and Harrison Khan, on the Enterprise, strolling briskly towards an airlock. They want Scotty to get to a particular hangar bay and MANUALLY OVERRIDE AN AIRLOCK DOOR so they can get in. Because there would obviously be manual overrides on external doors, but not on any other system in the ship. Right? Because this allows the good guys to do whatever they need to do whenever they need to do it, but NOT allow the bad guys to regain control of a perfectly intact ship. So... Lindelof.
The idea is that the Enterpise is going to perfectly align itself with the USS KNUCKLEDUSTER. Then Kirk and Harrison Khan, in super slick space suits, clearly built for speed, are going to get shot out of the Enterprise at crazy fast speeds and race across the open space between the two ships, avoiding a shit-load of randomly spinning debris, and, at the last second, Scotty will manually open a teeny little door in the other ship that they can fire through to safety. Now... all of this is excessive bullshit that doesn't even begin to make sense, but BITE DOWN AND SWALLOW, because it's exciting as hell.
Back on the bridge, Spock, in an aside with Uhura asks if they can establish contact with NEW VULCAN. She says she'll try. I have no idea what that's about, but knowing that Kirk, from the outer edge of Federation space, casually phoned Scotty on Earth in a bar, I hope they make that happen. Because otherwise... Lindelof.
Back to Kirk, Harrison Khan and Scotty. The two ships align and Scotty says that Admiral Marcus is only THREE MINUTES away from regaining control of his ship for no particular reason except to let us experience a sense of dramatic urgency. Got it? Yeah. I'm on the edge of my seat right now. There's a funny sight gag involving Scotty running all the way back and forth across a massive super-ship cargo bay to set the operation up. Spock confirms that the hatch on the Enterprise and the hatch on the super-ship are now perfectly aligned. Except that it makes no difference at all because in the very next sequence Kirk and Harrison Khan are shown flying all over the place, turning and changing course, so... Huh? I don't get that. Aligning the two would suggest that once they get fired out the airlock door (and just how and why they are so extremely propelled just by opening a door is not explained) that they couldn't change course. But that's not true. So... again, what? Anyway...
When they open the doors of the airlock it really does look like they got shot out of a cannon, but the airlock they were standing in and walking around was just a small, round room. The concept wasn't terribly intuitive or logical at all. Whatever. Kirk and Harrison Khan are screaming across the space between the two ships, darting around debris. It's exciting as hell.
I just lost 10 pounds and all of it brown!
Scotty gets surprised by a Black Ship ship security thug as he is TYING HIMSELF TO THE MANUAL OVERRIDE CONSOLE. Got it? The security thug is also wearing the blue pinafore uniform. Like everyone else on this ship, it looks silly on him too. This interaction with an armed enemy is designed to raise tension because Scotty can't open the airlock while being grilled by the thug at phaserpoint. But Harrison Khan and Kirk are just screaming towards the closed door that Scotty wants desperately to open. Scotty is not dressed like anyone else on this ship and has no right to be there and every other suspicious thing you can think of, but this guy just continues to casually question him and not cuff or remove him, because Lindelof.
On the way over, Kirk's helmet get hit hard by a chunk of debris and starts to crack, eventually robbing him of the ability to navigate. Can you feel the tension now? The speed? The excitement? Holy shit! Now, there REALLY is no reason that these idiots need to do this at such breakneck speed, and it IS possible that they could just SLOW THE FUCK DOWN and carefully navigate the debris, but it puts on a hell of a show, so what the hell. Spock tells Kirk it's impossible to hit his target without his helmet navigation and after a few more tense moments, Khan saves Kirk, Scotty opens the airlock door, (sucking the security thug outside) and Kirk and Harrison Khan fly in and skid all the way back across the hanger bay to Scotty's feet where he says "Welcome aboard". Also, congratulations to Scotty for murdering some ignorant security dude. Typically we're given a chance to see a potential bad guy do bad shit, so we don't feel bad for the bad guy when the good guy kills him, but not here. This was a pretty reasonable sounding guy, just doing his job, and Scotty smoked him. Sucked him out into space to be explosively decompressed. High Five.
Once on his feet, Harrison Khan says the obvious with "They'll know were here" and "I know the shortest way to the bridge". See what I'm saying? Poor Beetlejuice Copperpot has to deliver some pretty hollow wind in this thing. Ugh. Then Kirk opens up a mint, in the box, phaser collectors set and hand's one to Harrison Khan saying "It's locked on stun" for some reason. Like Harrison Khan can't possibly turn on him with just a stun phaser. Like he couldn't have just let Kirk smash against the side of the super-ship, or simply snap his neck right now. Anyway... that's just silly. But it gets SUPER dumb back on the Enterprise bridge...
It becomes clear who Spock was trying to contact on NEW VULCAN: on the big main screen, OLD SPOCK, still played by the animated corpse of Leonard Nimoy, appears and they shoot the shit about their common enemy, Khan. This was awesome. I love old Spock and enjoy a nice cameo featuring Nimoy as much as the next guy, but this was some pretty stupid nonsense. Now, I had thought that the presence of Old Spock in this universe was to be kept the ultimate secret to avoid any time line alterations or manipulations. I thought that was made pretty clear at the end of Star Trek 2009, but now everybody on the bridge and who knows how many other people, are staring at and listening to the image of Old Spock, an artifact from an alternate timeline, like it's no big deal. Spock clearly doesn't give a shit about the rules when it gets in the way of Damon Lindelof.
