5/20/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Vital Information
Series: The Alternate Universe Series
Episode: MovieXII
Release Date: May 16, 2013
Written by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof
Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Premise
After a series of terrorist attacks on Earth, Kirk takes the Enterprise out to find the man responsible and the Enterprise promptly shuts down, not wanting to know.

Review
I'm going to give some general thoughts up front and then move into spoiler territory under the jump. I'd like to start by saying that this movie is awesome and everyone should go see it, Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike. There have been several reviews stating that it's merely another popcorn action film without any artistic merit, but they must have seen a different movie because there are lessons to be learned all over the place here. I have always said that it's easy to glean a lesson from a movie that slows down enough for you to meditate on it, but it takes some skill to learn at the feet of an action movie.

We start off with Kirk screwing up and getting chewed out because of it. His mission was to go to Nibiru and do a simple survey of the planet. Instead, he discovered a super-volcano about to erupt on the poor, defenseless, stone-aged lifeforms below and decided to stop it from erupting, breaking the Prime Directive. During the course of the rescue, Spock gets stuck inside the volcano and Kirk is forced to raise the Enterprise out of the ocean where it was hiding to save him, thus revealing it to the Nibiru natives and even further demolishing the Prime Directive. When Pike catches wind of this from Spock's report, he knocks Kirk down a few pegs and says he's not ready to be a captain. When Kirk finds out this was all in Spock's report, he's mad at his friend for being truthful.

Meanwhile, over in London, Mickey Smith Thomas Harewood is approached by a mysterious man who claims to be able to save his daughter from dying. Turns out, in order to get this cure, which comes straight from the mysterious man's blood, he has to blow up an archive building. Back in San Francisco, Pike finds Kirk at another dive bar and says he stuck up for him and gave him the first officer position on the Enterprise with Pike himself as the Captain. Spock was transferred to the USS Bradberry. But they can process this news later, because a meeting has been called to talk about the terrorist attacks in London.

At the meeting, Kirk and Spock meet up for the first time since Kirk's chewing out and Kirk explains that he's mad at Spock because he thinks Spock betrayed him by filing a report. The meeting begins and Kirk immediately shakes things up by recognizing that an archive in London is not a very good target and the only reason to attack it would be to get this particular group of people together in one place... and that's when John Harrison, the mysterious man, attacks from outside the window. He fires into the meeting and kills many innocent people, including Pike, before being taken out by a fire extinguisher connected to a hose that Kirk threw into his craft's engine. Before the craft falls to the ground, Harrison disappears in the flurry of a transporter beam.

Now Kirk has to deal with the death of Pike, the only father figure he had left. With vengeance on his mind, he approaches Admiral Marcus to go after Harrison. Scotty revealed that Harrison used transwarp beaming technology to beam straight from Earth to Kronos (or Qo'noS for you Klingon-speaking nerds at home). So Marcus says, in order to avoid a war with the Klingons, take some special long-range torpedoes, go to the edge of the Neutral Zone, fire on Harrison (who is, presumably, in an uninhabited part of the planet) and get out of there quick. So, their mission is set, Kirk sets out to the Enterprise and meets a woman calling herself Carol Wallace, a science officer with a specialty in weapons. Spock is immediately suspicious of her. Just as Scotty is suspicious of Marcus's "special" long-range torpedoes.

When Kirk gets onto the Enterprise, Scotty immediately throws a fuss about knowing what's in the torpedoes while the guy who delivered them says it's classified. Kirk orders him to take the torpedoes on board, and Scotty promptly resigns because of it. It's sad, but at least we get comedic relief when Kirk asks Chekov to "put on the red shirt" and take over Scotty's position. This doesn't really pan out very well, though, because after they get underway, the engines fail at the edge of the Neutral Zone. Apparently, Chekov can't do zat. In any case, the plan now, at Spock's urging, is to take Harrison in for trial rather than kill him, so Kirk decides to take Spock, Uhura, Cupcake (whose name is actually Hendorf) and another redshirt the rest of the way in a craft they picked up earlier from Harry Mudd's daugher so as not to be picked up as a Starfleet ship by Klingons.

Before landing on Kronos, Uhura gets after Spock for being foolhardy and unfeeling, referring back to his actions on Nibiru. But Spock says the reason he chooses not to feel is because he does care about her. Which is fortunate because a Klingon patrol is coming around now and they better show their love by protecting each other. The patrol forces them to land and Uhura walks out to speak Klingon to them. Unfortunately, the Klingons don't care that they're hunting for another human. Until that other human jumps out and TAKES OUT AN ENTIRE KLINGON PLATOON SINGLE-HANDEDLY. When John Harrison finishes with the Klingons he asks for the number of "special torpedoes" Kirk has, and Spock says 72. And that's when Harrison surrenders.

