20 July 2021 534 Views

Crime of the Scene: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

by James Murphy

‘MY NAME IS KHAN!’

Happy Birthday to Benedict Cumberbatch, btw. A really nice chap who works hard and has a great range in a particular field. He is a character actor. I do sometimes query quite how he was promoted to movie star /action hero, though? Or in any way a definitive Hamlet (seriously, Benedict: I have seen better!).

And no, Benedict: Doctor Strange, though wonderful as a buddy to Tony Stark, is not the new Indiana Jones just because your next movie title echoes Temple of Doom. Don’t be silly! 

But I do like Mr Cumberbatch. Bit like my local Vicar buddy. Dependable. Competent. Kind. Cool. Popular. Solid presence. Dedicated. Loves movies. In fact, those two are never in the same place at same time.. 

..Even so, when I think of a superhuman, possibly Asian, despotic, master of the universe, menace from the future? I would not have called the guy who played Sherlock. Just sayin’, like?

And yet, they did just that. 2013 saw Cumberbatch play the classic star Trek villain, KHAN! Original choice, so rumour has it, was Benicio Del Toro, which makes a great deal more sense, if honouring the Ricardo Montalban original.

Anyway, in a very convoluted plot twist, Cumberbatch is revealed to be Khan. The screen freezes in a moment of recognition which works for Trek fans who know the lore (a TV episode one and done baddie was brought back for the movie, Wrath of Khan).

But it means absolutely nothing to a non Trek fan base who simply went to enjoy a solid action adventure /sci-fi picture. More importantly, in universe, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk has no idea who this ‘Khan’ is, either. Because they have not MET at this stage in the timeline.

A metatextual reference, unearned, in a lazy appropriation of mythology not adequately thought out or developed. Can one enjoy the movie on its own terms? Sure! Contrary to popular belief, INTO DARKNESS is not a ‘bad’ movie.

It’s just that its attempts to appropriate imagery from other, better iterations of the lore, lacks any kind of imagination or innovation. Had they wanted to set up Khan as a recurring villain in the movie series? Ok, fine. START here. But don’t rush in a muddled motif when you had an entire universe of possibilities at your disposal after the 2009 soft reboot worked so well.

Critically? This marks a start of a downward trend in film franchise baddie recognition. James Bond would face ‘BLOFELD’ in SPECTRE. Once again, a villain’s name that means much to 007 fans yet little if anything to Bond himself because at that stage he has not yet battled the legendary villain in that guise.

JJ ABRAMS (Director of INTO DARKNESS) would himself repeat the error in his own STAR WARS send off, RISE OF SKYWALKER. The Emperor from the original trilogies returns, with minimal explanation. Turns out he was behind everything that happened in the preceding two films. Fine. Except the universe does not register surprise at that twist.

Remember, the world they built for the Disney sequels rendered Luke, Han and Leia’s exploits virtual ‘legend’. So by that rationale? The idea of a ready made First Order /new empire ready to accept an old leader of myth? Bit of a stretch, thereby undermining whatever vestige of verisimilitude was left in an otherwise ok action/adventure/sci-fi picture. Just like INTO DARKNESS.

Anyway, let’s hope everyone learns their mistakes. A new Trek film is finally headed into production from Matt Shakman. Jokes aside (STAR TREK: ALL MEN ARE SHITS!; STAR TREK: FEDERATION ARE EEEEVIL COLONIAL GITS; BORG/ROMULANS/KHAN ALL OK!)..he is a solid choice.

I think Matt ‘gets’ how to pay tribute to an existing mythology and merge modern and past aesthetics. WANDAVISION was a tribute to sitcom visuals, so this Trek might finally reconcile 60s pop art ideas to our own modern tech via futurist fantasy?

There is also talk, ongoing, of a KHAN spin off show, masterminded by Wrath of Khan /Undiscovered Country innovator, Nicholas Meyer. Dev Patel among an elite few in running for the title role, though the trail went cold a while back which may mean it’s off the cards (shame as it sounded like proper ‘trek’).

Meanwhile, JJ moves onto SUPERMAN..and a n other franchise property up for grabs. No doubt he too will be careful (MY NAME IS..BRAINIAC?!..)

BOLDLY GO. KIRK OUT..BEAM ME ABOARD ETC..

TRIVIA: I once had tea with Alice Eve, in Oxford. Lovely girl. Woefully miscast for INTO DARKNESS. 🙂 



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