"I thought I told you to never call me here."
Back on the USS CHOKING HAZARD, the Kirk,/Harrison Khan/Scotty trio wander through the decks towards the bridge, get into fights, lose sight of Harrison Khan, then get saved by him to make us feel he's loyal to Kirk and also we get to watch Carol Marcus slap her dad in the face. It's all good.
Back on Enterprise Young Spock actually comes out and asks Old Spock if he ever came across a strangely Caucasian, Asian Sikh with Mongol ancestry named Khan. Then Old Spock gets real. He drops a wisdom bomb on Young Spock with "As you know, I have made a vow never to give you information that could potentially alter your destiny. Your path is yours to walk, and yours alone."
Young Spock looks down, disappointed, defeated, because he knows Old Spock has his shit straight and that they shouldn't mess with the time/space continuum or whatever the hell they call it around here these days. BUT.. then Old Spock drops the dumbest line yet with "THAT BEING SAID..." and opens up about his old adversary. It's amazing. And really pointless. This is nothing but a cheap way to jam Leonard Nimoy into this script. It's so contradictory on so many levels. He says he won't, but he does. He opens up, but in fact, HE SAYS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF USE TO YOUNG SPOCK THAT YOUNG SPOCK ISN'T ALREADY AWARE OF: that Khan Noonien Singh is a wily, dangerous motherfucker you shouldn't trust, who will kill you at the drop of a hat. THANKS FOR LITERALLY NOTHING, OLD, WRINKLY-AS-HELL SPOCK. Young Spock even asks the obvious: "Did you defeat him?" I mean, the dude is right there talking to you, man. Chances are he didn't get killed, you know what I mean? Old Spock responds with the equally empty: "Yes, but at great cost". Nonsense. All this stuff is also designed to make Khan seem scarier and to repair the damage done by this shitty scripts reduction of Khan's history and back story. But it doesn't work. It's all hot air and posturing. "He's a bad guy. Watch out." "How bad?" "I'm talking Prometheus, bad". There's nothing to this dialogue. At all.
OK. Now during the Kirk/Harrison Khan/Scotty running battle to the bridge, Harrison Khan spits out the next line of idiocy: that, in fact, this new, fancy ship was "DESIGNED TO BE FLOWN BY MINIMAL CREW - ONE IF NECESSARY!!! Got that? That's not a random line. Nope! It's what we call FORESHADOWING. Here's a test of how well acclimatized you are to Lindelof logic. Knowing now that Harrison Khan just spat out a seemingly random fact about the ship they are on for no reason, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN LATER IN THE MOVIE? If you said "One person is going to single-handily pilot this fucking ship because it's a requirement of this paper-thin and shitty script, YOU'RE RIGHT! Give yourself a gold star!
See, it's really laughably obvious how bad the Deus ex Machina is in this new Lindelof Star Trek. Earlier, when we needed Scotty to run around unimpeded, there weren't any security thugs around at all. Then, when we needed more tension during the Kirk/Harrison Khan cannonball between ships scene, we make sure one guy randomly shows up to mess with Scotty's plans. Just ONE GUY however, because it can't actually stop the required elements from happening. It just has to make things tense. Then, when we need a running battle for Kirk, Scotty and Harrison Khan to raise the excitement level on their way to the bridge, then we've got security forces all over the place, and finally, when it's necessary for Harrison Khan to pilot the largest starfleet vessel ever created BY HIMSELF, that's completely doable too! (I know we haven't gotten to that yet, but be patient) See how awesome that is? Why bother to write logically when you can just bend and twist logic and make it your bitch whenever it gets in the way? Welcome to Lindelof.
And it happens again back on Enterprise when Spock is cooking up some kind of plan involving the torpedo people. He asks Uhura to assemble all of the top medical and engineering people where they are storing the torpedos. Then he asks if Bones could replicate how he and Carol Marcus disarmed, and opened the first torpedo. See, it was impossible to do the first time and they just got incredibly lucky, but now, when we need to do it 71 more times in minutes, it's gonna happen easy-breezy.
Now, back on the USS BITCH SLAP, in a short aside, Kirk whispers to Scotty to stun Harrison Khan the second they get to the bridge. He suspects that they might be helping Khan more than he is helping them. Duh. And just as the big ship's power is coming back online and Admiral Marcus orders that they re-target the Enterprise, Kirk, Scotty and Harrison Khan rush onto the bridge, stun everybody and take over, saving the day. Yay!
OK. Slow down a bit. Let's reflect: If Scotty and Kirk could talk from ship to ship on normal communicators, is it impossible to think that once all the fighting started to break out between Kirk's boarding trio and the security forces of Marcus' super-ship, that NOBODY BOTHERED TO TELL MARCUS OR THE BRIDGE CREW? I guess not, because they totally get the drop on them and easily take over. Awesome. Stupid Starfleet.
Then Scotty drops Harrison Khan. All good. Kirk tells him to "Make sure he stays down." And that opens the door to the next monologue. This time it's Peter Weller kicking ass as Admiral Marcus. And it's a good one. It's good, because most of the sentiment is lifted directly from Jack Nicholson's monologue as Col. Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men (1992). It's no where near as good as that, but the jist is this: Marcus says that due to Kirk's meddling, "...A war with the Klingons is coming and who is going to lead us against them? You?" He's using the classic "You need a man like me to lead this war effort or we're fucked" argument. It's rock solid badassery from Weller and he nails it.