They bring him back and put him in the brig. Unfortunately, the engines are not up and running yet. So Harrison uses that opportunity to speak to Kirk. He tells him to investigate coordinates close to Earth and to find out what's inside the torpedoes. So Kirk calls Scotty who's back on Earth and tells him the coordinates while he sends Carol Marcus (Spock found out who she really is - Admiral Marcus's daughter) and Bones out to perform surgery on a torpedo. During the surgery, Bones accidentally activates the warhead and gets his arm trapped inside. At the last second, Carol pulls a component out of the torpedo, it shuts down and opens up to reveal... a person in cryogenic stasis. And when Scotty finds a secret shipyard near Jupiter, Harrison's story becomes a lot more interesting.

Kirk confronts Harrison again along with Spock and finally gets the whole story. He is a relic of a time long past. "John Harrison" is a fiction created the moment Marcus awoke him from stasis and decided to use him to advance his vision of a militarized Starfleet. His real name is... KHAN. Marcus, struck with fear after the destruction of Vulcan, sent out expeditions to find weaponry to be used in an inevitable war with the Klingons. And he came upon the Botany Bay. He awoke Khan to use his savage intellect to help him build advanced ships and weaponry, and used the rest of his 72 crewmen as collateral.

That's when Marcus arrives in one of those advanced, militarized ships, the USS Vengeance. This huge ship designed to be run by a minimal crew, dwarfs the Enterprise as Marcus hails them to find out what's going on. He's not pleased that Khan is still alive. Nor is he pleased that Kirk found out who Khan actually was. His solution: hand over Khan or be blown out of space. Kirk agrees, cuts the transmission, and warps the heck out of there toward Earth. Chekov was able to fix the engines just enough for a short burst to earth. Kirk then meets with Khan in sick bay to ask about the USS Vengeance and Khan warns that they're not safe even at warp. (Meanwhile, Bones is injecting a dead tribble with Khan's blood as an experiment.) The Vengeance catches up to the Enterprise and shoots them out of the warp field. Crashing through subspace, they drop out of warp between the Earth and the moon.

The Vengeance continues to wreak havoc on the Enterprise until Carol comes to the bridge and pleads at her father to stop because she's on board. Well, he takes care of that quickly and beams her aboard the Vengeance even with the Enterprise's shields up. The Vengeance then turns her weapons on the Enterprise, Kirk turns to his crew and says "I'm sorry," and then... the Vengeance breaks down! Someone in engineering cut power to the weapons! Who is it? SCOTTY! The plucky Scottish engineer calls Kirk over the communicator and says he may have just committed treason and to beam him aboard as soon as possible! Unfortunately, the Enterprise's systems are still down, so the only way to save Scotty and stop the Vengeance is a space jump with the only person on the Enterprise who knows the Vengeance's specifications.

Spock advises against Kirk working with Khan, but they suit up anyway and fly through a field of debris. In the middle of the space jump, Kirk gets hit and his display blanks out, but Khan comes back and saves him. Meanwhile, Scotty is almost caught opening the door for them, but the security guard is sucked into space as soon as Khan and Kirk fly in. They make their way toward the bridge and Kirk tells Scotty to take Khan out as soon as they get there because he's pretty sure they're helping him instead of him helping them.

On the Enterprise, Spock does the logical thing and contacts Spock Prime about Khan. Spock Prime says he took a vow never to give them information that may alter their destiny... that being said... Khan is the most ruthless villain Kirk has ever faced. Spock asks if Spock Prime ever defeated him, and Spock Prime says, at great cost, yes. Spock asks how, and that's where the conversation ends, because on the bridge of the Vengeance, Kirk, Scotty and Khan come on board and stun everyone except Marcus... and then Scotty stuns Khan. Markus reveals how much of a scared, power-hungry little douche he is in a little tirade toward Kirk and then Khan wakes up, steps over Carol, breaking her leg, and throws Marcus against the wall, grabs his head and smashes it to pieces.

With Marcus out of the way, Khan takes command of the Vengeance and threatens to destroy the Enterprise unless they turn over his 72 crewmen. Spock complies and gives him the beaming coordinates for the 72 torpedoes. Khan then returns Kirk, Scotty and Carol to the Enterprise because a ship should not go down without her captain. Realizing that Khan was about to blow them up, Spock acts first and activates the warheads on the torpedoes, seriously crippling the Vengeance. Kirk later finds out that the 72 augments were removed from the torpedoes and were resting safely near sick bay.

Unfortunately, at that point power goes down completely and the Enterprise starts to fall toward Earth. "I'M GONE ONE BLOODY DAY!" Scotty yells as he and Kirk run toward engineering to find a fix. They meet with Chekov for a moment, and then Scotty and Kirk find that a component is misaligned and it can't be fixed without being flooded by radiation. So what does Kirk do? Knocks Scotty out and goes into the irradiated compartment to fix the thing. After realigning the warp core by kicking it into place, the ship gradually comes back to life and lifts above the clouds. But there was no joy on the Enterprise that day. Scotty calls Spock down to engineering and Spock finds himself separated by a thin plate of glass from his friend who was dying on the other side.

