In the interest of full disclosure, let me preface this review/discussion with some back ground. I love Star Trek. I’ve been a fan for almost my entire life. I was raised on re-runs of TOS and was there to see TNG hit the airwaves live at the ripe age of 8, and have been watching reruns of that for many years as well. I was into DS9, up until the dominion war got hot and heavy and I was left bored with that whole story line in all honesty. Voyager had promise, but I felt they squandered it for the sake of pure soap opera in space plot lines. And Enterprise will not be mentioned here. I love Bakula, and none of it was his fault, but that was a total travesty of a show that should never have been associated with Trek. I still consider myself a Trekkie and as Weird all so poignantly put it, “Only question I ever thought was hard Was do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” I consider myself a Trekkie and eschew the term Trekker with extreme prejudice. If you like it, I won’t hold it against you, as that would be highly illogical and counter productive.
So when the reboot came out, I was on geeky pins and needles, tripping between possible elation and bitter despair. I needn’t have worried, because the first reboot was great gobs of snarky fun. Did it have problems? Are you kidding? It’s a Trek movie, of course it has problems, but that’s half the fun with Trek. It also had that fun, exploring a new world concept, even if the world was just the divergence from one we already knew.
Coming into the second re-boot, I avoided pretty much all of the online discussions and articles and just stuck to watching the trailers. As Sherlock fan, I squeed at Cumberbatch being in the movie. So I went into the movie not knowing exactly what to expect but being mildly apprehensive. I also had the distinct advantage of going to a double feature with friends, so I got to watch the first and second re-boot back to back.
*Warning! If you have not seen it, SPOILERS ahead!*
I will not go into a plot run down because I find them a tedious waste of time. If you saw it, I need not explain how the whole thing goes down, you already know. Over all, I liked it a lot. It was fast and funny and that forgives a great number of flaws in movies, books and TV. It kept me entertained for the most part, though there were some cringe worthy points that I will get to later. The lens flairs were kept to a minimum this go around, and while it might not seem like it, just watch the first one again and gape anew at the total opacity of whole scenes due to lens flare. One of the things I really, REALLY hate about the re-boots in the engine room. I don’t know why there are huge water tubes, vats of nuclear waste and wide open spaces in a fairly small vessel that would have been built with spacial economy in mind. That bugs the ever loving crap out of me every time I see it. Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.
So let’s dig into the meat of this movie shall we? The real conversation? Khan Noonien Singh. The biggest bad ass and bad guy of TOS. Or was he? I am in a unique situation to view this movie, as I am currently going through the Original Series on Netflix along with the and we have recently seen ‘Space Seed’. This is the first appearance of Khan and while he was pretty cool, he wasn’t the man we think of him as being today. In this episode, he was just a man, a very intelligent, manipulative, genetically engineered man who almost took over the Enterprise, but not the man we meet later in the Wrath of Khan. If anything, he was pretty mild mannered and seemed pleased to be given a whole world to tame at the end of said episode.
But we don’t remember this man, we remember this man.
But this is an unfair comparison. This is not the man the re-boot cast is facing. And while I admit a certain amount of discomfort at Khan being in the second movie of the re-boot series, it wasn’t a problem for me until they started to try to mirror the Wrath of Khan in the latter half of the movie. Up until that point, Cumberbatch played Khan beautifully. He was cunning, manipulative, brilliant and self assured. This is the Khan of Space Seed, the Khan that makes sense to see at this point in the time line.
And let’s talk about the whole ‘race’ thing for just a second, because I know this caused quite the tempest among some fans. There were rumors of casting a Latino actor to play Khan and that confuses me to no end. Khan is not Hispanic. He *might* be from northern India, but that was just a guess on Uhura’s part in ‘Space Seed’, and while I’m guessing she’s right, still, a Latino guy int he role makes no sense. I could see it being an English guy though. India was colonized by the British and still has British people living there, so the idea of Khan being British is fine by me. I would have preferred an Indian guy myself, they do exist, like the guy from Heroes, but I can stretch it for Cumberbatch. He did an amazing job of playing Khan. He was scary in a very subtle way, making you want him to be good and decent when you know darn well he isn’t. He slices and dices Klingons like a boss and that voice gives him a presence of leashed fury that Montalban had in the movie, but not in the series.
What I think happened here is that we’ve all retconned Khan into being the same man in ‘Space Seed’ that he later became in Wrath, but he wasn’t. And I think this movie made the same mistake. They never should have tried to recreate the Wrath of Khan this early in the new timeline, some 15 years earlier or more, than in the original timeline. That’s when I started to cringe, and Spock yelling Khan’s name made me squirm. I can only compare it to the hideous howl of Vader in the third Star Wars movie, the one everyone makes fun of so frequently and with perfect justification. This is the same thing for me and for that one scene, I am ashamed of my fandom.