But the showdown for control gets cut short when Harrison Khan takes Scotty by surprise (of course) and turns the tables once again. The Admiral tries to escape, Harrison Khan tosses Kirk around, then snaps the leg of Carol Marcus and finally crushes the head of the Admiral. It's a decent sequence, and it was pretty cool to see this Khan actually do something genuinely dangerous, but due to a pretty piss-poor setup, it didn't quite work for me. The better character just got killed off after conveniently delivering everything that this new snazzy Khan needs to finally take the role of primary antagonist of the film. Weak writing made it necessary to share duties with Admiral Marcus, and they killed off the wrong guy.
In my opinion, this film never needed Khan at all. There was a perfectly good story about a power mad and paranoid Admiral trying to find any justification possible to weaponize Starfleet and induce a war with his most hated enemy: the Klingons. There could have been a great, subtle, secretive manipulation of the young, innocent excitable crew of the Enterprise and their eventual discovery of a plot setting them up as the fall guys for a major galactic military conflict and, in the end, their race against time for justice and vindication against both Klingon and misinformed Starfleet forces. But that's just me. If I wanted Khan to be my bad guy, I'd have given him the spotlight, because the character can not only handle it, but deserves it. And although I'm not often keen on remakes, a more faithful reworking of The Wrath of Khan would have been an awesome opportunity for fans of both generations to see what a really well-drawn character and simple, focused details and motivations can do for a story. It's a shame that's not in vogue anymore.
Anyhoo, back to the story. Harrison Khan starts a brand new showdown with Spock, bargaining Kirk and his team for Khan's torpedo people. Spock is resistant, but when Harrison Khan threatens to blow a hole in Enterprise, killing everyone on board so that he can then board and "walk over your cold corpses" to remove his crew, still safely inside their cryo-torpedoes, Spock folds and agrees. Harrison Khan has Spock lower the Enterprise shields and scans for the torpedos, finding them in their firing tubes. He says "If these are not my torpedos, I will destroy you" and Spock comes back with the thinly veiled line of bullshit, "Vulcan's do not lie" the torpedoes are yours". So Harrison Khan beams the torpedoes aboard the USS LEMON JUICE IN YOUR EYE (because remember, this very special ship only needs one person on board to do everything! See how convenient that is?) and as per his deal, beams Kirk and the gang back on board the Enterprise But... immediately alarms go off and Sulu reports that the big bad ship is once again locking phasers on them.
So here's where things get sticky again: After Kirk rushes Carol Marcus to sickbay, Bones reveals that he helped arm the torpedoes, but that they removed the cryo-tubes first. Harrison Khan's crew is safely stowed away in a wing of the Enterprise's medical ward.
Khan starts to blast the shit out of Enterprise with his one man show, but is cut short when the torpedoes, now beamed into a cargo hold similar to where Scotty let Kirk and Harrison Khan board a few scenes ago start to explode. Spock, the crafty bastard, armed them and then detonated them and disabled the big bad super-ship from inside.
I don't know. So... all the people that Spock assembled earlier, took the cryo-tubes out, and put a warhead in? And then got them all into separate firing tubes? In minutes? I'm really not sure. But that smells pretty bad to my nose. At any rate, what's super-funny is that shortly afterward, Sulu reports "Sir, their weapons have been knocked out". Hm. First of all Mr. Sulu, there's only ONE DUDE on that ship. Secondly, what? The weapons systems are near the cargo bays? The newly-activated torpedoes that were just detonated inside a cargo bay on this super massive ship just cleanly knocked out ALL OF THEIR WEAPONS? Including the big ass guns that hang off the FRONT of the ship? Lindelof.
Anyway, the Enterprise starts falling fast towards earth. Remember when they were being chased by Admiral Marcus and got knocked out of warp about "237 thousand kilometres from earth"? Yeah. And that they haven't really moved since? FORGET ABOUT THAT. The Enterprise is suddenly hurtling fast down towards Earth's atmosphere. Spock orders everyone to abandon ship. Everyone refuses because... well, that would be a really expensive shot to film. Spock straps in using the shittiest "mass-appears-out-of-nowhere" CG seat belt special effect I've ever seen. Then, unfortunately, so does everyone else on the bridge. I swear to you it's the most cartoonish thing I've ever seen on screen in any Star Trek film or TV episode, ever. Way worse than the rubber-headed Gorn.
"That'll buff right out."
More stuff explodes, more crew members get sucked out into space, crushed, thrown around but, over all the screaming, Scotty tells Kirk that if they don't get the warp core realigned that they'll all die. We see lots of different shots of the ship falling towards Earth. It looks cool. Once at the core, Scotty tells Kirk the warp core is truly fucked and despite their best efforts, there's no way to save the ship. "She's dead" he says.
What happens next is a direct reflection and "carbon copy" of sorts to what occurred in The Wrath of Khan. In that film, it was Spock who walked into the warp core, exposing himself to fatal levels of radiation and saved the ship. In this film, for whatever reason, it's Kirk. I suppose it's because the new creative team wanted to illustrate how Kirk is maturing, evolving, growing up or whatever and has learned what it means to sacrifice. That's a fine argument, but for me, having unfortunately seen the superior film and having enjoyed it so much, this can't help but feel like a cheap copy and a cheat. This film is NOT The Wrath of Khan, it's not trying to be The Wrath of Khan, but I'll be damned if it doesn't keep forcing comparison by using elements of that film, poorly reworked, and to lesser effect.
