Quick note to all readers: I don’t know how to write a review about this movie without giving away the main detail that other reviews I’ve read always avoid and since I was so grateful for other bloggers who warned of spoilers in their reviews I’m going to do the same and warn you that if you haven’t seen the movie yet you should skip this review.
Ok, are they gone? Only people who have see the movie left? Good, read on.
I liked the movie, let me say that first before I start complaining. It’s still a really solid cast, all of the traits we hold near and dear about the characters from the original series are still plain to see and the banter that takes place between them is, in my humble opinion, the best part of any of these movies.
There were some pretty emotionally poignant scenes appropriately timed to intersperse with heavy action and explosions galore. And the action was fun, well done with great CGI effects and didn’t subtract from the plot. It’s not easy to deal with heavy emotions in an action movie and I think this film does that balancing act very well.
Plus they evaluate a lot of pretty important topics for our time: militarism vs. terrorism and the question of whether or not a preemptive strike crosses that line, the emotional process we go through when dealing with grief and how this affects our behaviors and can steal who we are and of course the greater philosophical question of how mankind can balance its intellectual abilities with its savage impulses. And the final message that “There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that’s not who we are…” is a great one. And well put given the things that America has dealt with in the last couple of decades.
There’s a lot to like in this movie and I still give it a good rating overall. But I do have one rather major concern: I’ve already seen it.
Except that when I saw it, it was called The Wrath of Khan and it had a different cast, different themes, a different canon and a different ending. You may argue that this is clearly not the same movie and technically, you’re right. But with the way most remakes work today- in that they’re re-imaginings rather than strict retellings- it still falls into that category.
Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the changes they made. Benedict Cumberbatch was a great Khan, more cool steel than the fiery passion of his predecessor. And the twist of Kirk giving up his life to save the Enterprise rather than Spock was interesting and had me thinking pretty heavily about that first death scene so many years ago and how this one was like a mirror image. And I did not miss those horrible sand worm monsters that Khan used to torture/take over Chekov- those things gave me nightmares like you wouldn’t believe.
But the thing that changed the most- the canon- is exactly what made it not work for me. In the original, Kirk and crew are old. They’re moving towards retirement. They’ve finished their five year mission and then some and have been forever changed by it and because of that they’re smarter, more experienced and more aware of their own failings that could cause failure. And this is why they get through it the way that they do.
In this version, Kirk and crew are still babies- the beginning of the movie is all about how much Kirk still has left to learn and how his decisions can lead to cataclysmic results if he doesn’t start slowing down and seriously considering the consequences of his actions. I.E. the complete opposite end of the spectrum from where the heroes were the first time around. And yet, they’re still able to outsmart Khan- who everyone keeps talking about as if he’s the smartest man in existence- and come out of it relatively unscathed.
And the fact that Kirk died for a total of five minutes before they figured out how to save him was entirely too anticlimactic for me. In the original, Spock was dead. Like DEAD dead. “All dead” as Miracle Max would say. And we didn’t really know if he was going to come back. In this version it’s like “Oh, he’s dead- but we can save him!” And then in the next scene he’s quipping with Bones again. Totally different.
What’s my point with all of this? Simply that I feel like they could have made a better movie. The first one was something totally new- a new villain, a new canon to play around with and new cast trying to add elements to the characters we know and love. This one was a re-imagining of a story already told and while it was certainly a new spin, it wasn’t new. I just hope that next time they decide to take the series to a place “no one has gone before” for real.