The second film in the reboot of the original cast of Star Trek is enjoyable not only for trekkers but for anyone who enjoys science fiction. Under the guidance of director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Mission Impossible III) who directed the first film simply titled Star Trek, this second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness, introduces us to Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). One of the most popular of all the films created by the franchise, The Wrath of Khan is now explained by this prequel tale.
The modernization of the franchise is seen not only in its ability to do far more sophisticated special effects, but in the lowering of morality in James Kirk (Chris Pine). Although the original series showed Kirk as being irresistible to females of all species, he nevertheless was a gentleman who treated them with respect. This changes in this latest film as the brash young captain is called out of bed where he is with two females. This lack of respect for himself and for women is not a part of the franchise up to this point. Respect for all beings has been a part of the series as the starship Enterprise explores both the universe and our humanity as demonstrated by the Prime Directive.
Similar to the first prequel film, we experience the early years of the original Star Trek characters. Not only is Kirk brash and disrespectful of Star Fleet directives but Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is unappreciative of the leadership instincts of his human captain. Similarly the medical officer Bones (Karl Urban) is even more emotional than the mature character we know in the original series. We see Uhura (Zoe Saidana) having an unexpected relationship with Spock and Scotty (Simon Pegg) demonstrated a loyalty to Kirk but with an unpredictable reactivity. This creative imagination of how these characters behaved early in their careers is the work of writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof.
The villain of this dark tale is unexpected and so we will not spoil the plot. But the introduction of Khan is brilliant. The evil that Khan represents is suggestive of what genetic manipulation could create as well as how far military strategists will go to create war. The message is obvious and lacks novelty which is a disappointment. Those of us who have loved the franchise have been fans primarily of the insights presented about humanity and our mutual condition. That is something lacking from this creative tale.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. When Kirk disobeyed the prime directive and revealed his ship to a primitive civilization, what do you think would be the effect on that civilization? What does this moral choice of saving Spock at the expense of a star fleet regulation say about Kirk?
2. The suggestion that early in their career Uhura and Spock were a couple is fascinating. Why do you think the writers chose that match-up? How do you think that will change this reboot of the original characters?
3. The later conflict between Khan and Kirk is classic. Do you find this explanation of why Khan became obsessed with Kirk satisfying? Why do you answer as you do?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.