Clearly, Kirk saves the day and dies in the process. After the ship rights itself and everyone cheers, Scotty gets on the intercom and tells Spock he'd better get to engineering immediately. This is the first of two shots in this film of Spock running fast that look really silly. Unfortunately his haircut flaps like Moe from the Three Stooges when he's hauling ass. It's not flattering, or hero-like at all and kind of undermines the seriousness of the scene. But Spock gets to the see-through door of the warp core, where Kirk lay dying and a scene that is the closest yet to something from The Wrath of Khan then plays out. Some of the dialogue is even very, very similar. They quote a couple of lines vebatim.
In The Wrath of Khan, two friends that have been working alongside one another for decades sit face to face as one of them dies. It was devastating, famously reaching new levels of gravitas for the often hokey franchise. Two of the most beloved pop culture characters are put through hell and one doesn't make it. It meant a lot to all of the fans of that version of Trek and it was strong enough to resonate with people brand new to it as well.
This film tries to steal and rework that magic and it can't possibly succeed. It can't possibly mean the same thing. It can't because these characters have only known each other for two films (a short time) and barely get along. It's not the same. They're young. And although Hollywood is obsessed with youth, in this type of situation, with most of their lives ahead of them and with limited understanding of the temporal and fragile nature of human life, they just can't possibly experience things the same way. It doesn't fucking work. And because the scene is a total and complete theft of what was originally the second film, it seems cheap. It seems lazy. And it gets worse. But more on that later.
The worst line that JJ and Lindelof steal and try to rework came originally from Shatner's Kirk, when, after being temporarily bested by the real Khan, he screams into his communicator, at Khan himself as the camera dramatically zooms out from overhead. "KHAAAAAAAAAAAN!" It's one of the most quoted and even parodied lines in Trek history. And they make a shitty attempt to get it to work again by clumsily retreading it. This time Zachary Quinto's Spock, having just witnessed his Kirk die inside the warp core, starts to boil over and screams it to nobody in particular, completely losing control of his emotions and suddenly becoming overwhelmed with the thirst for revenge against Harrison Khan. Not very Spock-like, quite frankly. And no, having the emotionless Vulcan get emotional doesn't give it more weight, it actually just makes it harder to buy into and feels completely contrived and disingenuous. Apologies to Zachary Quinto who did a great job.
JJ and Lindelof have creative instincts that seem fucking gonzo to me. I came away from their first film really happy and encouraged. I couldn't wait for another helping. But I'm really beginning to understand why this film is under-performing. The novelty is wearing off. These guys don't like to invest in the long term. They're all about sensationalism, the flashy showmanship and slight of hand trickery that never holds up to a second viewing. Because it's hollow. It's a quick buck and a cheap, thrilling trick. They've been given the keys to one of the most popular and profitable franchises in history and then threw a lot of it away, tossing some really great stuff aside to make room for cheap stunts and lens flares and embracing shit that either doesn't mean anything or should simply be left alone. I admit, I just don't get it. This sequence didn't feel dumb so much as it really felt like a mistake. It felt wrong. But I can admit that for those who haven't seen the other films - and that's a big group of people these days - it probably doesn't matter. And that's a little sad for me. This franchise is nothing without it's history. And this film is the same. It's starting to feel pretty disrespectful to it's origins and that can't help but hurt it.
Back to the action: incredibly, the USS ATOMIC WEDGIE sails past Enterprise, barely missing it. We see Harrison Khan, still at the helm, commanding his robot ship to crash into San Fransisco (because again, that's where Starfleet HQ is).
Now, as I pointed out earlier, it's just fucking obscene that there isn't another single ship in the area to help or any other kind of planetary defense or early warning system for Earth that might get involved. If I'm not mistaken, that means we've got a better chance of stopping that renegade ship NOW, in 2013, than they do a few hundred years in the future. That's some silly shit, BUT... as usual, things are screaming along in exciting, edge-of-your-seat fashion, so who gives a crap. JJ's putting on a hell of a laser show at this point, so sit back AND STOP ASKING QUESTIONS. IT'S ALMOST OVER.
So we get those awesome shots of the big, bad, black ship hurtling down through the atmosphere at San Fran. Because... I'm not sure exactly. I'd have to ask Khan what his plan was there. First it crashes into the bay, and then skids into the city, wiping out a dozen buildings and scattering hundreds or thousands of extras in sweet costumes. It's pretty neat, sure, but again, I'm not understanding the point of that other than to create a rad scene of a ship crashing.
"Siri... plot a course for San Fransisco"
Spock races back to the bridge and demands the crew scan for survivors (meaning Harrison Khan). Sulu get's real and says "There's no WAY anyone could survive that". Spock comes right back with "He could." Right? Yeah. He's Harrison fucking Khan. He invented the iPad man.
