Star Trek Into Darkness vs. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Way back when in that magical summer of ’82 the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, opened. It was something of a reboot, despite that word not being in vogue at the time, following the boring and mostly awful Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Paramount slashed the budget and handed over directorial duties to Nicholas Meyer, who, uncredited, re-wrote the script in twelve days and ended up making what many Trek fans consider the best Trek movie.

Today, in the rather less magical corporate nerdscape of ’13, J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness has opened. It follows the ’09 Star Trek, his first re-imagining of the series, and has a budget of approximately eleventy-bazillion samolians. I thought his first Trek was, in a word, innocuous. The best part was the young cast he found to recreate the old characters. The worst was how he jettisoned the science aspect of the show and turned Star Trek into a space fantasy with endless action. The movie seemed very carefully crafted to appeal to all audiences: Trek fans, casual movie fans, kids, adults, various housepets, etc. It was corporate filmmaking at its most efficient and slick (if you’ve got the time and interest, watch Mr. Plinkett’s video review of Abrams’s first Trek for an incisive and accurate look at how Hollywood conceives of and creates these kinds of movies).

into darkness poster

Last night I watched Star Trek Into Darkness, and if you don’t mind my saying so, I fucking hated it. It’s a boring, unemotional slog, written by idiots and directed by a man on record as saying he never liked or “got” Star Trek to begin with. In a word, it’s insulting. To someone like my compatriot the Evil Genius, who never watched nor cared about Star Trek back in the days, it was the same deal as the first Abrams Trek. But if, like me, you watched and loved the original Star Trek, if you actually find the characters, not to mention the series’ philosophical underpinnings, compelling, this latest movie is a slap in the face. It’s J.J. Abrams prancing around like a dancing jackass, laughing in your face, crapping on your head, and demanding you eat it and like it. Well, screw you, Abrams. You and George Lucas deserve each other.

Pitting these two movies against one another almost seems beside the point, and hardly any fun at all. Skyfall vs. Moonraker, now that was a fun competition. But this? I’m tired and angry just contemplating it.

I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral

I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral

The plot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is not complicated. Khan, a genetically engineered superhuman from the past, who grappled with Kirk long ago (in the TV episode “Space Seed”), and was marooned by him on what was at the time a lovely little garden planet, is accidentally discovered on what is now a desert hellscape by Chekov, who’s searching for a dead planet on which to test a new terraforming, life-creating scientific thingamajig called the Genesis Device. Khan nabs Chekov’s ship, kills the scientists, steals Genesis, and hunts down Kirk like Ahab hunting Moby Dick. Kirk, meanwhile, is on the Enterprise overseeing a training mission captained by Spock. Khan attacks. And the battle of wills and intelligence is on.

the Hovitos are near

the Hovitos are near

The plot of Star Trek Into Darkness is so mind-boggling stupid I’m not even sure I can recount it. It begins by ripping off Raiders of The Lost Ark, only without that boring part where Indy actually finds the golden head. It just jumps right into the part when he’s running from the natives. Kirk runs, the natives chase him, Spock leaps into an erupting volcano to neutralize it (what the–?), things go wrong, and Spock’s going to die. Kirk makes it back to the Enterprise–hiding underwater because all giant spaceships that only function in zero gravity have that ability–but learns that if the ship rises from the depths, allowing the transporter to work and save Spock, the natives will see it, thus violating the Prime Directive not to interfere with other cultures. In the volcano, Spock is cool with dying. He patters out “theneedsofthemanyoutweighttheneedsofthefew,” when to his surprise Kirk violates the rules and saves him.

Spock's lava suit

Spock’s lava suit

Now to make some sense of this first insulting scene we have to go the end of Wrath of Khan, in which Spock dies. The thing about Wrath is that is has a theme: aging, dying, death. The movie opens with the Kobayashi Maru test, a no-win simulation given to Starfleet cadets. Turns out Kirk took it three times in his cadet days, and on the third reprogrammed the computer to let him win. The point being, he’s never had to face death. During the course of the movie, he’s almost beaten by Khan, almost buried alive, but he’s always got a way out.

Until the ending. Khan initiates the Genesis Device, the crippled Enterprise can’t get away in time, they’re all going to die. To save them, Spock fixes the warp drive despite the radiation that will kill him. In other words, Spock’s solution to the no-win situation is self-sacrifice. Separated by a wall of glass, Kirk faces his dying friend, and Spock reminds him that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one. Spock dies, and Kirk has finally faced death, allowing him to grow as a human being.

the needs of the many...

the needs of the many…

Needless to say, this is a powerful moment. How many summer blockbusters feature heroes who sacrifice themselves for the greater good? The whole movie is tied together thematically by this scene. It’s all about Kirk and the others aging, tiring, looking death in the face. Khan is essentially death personified. He’s out there, and he’s going to get you. You can’t run forever.

So the opening of Into Darkness makes a joke of this right off the bat. Spock utters the words to call back Wrath, but so perfunctorily and with so little meaning you wonder if you even heard them.

Peter Weller as the evil Admiral

Peter Weller as the evil Admiral

Later, Admiral Pike chews out and demotes Kirk for failing to obey Starfleet Regulations and for believing the blind luck resulting in no crew member deaths is a testament to Kirk’s wisdom. You might, if you had a brain, think this was the set-up of the movie’s theme. It is not. There is no theme. Kirk will learn no lessons about anything in the movie.

