Star Trek Into Darkness
The second of the new Star Trek movies, bringing back all of our favorite characters. Joining them is Peter Weller (popped up recently as Elliott Mason in MacGyver) as Admiral Marcus, and yes, that is Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith from Doctor Who) that briefly appears at the beginning of the film. And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Smaug and the Necromancer in the Hobbit trilogy, Dr. Stephen Strange in the MCU, amongst a dozen other roles) as John Harrison.
The film opens on an alien planet, Nibiru, where McCoy and Kirk are being chased by the natives. This is a distraction so that Sulu and Uhura can drop Spock into a volcano and render it inert so it doesn’t destroy the planet and the entire civilization. Events, of course, do not go entirely to plan. Ash from the volcano forces Sulu and Uhura to head back to the Enterprise, leaving Spock in the volcano. The Enterprise is actually sitting on the bottom of the ocean at the moment, but Kirk sees no other way of rescuing Spock aside from rising out and showing themselves to the primitive natives, and violating the Prime Directive (prohibits members of Starfleet from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations). So now, the Nibiruians worship the Enterprise.
In London, a couple visits their sick daughter until a man (Harrison) approaches the father, saying he can save her life. Back at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Pike meets with Kirk and Spock to address their recent mission. Spock reported Kirk’s actions, which Kirk tried to hide his wrongdoing, considering he did it in order to save Spock. Starfleet command has voted to take the Enterprise from Kirk; he will be sent back to the Academy. Their argument, Pike points out, is that Kirk feels like the rules don’t apply to him. He’s been lucky and he uses that argument to support his actions. Pike finds Kirk again that evening and reveals he has managed to become the new captain of the Enterprise and has finagled Kirk to be his First Officer; Spock has been reassigned. “It’ll be okay, son.”
They get a call late in the evening, after the archives have been blown up in London (by the father we saw earlier. Harrison’s blood managed to save his daughter). Kirk wonders why Harrison, revealed to be part of Starfleet, targeted essentially a library. Then formulates that Harrison’s next target must be their very meeting. As soon as he shouts “clear the room,” a small craft appears outside the windows and open fires. Kirk manages to get alongside the craft and attempts to jam the engine. He succeeds, but Harrison warps out before it crashes. And Kirk sadly discovers that Christopher Pike was killed in the attack, his last moments watched by Spock (who even mind-melded with the man). [Wonderful acting on Chris Pine’s part; you can read his character’s devastation on his face] The next morning, Kirk approaches Admiral Marcus for permission to hunt Harrison down. He’s hidden on the homeworld of the Klingons, Kronos. Marcus gives Kirk permission to sit on the edge of the Neutral Zone and fire new photon torpedoes to take out Harrison.
On their way to the Enterprise, Spock argues with Kirk over the morality of simply executing Harrison without a trial. They are also joined by Carol Wallace, a Science Officer assigned to transfer the new torpedoes. The torpedoes that Scotty doesn’t want to allow on the Enterprise. He and Kirk get in an argument, Scotty uncomfortable with the militaristic nature of their endeavor. Scotty ends up resigning. Kirk then instructs Chekov to take over as Chief of Engineering, “go put on a red shirt.” (Chekov looks appropriately worried; red shirted crew members are notorious for dying on Star Trek) With a look to Spock, Kirk announces to the crew that they will covertly set down on Kronos in order to capture Harrison and bring him back for trial. Kirk leaves Sulu in charge…and oh boy, Bones is right, we should never piss off Sulu, that message was on point.
Before they head down to Kronos, Spock deduces that Carol Wallace is actually Carol Marcus, the Admiral’s daughter. She snuck aboard the Enterprise to take a look at the torpedoes. Kirk warns the away team that they cannot be tied back to Starfleet, then there’s a brief argument aboard the shuttle between Spock and Uhura over his willingness to die in the volcano; Spock reveals he chooses not to feel the fear of death again, which he experienced the day Vulcan was destroyed and when he melded with Pike. There’s a brief chase and Kirk makes them fit between two structures, Spock isn’t sure it counted, but they’re soon cornered. Uhrua asks that Kirk let her speak Klingon and tries to negotiate their way out. Until Harrison open fires, admittedly saving Uhura’s life, but everyone else begins firing. Harrison surrenders to Kirk when he demands how many torpedoes were aimed at him. Kirk accepts his surrender on behalf of Pike, then proceeds to beat Harrison until Uhura stops him.
Kirk’s questioning of Harrison doesn’t go quite according to plan; it raises more questions than answers. He calls Scotty and asks the man to investigate the coordinates Harrison gave them. And Carol and McCoy head to a deserted planetoid to open up the torpedoes. “When I dreamt about being stuck on a deserted planet with a gorgeous woman, there was no torpedo!” It’s all fun and games until McCoy gets his arm stuck in the torpedo as it’s about to detonate. Luckily, Carol disarms it by pulling out the wiring. And it’s not fuel inside the torpedoes; there are people locked in cyrotubes inside. They were Harrison’s crew and he hid them there after Marcus woke him up for his military mind. Admiral Marcus is preparing for a war and discovered a ship full of people genetically engineered to be superior in every way. And Harrison’s real name? Khan [which even a fairly Star Trek-illiterate person knew meant bad things]. Khan points out to Spock “you can’t even break a rule, how can you be expected to break bone?” Marcus needed Khan’s savagery. [Benedict’s performance is also excellent; precise and calm, which makes it all the more menacing]
A huge ship arrives, helmed by Admiral Marcus and he’s not pleased that Kirk didn’t do exactly as he was told, nor that he’s spoken to Khan. Marcus demands that Kirk hand Khan over, but Kirk has Chekov take them to warp drive. Marcus aboard the Vengeance is able to catch them and knock them out. And now he’s deemed them criminals and intends to fire on them. He beams his daughter out when she tries to protect her new friends and Kirk pleads for the lives of his crew. They were only following his orders. But Marcus will kill them all…until their system is rebooted. Guess what Scotty found?