Inside the wreckage, somehow not turned into gooey paste by the sheer force of impact alone, Harrison Khan is just fine. He jumps out of the bridge main viewer window and down onto the ground. It was about 30 meters. I know that because Sulu, still being pretty real says "Whoa! He just jumped thirty meteres!" Spock wants to try to beam him back aboard, but Chekov says he can't because "there's been too much damage", "there's no incoming signal" and also because Lindelof won't let him. BUT... Chekov does offer to beam Spock down. Because, remember that there ARE NO OTHER STARFLEET OR POLICING PERSONNEL ANYWHERE NEAR THE FEDERATION HQ. Nobody else exists when our heroes are on a mission. Every other Starfleet employee is off duty right now, so yes, of course, Spock is going to beam down and do the only logical thing during the climactic final scenes of a science fiction space opera built around the premise of deep space exploration: take part in a foot chase through San Fransico.
Oh, man. The superintendent is gonna be pissed.
I have to also point out that this would have been the perfect spot for a cameo by the original Sulu, George Takei. Just image the dramatic shot of The USS TWIRLING MUSTACHE barrelling downward across the sky, black columns of smoke trailing it, first crashing into the bay and then careening through building after building as it slowly grinds to a halt. As the camera pans left, George Takei steps into frame and says "OH MY." Gold, Jerry. Gold. Seriously. Is that any dumber than Alice Eves panty shot, or the incredibly dumb BenandJerry Shutthehatch shower scene that got cut? Yeah. This film's Khan, supposedly the nastiest villain in history, was going to be featured IN A SHOWER SCENE. You can find evidence of it right here.
"30 meters my ASS!"
Anyhoo, Chekov plants the idea to beam Spock down after Harry Khan, but it's actually Uhura that sells it. She turns to her boyfriend and says "Go get him." I mean, really. Poor Uhura. Man. What a waste. And only AFTER she's on board with the idea, does Spock leap into action. Because he's clearly pussy-whipped and not actually compelled by the death of his best friend of one and a half movies, Jim Kirk.
And it's on: Spock gets beamed down to San Fran and starts hauling ass after Harrison Khan, also hauling ass. It's pretty exciting. I mean both of those guys were really running fast. And this is the second time we get to see Spock's hair do some serious "Moe action" and... it's pretty unfortunate.
I thought it was a hologram!
Cut back to the Enterprise's sick-bay. Kirk is on a slab. Bones is bummed. He slumps back into his chair next to THE DEAD TRIBBLE. It starts to coo and move! For Real! Harrison Khan's blood brought it back to life! Yay! Lindeof has just made death completely unnecessary in this new universe! NO MORE DEATH EVERYBODY! (Unless we need it, of course) Bones cries out "Get me a cryo-tube!" for some reason. I'm not sure. The Tribble sure as hell wasn't frozen in a cryo-tube and it's dancing a jig now. In fact, it sat out in a warm room for hours. Smelling like road kill - I imagine. So... huh? Sure Bones. Whatever.
Back to the chase. It's a fist fist fight on the back of a surface shuttle. Pretty exciting shit. Khan and Spock are beating each other pretty good. Spock puts the VULCAN NERVE PINCH on Khan. It doesn't work for the first time in Trek history. Lindelof.
I can't believe you don't think I look Asian!
Back to Sick-bay. Bones actually tells somebody to pull one of the Khan-cicle dudes OUT of his cryo-tube and to "KEEP HIM IN AN INDUCED COMA". Then to put Kirk in it and freeze his ass. Apparently it's "THE ONLY WAY TO PRESERVE HIS BRAIN FUNCTION". Dammit Bones I'm not a doctor, I'm a blogger! But even I know that unfreezing a three hundred year old popsicle and just keeping him in a coma on the floor sounds like pretty dumb, ignorant shit. What happens when he starts to tha-aw fuck it. DON'T ASK QUESTIONS! THERE'S NO TIME TO EXPLAIN!
Alice Eve wants to know how much of Harrison Khan's blood sample is left. "NONE" says Bones. And he gets on the comm to Spock who is getting the shit beat out of him by Harrison Khan.
Can you see what's coming? Now clearly, Kirk isn't going to stay dead. This film has been forseshadowing that for an hour with the whole blood sample/dead Tribble horseshit. But you've also got another Lindelof convenience tee-ing up as well: Spock is actually out to KILL Harrison Khan right now. But now we can make sure that doesn't happen, because we need his blood. See how tidy that is?
EXCEPT THERE'S SEVENTY-TWO OTHER PEOPLE WITH THAT BLOOD IN THEM JUST A FEW FEET AWAY, INCLUDING THE DUDE BONES JUST YANKED OUT OF THE FREEZER AND IS LETTING THAW OUT ON THE SICK-BAY FLOOR RIGHT NOW. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? DON'T ASK QUESTIONS!
The fight goes on for a while, but if you've been paying attention, you know already that not only will Spock not die (because Kirk already died - temporarily of course - because they wouldn't kill TWO major characters in one film), but we know that Khan can't die either, so it's just a matter of letting the clock run out on this one. Spock gets beaten down pretty good. Bones gets all uppity and demands Uhura make Spock aware that they need Harrison Khan alive. The tension and excitement are off the charts. And then, of course it gets dumb again.
"Hey, everybody! Transporters can beam you onto moving objects now! Thanks, Lindelof!"