"How do you choose not to feel?" Kirk asks. "I do not know," Spock returns as a teardrop falls from his eye, "Right now I am failing." "I want you to know why I came back for you," Kirk says, referring to Nibiru. Spock already knows: "Because you are my friend," he says. And with that, Kirk dies. And with the death of Kirk, rage builds up in Spock and he cries out "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!"

Just then, the USS Vengeance speeds past the Enterprise on a crash course to San Francisco. Khan directs the ship toward Starfleet headquarters on a kamikaze run and the ship destroys half of the city. Spock tells Sulu to look for lifeforms. Sulu doesn't think anyone could survive, but Spock assures him that Khan could. When they find him, Chekov says they can't beam him aboard because of power fluctuations, but they could beam Spock down. So Spock beams down and runs after Khan.

Meanwhile, in sick bay, Bones mourns the death of his captain, but not for long, because then his tribble comes back to life! When he realizes that Khan's blood could revive Kirk, he realizes he needs Khan back alive because he's out of his blood. Chekov still can't beam him aboard, so Uhura decides the thing to do is to beam down and help her boyfriend. On Earth, Spock attempts a neck pinch and a mind meld, but nothing gets through to Khan. Khan attempts to squish Spock's head, but just at that moment, Uhura arrives and stuns Khan. Spock starts wailing on the Augment, but Uhura stops him, saying they need his blood to save Kirk. And that's the only thing that could stop him. He does, however, give Khan one last punch to the jaw and knocks him out.

Two weeks later, Kirk wakes up in a hospital bed with Bones over him telling him not to be so dramatic. He says he created a serum out of Khan's blood and used that to save Kirk from death. Khan, by the way, is back in a cryotube along with his 72 friends. Kirk and Spock have a tearful reunion, and it is implied that Kirk is now actually ready for the command of a starship. Because that's when he stand in front of a crowd for a rechristening ceremony for the USS Enterprise and says that they shouldn't let enemies get in the way of their true mission of exploration. After the christening, Kirk goes back onto the Enterprise to begin the famed five-year mission.

Overall Thoughts
Applause all around! This was a fantastic piece of cinematic work!

I had planned to go on a diatribe about why Benedict Cumberbatch was fine for the role, but I think I'll just address it briefly here. Does there need to be more people of color in movies today? Yes, there does. Is Khan an opportunity that they missed for giving a South Asian actor some work? Maybe, but not really. From the first appearance of Khan in "Space Seed," it was clear that he didn't look South Asian, even though he was a Sikh (which, by the way, is a religion, not a nationality). I have always seen this, even before 2009, as because eugenics is a means by which to make your supermen look however you want them to look. For an Augment, your skin tone and facial characteristics are just another dial to turn on your embryonic containment mechanism, just like your strength and your intellect and agility, etc. It's not a matter of taking the best characteristics from all the peoples of Earth and ending up with a dark-skinned person, it's a matter of being able to build the person from the ground up at the DNA level any way you want it.

That being said, yes, the original Khan was not quite as white as Benedict Cumberbatch. However... can we talk about how easy cosmetic surgery seems to be in the future? With just the flick of a dermal generator, Bones was able to turn Kirk into a Romulan, Crusher was able to turn Riker into a Mintakan, Bashir was able to turn Sisko into a Klingon, and so forth. So what better way to hide Khan's identity than to actually change his face. Khan's true face was, after all, on public record. I submit that Admiral Marcus forced Khan to submit to cosmetic surgery before he helped build weapons and ships. Otherwise, it would be easy to pin him as the ruler of a quarter of the world in the 1990s.

I realize people are upset because South Asian people are severely underrepresented in movies today. And the same is true for women. But I have to tell you that this simply is not what this movie is about. There were some great moments for women in this movie. Dr. Marcus saved Bones, Uhura saved Spock, Dr. Marcus defied her father and refused her name (gettin' all Shakespearian on ya), Uhura fought with Spock instead of just submitting to his unfeeling nature, and she used her linguistics skills to communicate with the Klingons. If you feel like women were underrepresented in this movie, it's simply because they aren't the main characters. I gotta tell ya, Russians were severely underrepresented, too! Not only that, but they're presented as bumbling idiots who don't know how to work an engine. And Koreans! The only big part Sulu had was to threaten John Harrison with missiles - that's not racist at all! (Side note: I loved that scene.)

Look, I understand that women have been overlooked and mistreated for centuries and it's time for people to stand up for them, but Star Trek is established as a series that's primarily about Kirk and Spock and sometimes Bones. And they just happen to be men. The women were given some awesome parts in this movie. Even Carol Marcus's little flash while changing was motivated by sexual tension between her and Kirk foreshadowing a future relationship. If you can't see how awesome the women were in this movie I feel sorry for you.

Okay. That long diatribe is out of the way. Basically, I loved this movie and I will be seeing it many times over and over again as soon as I can afford to do so. Live long and prosper, y'all!