Ok, still here? Shall we begin ...with the rumour that just wouldn't go away: Surely this John Harrison chap is actually Khan? Yep, you're right, he is. I was really quite hoping they wouldn't use Khan; it seemed too obvious, too likely to be a repeat of what we saw before. Well I shall eat my words! The use of Khan here was inspired, the discovery of the Botany Bay happens off screen (surely coming our way as a comic book prequel some time soon?), and by the time we meet Khan he has been at large in the 23rd century for the better part of a year. This alone gives us a very different take on Khan, he knows Kirk's world, he has already mastered it, and in many ways he has the upper hand, as he also knows all about the Vengeance, Admiral Marcus, Section 31, etc. Even by the time of The Wrath of Khan, Khan-prime didn't have that kind of knowledge, because he had gone straight from the 20th century to his marooned existence on Ceti Alpha V. I wouldn't think nuKhan could be accused of two dimensional thinking; he's had too long to get used to the future.
|Khan, quite at home in the 23rd century|
|The bickering couple at the heart of the film|
Spock was also the biggest surprise for me in the film, Spock prime that is. His cameo was a real thrill, and I'm glad I had no clue it was coming. Did it add much to the story? I'm not so sure, I suppose it gave younger Spock some motivation to prepare to act against Khan. But it also seems to open a bit of a pandora's box when it comes to using Spock prime's knowledge.
All the other characters are basically supporting roles. McCoy gets a pleasing amount of screen time; while his relationship with Kirk or Spock isn't the core of the story, he is a constant voice questioning both characters (and anyone else he interacts with). He gets some good moments, but I can only hope he gets even more next film around, as Karl Urban is just perfect as McCoy.
|Uhura gets her moment on Qo'noS|
Scotty gets a good little side plot, his resignation from the Enterprise seemed a little forced perhaps, but he's a stubborn sort of character so I can go with it. Plus it meant he got lots to do later on finding, and then on board, the Vengeance. I like that we have Keenser still, but I wish he had more to do than simply been a sidekick. Let's have Keenser help save the day rather than just being bossed around next time please.
With Scotty off the Enterprise for most of the film Chekov steps in as chief engineer. Perhaps not making the best use of engineering personal in-universe, but definitely giving the character more to do story wise - He filled Scotty's boots pretty nicely, with the same kind of manic panicked approach to sorting out engineering. I'm curious what will be done to give Chekov something to do next film, as he seems easily the most expendable of the ensemble.
And finally from the recurring Enterprise crew, Sulu has some nice little moments setting up towards becoming a captain himself. I really hope they don't rush him towards the Excelsior too quickly in the films to come, but I do like this nod Sulu's readiness to take command. I wonder if John Cho would be interested in continuing the role on TV; could what we see in Into Darkness be the first foreshadowing of a nuExcelsior TV series once this film trilogy is done?
|What next for these two?|
Away from the Enterprise we have Admiral Pike back. I'm really sad to see his character killed of, as I love him and his relationship with Kirk. The impact of his death scene was worth the sacrifice though - I cry every time I watch Kirk's dad die in the first film, and I expect I will every time with Pike in this one.
There's also the other Admiral, Marcus. He's a bit of stereotypical evil Admiral type, and I struggle to comprehend his motivation. Sure he's Section 31 and a bit obsessed with the coming Klingon war, and sure he knows Khan is dangerous, but does that really justify murdering so many people on the Enterprise? I was really pleased to have Section 31 at the core of what happened in this film, it's nice to have that sort of connection to the rest of the Star Trek universe, not just as a little reference, but a major driving force in the film (if you know what the little reference means). Section 31's sense of morality has of course always been a bit warped, but they always seemed to do what they felt was ultimately best for the Federation, as demonstrated by Marcus's desire to defend against Klingon attack with the Vengeance. But something drove him beyond normal Section 31 paranoia, his fear of Khan maybe? I found his part in the film a bit too generic bad guy, but he had a role to fill in forcing Kirk and Khan to work together, so I suppose he served his purpose.
|The beautifully battered Enterprise|
As with any other Star Trek film, it's easy to go looking for flaws, continuity hiccups, weaker characters, and such. They all have them, but few Star Trek films, and even fewer big budget action spectaculars, have at their core the strong character arcs, the nuanced villain, and dedication to honouring, while evolving, what came before, that we see in Into Darkness.
Once again the film ends with the familiar crew, plus Carol Marcus, ready to go explore strange new worlds. I am left wondering where they will go next, and how many threads will be picked up again with the next film. I can't wait to find out.