The bridge crew are trying to beam Spock and Harry Khan back to the ship, but can't. Then Uhura delivers her final dumb line "Can you beam someone down?" What? You mean like we just did with Spock, like two minutes ago? Did you miss that somehow? Back to the fight. Spock is losing. Uhura beams in (onto a speeding surface shuttle I must point out, which I believe is kind of a new trick, especially without a magical Harrison-Khan-designed gizmo) and starts phasing the shit out of Harrison Khan to little effect. Spock recovers a bit, snaps a metal bit off the shuttle roof they continue to fight on, and proceeds to beat the living fuck out of HK with it. You know, like Hulh Hogan used to. He'd take a beating for a while and then, near the end of the fight, the crowd would cheer, and he's suddenly recover from any wounds and get super strong, easily besting the foe. Uhura can do that for Spock. But, of course, Uhura, stops him from killing Harrison Khan at the last second by saying "He's our only hope of saving Kirk". In fact, a pretty underwhelming and unsatisfactory end to a weirdly out-of-place final confrontation/battle.
"Your bangs are ridiculous!" "Yeah, well... The matrix called. They want their coat back!"
Cut to a hospital bed. Kirk waking back up two weeks later following a transfusion of Harrison Khan's blood. Specifically a SYNTHESIZED SERUM DERIVED FROM HIS BLOOD. Whatever that means. I have stopped asking questions. For real. Kirk thanks Spock. Spock says "You are welcome... JIM" marking the first time he's used Kirk's first name which means they're officially friends now. So that's nice.
Let me ask you this: do you think that 300 years ago when Harrison Khan and his posse was jammed into those cryo-tubes that anybody knew that his blood was magical? Or are we supposed to believe that slipped everyone's mind back then? Or that everybody thought that curing death was too cool? Don't know. Kind of a big whole in that new premise.
As I was bitching about earlier, when Spock died in The Wrath of Khan, it meant something. And the audience had a chance for that event to take it's emotional toll. The movie ended with him still dead and, in fact, the final scene was his funeral. A burial at sea of sorts, but in space, in orbt around the new planet known as Genesis. Now way back in the 80's we weren't stupid. We could see the writing on the wall and knew Spock probably wasn't going to stay dead, but we got a chance to experience the loss. To carry it around for a while. To let it actually happen. Just like the death of the young crew member that Scotty carried onto the bridge. We had a chance to let it sink in and hurt a bit, because we got to know him - even for just a minute- and his death was a quiet, powerful moment. They just don't want that to happen anymore. They don't have the Goddam patience! Faceless crew members fly out into space and get blown up by the dozen. This Kirk's death happened during a shitstorm of action and was - literally within minutes - reversed with absolutely no lasting effect. It can't mean anything. It's a joke.
Wait. Is that the Ark of The Covenant over there?
Then we cut to a short scene that looks like the final shot from Raiders of The Lost Ark. (Another great one from the 80s) It's a big, dark room filled with dusty cryo-tubes. The camera moves in on one tube and lets us see through the glass. It's Harrison Khan. Back where he started. And that's how I feel after watching this movie: all kinds of inconsequential things happened, but nothing changed. Some characters seemed to have evolved, but as we were shown at many points through the film, these new writers can undo anything for the sake of a cheap thrill. Lessons get lost. Character's do shit out of character, the rules change and change again with no lasting effect, and no impact. No consequences. It just feels like two hours of hollow calories.
The second-last scene is a big, outdoor ceremony months later where Kirk is addressing a huge crowd of Starfleet personnel during the re-christening of the freshly repaired Enterprise. Why Kirk, the youngest captain in the fleet, is conducting the ceremony is beyond me. There doesn't even seem to be any senior staff there, but it gives him a cool opportunity to deliver the famous opening monologue from the original series. Then it's back to the bridge for the obligatory final shot of everybody, filled with hope and anticipation as they fly off on the beginning of Starfleet's first ever five year, deep space mission. And that worked. It felt like a new beginning. A nice end to this two film series and a reboot of the original concept that somehow actually felt organic. But we'll see where it goes. I guess that makes these last two films weird prequels in a way? I don't know, but we've just now reached the point where Trek was supposed to start from: an exploratory mission to go boldly where no man has gone before etc., so I guess that's cool. I hope so.
So, I'll take one final swing at "outing" these creative interlopers and illustrating just how damaging and corrosive this type of bullshit can be for a long-term, cornerstone franchise like Star Trek. You CAN'T JUST INTRODUCE MAGICAL, REALITY-ALTERING ELEMENTS THAT BREAK ALL THE RULES FOR CHEAP, SHORT-TERM DRAMATIC PURPOSES THAT ULTIMATELY "FIX" A PROBLEMATIC SCRIPT OR ARTIFICIALLY INJECT EXCITEMENT THE WRITER IS OTHERWISE INCAPABLE OF. It's asad crutch. And more importantly, there's no way to undo it logically. The only way to "correct" the universe you are fucking with is to simply walk away from those concepts after the ride is over and hope that everyone forgets about them. But of course we don't. I mean, we just watched them for two hours. We're not fucking morons, despite being treated like them. What do I mean? Consider this:
A brand new type of super ship (the USS Vengeance) was created for this film. It goes against everything the franchise stands for or has ever introduced previously. It can do WAY more stuff than the next best thing Starfleet has to offer: which is the Enterprise. It truly is a gigantic "fuck you" to the creative sensibilities the franchise is famous for and It's a huge problem to bring into Trek canon. Why? Think about it: If this is now a possibility, then it SHOULD become the norm, shouldn't it? The Enterprise supposedly represents the fleet's best effort, and this new tech is WAY BETTER on all fronts. It makes Enterprise look like a piece of shit. I understand that Harrison Khan stated it was designed just for war, and that Enterprise has other priorities (I hope so anyway!), but it still makes sense to incorporate SOME of this new technology into the new ships built. Doesn't it? Wouldn't you?
