Star Trek: Into Darkness – This review contains some pretty major spoilers for the film, although it does seem like I was one of the last people to see it anyway. So if you haven’t seen it and want to, you probably shouldn’t read any further.
As a sequel to the 2009 film simply called Star Trek, Into Darkness continues the story of an alternate universe where the crew from the original series encounters somewhat altered versions of what they did before. This film even features the same villain as the original Star Trek II, although the circumstances are different, and they make sure not to reveal his true identity until a considerably way through the movie. As with the first one, I really do have to wonder what the point of the alternate universe is, when they could just do a prequel. Reboots are sometimes done to introduce a new audience to the franchise and to simplify convoluted continuity, but I don’t think J.J. Abrams is really doing either of these things. Indeed, these movies seem to assume prior knowledge of the Star Trek universe, like what Klingons and Tribbles are. Of course, the franchise has become part of popular culture to the point that people who have never seen a single episode or movie could probably identify a Klingon as an alien with forehead ridges and a warlike personality, but still.
Having Kirk suffer from radiation poisoning while Spock yells Khan’s name was obviously intended to resonate with audiences who were familiar with The Wrath of Khan, in which the situation happened the other way ’round. And of course there’s always Leonard Nimoy as Spock from the future, there to explain how things happened in his own past. So, as with the first alternate universe Trek film, I don’t really see the point, but I enjoyed it anyway. The plot elements about the Enterprise crew not knowing whom they could trust were developed well. Also notable was that there was a lot of action, and some thinly veiled references to modern terrorism, especially the September 11th attacks.
The use of the character of Khan Noonien Singh was interesting insofar as his back story, which is rather out of date now. According to references in the original series, Khan was one of a group of genetically engineered supermen who ruled much of the Earth in…the 1990s. They were defeated in the Eugenics Wars, and Khan and some of his compatriots were cryogenically frozen and blasted off into space. Remember all this during the Clinton administration? I’ve noted before that this is a standard problem with any fiction taking place in the future. Even when you set it far enough ahead that the creators and original audience won’t be alive to see if things really work out that way, there are going to be historical events (from the future characters’ own standpoint, that is) set in the much more recent future. The new movie was purposely vague on Khan’s past (which presumably should have been the same as it ever was, as the timelines didn’t diverge until 2233), but did mention that he was frozen 300 years ago (i.e., the twentieth century).