Now Kirk has a new idea; he’ll use Khan to board the Vengeance and get Marcus to stand down. Kirk orders Spock to take command; the ship needs someone who knows what they’re doing in charge and Kirk is running on a gut feeling. [Interesting note, at this point, there is still an hour left in the movie, meaning a lot more is going to happen, including the bulk of conflict and action] While Kirk and Khan engage in a space jump, Spock calls his older counterpart. He vowed to never reveal the future to his younger counterpart; they must follow their own path. Nevertheless, Khan was the most dangerous adversary they ever faced and they only defeated him at great cost (reference to the second original movie I believe, I’ve only watched it once) Luckily, we have Scotty to throw in some humor during the tense situations and all three men fight their way to the bridge. Scotty stuns Khan and Kirk tries to get Marcus to step down. The Admiral will have none of it. “War is coming, and who is going to lead us? You? If I’m not in charge, our entire way of life is decimated.” While everyone is distracted, Khan strikes. He knocks out Scotty and breaks Carol’s leg. He knocks Kirk out of the way with a few extra punches then crushes Marcus’s head. “You should have let me sleep,” he hisses to the Admiral. Khan calls the Enterprise and is not concerned that Spock has discovered that Khan truly is a war criminal, banished for mass genocide on anyone deemed less superior. Khan makes it easy for Spock, give him the torpedoes of his crew and he’ll return Kirk. Vulcans do not lie, the torpedoes are aboard the Vengeance. Khan beams Kirk, Scotty, and Carol back to the Enterprise. “After all, no ship should go down without her captain.”
Chaos erupts. Khan fires on the Enterprise, then the torpedoes detonate aboard the Vengeance. Spock was not so cruel as to kill Khan’s crew; all seventy-two cryotubes are safe with Bones. But the Enterprise has sustained too much damage; the ship loses power and begins to fall. Scotty and Kirk race to Engineering, with some help from Chekov when gravity flips around. Spock orders everyone to abandon ship; he will stay behind and do what he can. The bridge crew refuses to leave. In Engineering, they discover the warp core is not aligned, meaning there’s no way to reboot power. Kirk knows of a way. He knocks Scotty out and opens the door to the core, which is filled with radiation. He climbs in and kicks the components back into alignment. The Enterprise is saved and rises out of the clouds (still awesome). Spock knows there is no such thing as a miracle and runs to Engineering when Scotty calls him.
A door separates Kirk and Spock, keeping the radiation from everyone else. Spock tells Kirk that he saved the ship, the crew is safe because of him. Kirk comments that the stunt with Khan was something he would have done; and entering the core room was something that Spock would have done (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…and what happened in the second movie). Kirk admits he’s scared and asks Spock how to not feel. But Spock cannot control his emotions at this time. And he recognizes that Kirk rescued him from the volcano because he is Kirk’s friend. Kirk puts his hand to the glass and Spock mirrors him; their fingers move to the Vulcan greeting, then Kirk’s hand falls. Spock is silent for a moment, then yells “Khan!” in rage.
They’re not out of danger yet; the Vengeance falls past them and crashes into San Francisco Bay. Khan jumps into the ruins and Spock beams down to pursue him. Bones is devastated when Kirk is brought to him in a body bag. Then the tribble on his desk trills; the one that was dead that he injected Khan’s blood into. He orders Jim put in a cryotube, but he needs more of Khan’s blood. Uhura goes down to stop Spock from killing Khan, protecting her boyfriend from being crushed to death like Marcus. Spock manages to knock Khan down and proceeds to beat him…what was Khan saying about Spock not breaking bones? Uhura has to explain that the madman is the only way to save Kirk. A final uppercut knocks the psychopath out.
Over a black screen we hear bits of the first movie; George and Wionna naming Jim, Pike daring Jim to do better, and then Jim is awake. McCoy was able to transfuse Khan’s blood, but it’s taken its toll. Spock is there and Kirk thanks him for saving his life. A brief final scene takes place after we see that Khan and his crew have been put back to sleep. A memorial service for all the damage done the previous year and Kirk speaks to the crowd that there will always been those who mean to do us harm and we risk waking the same evil in ourselves trying to defeat them. But vengeance is not who we are. It is Chris Pine’s voice that gives us “Space, the final frontier.” The Enterprise is rechristened and will begin a five-year mission. We see the bridge crew preparing to depart, joined by Carol Marcus. Kirk is excited and ready for a long journey.
Of the three new movies that are currently out, this is my favorite (there are rumors of a fourth installment coming in 2023). It takes a bit for the story to truly get going, but the action all falls together at the end. Excellent performances by the whole cast. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Harrison fairly affable so you want to believe this strange man will help, while hiding his true identity…for those who didn’t guess early on; so it helps not being completely to speed on prior Star Trek lore. And this Khan is less creepy than the original for some people, which helps as well. I thought Kirk’s death was a strong, poignant moment and thought for a moment the first time through that they had actually killed off the main character. (And there is lots of fanfiction to delve into this moment and the developing friendship between Bones, Spock, and Kirk.)
Up Next: Star Trek Beyond