During the final battle of this film, the Enterprise gets seriously fucked up. It needs a ton or repairs.
It's about to set out on a FIRST EVER FOR STARFLEET, 5 YEAR, DEEP SPACE MISSION. It's a big, hairy deal. You'd think that Starfleet would feel compelled to give these brave explorers the best resources available, wouldn't you? Add some of this new technology to their best, shiniest ship during it's lengthy repair process? I mean, there IS a new super facility "hiding" behind Jupiter that just happens to be empty. Wouldn't it make sense to put these new (THREE TIMES AS FAST) warp engines on a deep space explorer? You know, so they can go further in less time and get to safety quick when they're in trouble, or whathaveyou? And as absurd as those big cannons on the Vengeance were, they'd make for a great defensive weapon too. BUT OF COURSE THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Why? Because it's bullshit. It's lazy. And even the people responsible for it, understand that IT'S NOT STAR TREK.
How about that portable transwarp teleporter duffle bag thingy? That's pretty cool. If I ran Starfleet, I'd make it a front and centre, focal piece of equipment as common as a phaser or a tricorder. It's one of the most effective emergency escape-type devices ever. It's a fucking parachute for almost any kind of problem! It sure was for Lindelof and his shitty script! But it won't be. It's stupid. And it is by far the most obvious cheat in this film. Star Trek is about starships. And now, you don't need them anywhere near as much. OR, now that the technology is solid, why not build A REALLY FUCKING BIG ONE AND SEND SHIPS THROUGH IT? You know, like STARGATE? Except that that is Stargate, and this is Star Trek. And it undermines so much of what this show is about. I mean come on! People can now just magically disappear on one planet and appear across the galaxy on another? Holy shit is that powerful! And it's the size of a duffel bag! I guarantee you that it will never appear again.
Finally, here's my personal favorite: Now that it has been established that Khan's blood is capable of bringing dead people back to life, AND that Bones created some kind of synthetic version in pretty quick order, AND that not only is Khan on ice and available in a convenient room somewhere in a Starfleet facility AND, again noting that a ship is about to be sent out on an exciting, but let's face it DANGEROUS five year mission into deep space... can you see where I'm going yet? WOULDN'T YOU DECIDE TO TAKE THE MONTHS REQUIRED TO REPAIR ENTERPRISE TO GET BONES RIGHT ON PRODUCING A FUCKING TON OF THAT SHIT? YOU KNOW, SO NOBODY IN STARLEET WOULD HAVE TO DIE FROM TRAUMATIC INJURIES OF ANY KIND, EVER AGAIN? I know I'm crazy, but I might make that a priority. I might even put a cryo-tube or two on board every ship since that seems to be key in bringing people back from the dead. But of course that will never happen. And we will never hear tale of Khan's magical healing potion again. Because it's bullshit. Because it's just too fucking much. It's a magic wand and again, it goes against everything we know about this franchise. It would single-handily transform the very nature of this universe. So we will just ignore it and move on. That, folks... is shitty writing. It's known as Deus Ex Machina and it is a telltale attribute of an inferior writer or writers. Lindelof, or whomever else was responsible for this junk didn't just use it once or twice. They used it a TON of times, and they kept using it over and over again like it's their natural GO-TO. Like it's a perfectly reasonable and respectful thing to do. IT'S NOT.
JJ Abrams has famously jumped ship to direct for the Star Wars franchise now, so there's no telling what's next for Star Trek. Hopefully something better. Something with a little more soul. But that's just me. I re-watched The Wrath of Khan again recently just to experience the new and the old back-to-back and there's no denying it: the old movie moves at a snails pace in comparison. But don't let it fool you. The script is a great one, and ultimately that's more important. It all starts with the script and I just wish that more of these new ones were a little better.
Clearly this was not my favorite film. Not by a longshot. But, despite what it may seem like, I did have fun. I know this is just "a movie". And I understand this is simple escapism. I get it. I do believe that the original philosophy that spawned this franchise way back in the 60's was, in fact, trying to be something more, but I accept that things change. Money talks. These new "tent pole", blockbuster films are designed to be a roller coaster ride of pictures and sound that attract EVERYBODY. And I understand that the film is science fantasy, not fact. Not based in real-word science or logic at all. But I wish it had SOME kind of logic. It's fun. It's entertaining, and it's genuinely thrilling at times, but it's also pretty dumb and I don't accept that escapist movies have to be dumb to be entertaining. I don't recall thinking Raiders of the lost Ark was dumb. Although I did think Crystal Skull was. I don't remember thinking the original Star Wars was dumb. But Phantom Menace certainly was. Super dumb. I don't remember thinking John Carpenter's The Thing was filled with dumb characters doing dumb things. But, of course, the terrible remake in 2011 was incredibly dumb. The Wrath of Khan wasn't dumb. What is happening? I don't know. I actually like Hollywood-style escapism. I just don't like that it seems to be getting bigger, louder, flashier and unfortunately, dumber.
Thanks for reading. I'm amazed anyone would read this entire thesis-like epic post! It's pretty long, and might take longer to read than to watch the actual film. So thanks! I was compelled to write it for some mysterious reason and I appreciate your time.
I'm the Sighthound... and that's how I see it.
I swear to God, I'm Asian.
FYI, with regard to your analysis and "237 thousand kilometers":ReplyDelete
The MOON orbits earth at between ~360 and 400 thousand kilometers distance. So the point you referenced is WELL WITHIN the orbit of the moon. Between these two bodies, the earth on one side, or the moon on the other should have been a giant backdrops in virtually any scene relating to this encounter. Also, within the canon, there should be several heavily armed Starbases nearby.
Since we're on the subject of intra-solar system distances, impulse drive according to Star Trek canon, is good for speeds up to and beyond 0.9c. Given that the mean distance to Jupiter is about 1 light-hour away, it's entirely reasonable that Scotty could have made the trip relatively quickly (i.e. in about 30 to 90 minutes, give or take) That, of course, ignores the question of how he obtained the shuttle, and managed to evade any/all detection en route...
Thanks "Anonymous"! I appreciate your input and stand corrected on a couple of details. I wish that changing my misconception of those two details helped also change how I feel about the film, but, well... Lindelof. :) Neverheless, thanks again!ReplyDelete
Amazing, man. I've been copying and pasting this like a grenadier whenever I see a status update with the word "fun!" in it.ReplyDelete
I think there are a couple of redeeming points you've missed for example, the very end of the old Spock dialogue has new Spock asking, "How?" And we assume old Spock identifies Khan's Achilles heel is his concern for his people. We knew that already but now new Spock can apply it.ReplyDelete
But I totally agree that the deus ex machina approach has possibly ruined the franchise. Maybe that's why JJ jumped ship to Star Wars. It'll take years for audiences to un-see all the contrivances and be comfortable again with legitimate Trek.
A fair point, but an assumption for sure. This Achilles heel hardly seems that big a deal when it all hinges on the ridiculous torpedo caper which really doesn't work from any angle. And it's sad that this vulnerability is only present in this film by way of Cumberbatch's strangely timed and teary monologue and this scene between two other characters who, in the end, don't actually say what is (arguably) being said. It's a weak sauce at best. We don't get the original Khan backstory of losing his wife, or the insane hardships they endured due to the natural disaster of the planet he was marooned on, or the son-like crewmember killed in battle against the Enterprise or any of that. It's just a couple of lines of dialogue thrown around. It can't do the job desperately required to give it real weight.ReplyDelete
Yes, it took me longer to read this than watch the film. But I feel the same as you do. And you are able to articulate your thoughts more clearly and dynamically than I could. Great job.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the kind words!Delete
I agree with you on virtually everything you wrote. However, I just watched the film, twice, back-to-back and I'm not sure they ever said that the torpedoes were not armed. They said they were unfueled, certainly. Also, not that Lindeldorf would know or care, but I believe according to canon, the torpedoes were essentially ballistic devices and derived their initial thrust from magnetic acceleration. Of course, none of this matters.ReplyDelete
Agreed! Thanks for the feedback!Delete
Correction: Harry Mudd isn't the guy that introduced tribbles in the original series. That's Cyrano Jones. Completely different characters, though I can see you getting them confused. So the tribble connection isn't even there. I think it was just them saying "hey trek fans, see we're using tribbles in this movie, so you have to like it now, right?" Good review though.ReplyDelete
You are completely correct re: Mudd/Jones! Thanks for the feedback!Delete
Great article! I loved every bit of it, especially all of the different names you came up with for the Vengeance (USS ASSKICKER and USS BITCHSLAP are my favs). I did want to point out though that you said that the first time Spock called Kirk "Jim" was at the end of STID while he's laying in the hospital. Spock actually does call Kirk "Jim" in Star Trek 2009, during the scene where they are inside the Black Hole device from the future aboard Nero's ship, just before Spock explains that "the statistical likelihood that their plan will succeed is less than 4.3%". It's a minor detail, but just thought I should let you know. Thanks for the article, it was awesome!ReplyDelete
Thanks for pointing that out dsp8ty, and glad you enjoyed it! Cheers!Delete
AMAZING article! My friend sent me the link to this and I loved it! It's a true statement of modern screenwriting. Everything is just super contrived and convenient. There's no heart or soul anymore, just flashiness and tricks. Although I agree with everything you pointed out, I do think there's one example of Lind's horrible writing that you pointed out that I think actually could make sense. When you said that Kirk and Pike left the bar at the same time and conveniently don't reconvene until after Kirk and Spock have their aside, I think it's plausible because Kirk was not wearing his uniform at the bar and Pike was. So when Pike told him to "suit up", Kirk may have had to stop home and get changed while Pike headed directly to Starfleet HQ. That would mean that Pike arrives before Kirk and then Lindelof comes in and Spock arrives at the same time as Kirk to allow for the aside. It was just a thought that I wanted share. Fantastic analysis overall! Thank you!ReplyDelete
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Another very good observation! Thanks! I appreciate the thought and the kind words, and although what you say is 100% reasonable, I admit I was not in a mood to be lenient with Mr. Lindelof when I wrote this monster! :) Glad you enjoyed it!ReplyDelete