Again, the plot? It seems that Admiral Marcus (a scenery chewing Peter Weller) thawed out the frozen 300 year old superman Khan to use his superior, warrior intellect to help design a super deathship with superweapons to use against Klingons, who have been acting up of late. Khan helped, but it made him mad, because he didn’t want to be woken up, and because Marrcus didn’t treat Khan’s 72 superhuman crewmembers well, or then again maybe he killed them? Did Khan say that? He says something about his crew, yet we find all 72 of them still frozen. In fact Khan, or maybe Marcus, has kidden the frozen crew inside superduper photon torpedoes, and once Khan goes rogue and kills a bunch of people and hides out on the Klingon planet Kronos, Marcus “allows” Kirk to hunt him down and shoot all 72 torpedoes at the planet, thus killing Khan, killing all 72 crewmembers, and starting a war with the Klingons, which according to Marcus is going to happen anyway, so we might as well just get it going now. Whew.

Makes perfect sense, right? As far as plot goes, I think we have a clear winner in Wrath.

I'd quote a memorable Khan line here, but there are no memorable lines

I’d quote a memorable Khan line here, but there are no memorable lines

To enter into the stupidities of the Into Darkness storyline is a fool thing to do; we might never extricate ourselves. But what the hell. Let’s get it on. The thing is, none of it makes a single bit of sense. Why is Khan mad, to begin with? Because he was woken up? Because Marcus was somehow mean to his crew? Who knows? And if Marcus is so scared/mad at/done with Khan’s crew, why not just bust open their cryotubes and let them die? The plan is really to hide them in specially designed torpedoes and get Kirk to shoot them at Kronos and then, when Kirk fails to do so, fly out to meet him in the superduper deathship designed by Khan, and blow up the Enterprise and everyone on it? Truly now? That’s the plan?

now i remember why this character exists

now i remember why this character exists

Meanwhile, Carol Marcus, Admiral Marcus’s hot physicist daughter, lies her way onto the Enterprise because she, um, something mumble mumble. I guess mainly she’s there for another link to Wrath, Carol being the designer of Genesis and mother of Kirk’s son. Now at first, watching Into Darkness, you think she must be an enemy agent or something. Spock is very wary of her, and surely she must serve some purpose, right? Even maybe a sad little writer’s purpose? Yes, you think, here it comes, when she runs onto the bridge of the Enterprise, announces she’s the Admiral’s daughter, and that if she talks to him—he’s right outside in the deathship about to blow up the Enterprise—he’ll spare them all. So she says hi, he, obviously, just beams her aboard the deathship, and that’s all she does in the movie. Let’s put it this way: in the Wikipedia plot summary of Into Darkness, she’s not mentioned once.

McCoy plays with a tribble

tribble infused with Khan’s superblood

Then there’s the tribble. McCoy injects one of Khan’s superduper blood cells into a dead tribble to, um, something mumble mumble. In truth, probably to incite spontaneous orgasms in Trekkies hoping the cells cause the tribble to mutate into like ten million more tribbles, and then, by gosh, think of all the laughs! Yay!

Does Admiral Marcus blow up the Enterprise? He tries to, but wait! Scotty, in a plot thread too dumb to cover now (or ever), snuck onto the deathship and disarmed it. Or something. And then Khan and Kirk are literally shot from one ship to the other, because you see in this instance the transporter won’t work, due to, um, something mumble mumble, which is actually an ongoing issue in this movie. Sure, they’ve got transporters, but they only work according to the needs of the plot, a baffling scientific principle at best, and cause for no end of confusion.

superduper photon torpedo--or is it?!

superduper photon torpedo–or is it?!

The upshot is that Khan winds up on the deathship all by his lonesome. He has the Enterprise beam aboard his 72 frozen buddies, after extracting a promise not to send over armed torpedoes instead, and because of Khan’s superior intellect, he doesn’t bother to check, and sure enough the armed torpedoes all blow up. The 72 frozen supermen are back on the Enterprise, all extracted from their torpedo casings in like 30 seconds off-screen.

And then I don’t know, I guess this all took place in Earth’s orbit? And the Enterprise is crippled and plunges down to the planet below? That’s it. And they can’t power up the ship, and that’s when Abrams really just up and says “FUCK. YOU.” to anyone who ever liked Star Trek or its characters. He actually replays the end of Wrath of Khan, beat for beat, only he calls “reversies!” and has Kirk sacrifice himself instead of Spock. Really. That’s what happens. Because, you see, Kirk understands that life is, um, no, it’s that he’s learned that disobeying Starfleet regulations is, wait, no, it’s because he saved Spock’s life once before, so, no, that’s not it. Hmm. Okay, here it is: Spock died in Wrath, so Kirk will die here. That’s the logic at work. There is no other meaning.

take it, Spock

take it, Spock

Kirk dies (yeah, right), and Spock, in order to give his character “depth,” reacts with rage! He yells “KHANNN!” just like Kirk did in Wrath, because that’s what angry Vulcans do.

Cut to Khan, still alive in the deathship, which crashes into Earth. Wait, what? Khan is alive and–? Forget it. Spock beams down to fight Khan, they duke it out in what looks like a warm-up for whatever atrocity Abrams plans for the next Star Wars movie, only he can’t kill Khan, because the tribble is alive! Khan’s blood will bring Kirk back to life! Hurry!

Only doesn’t the Enterprise now have 72 other superhumans they could get the blood from? Shhh, my child, be quiet now.

Kirk is—you’ll never guess—brought back to life, the day is saved, everyone is happy. The end.

you didn't really think i was dead, did you?

you didn’t really think i was dead, did you?

So you see what they do here. They take this powerful, meaningful, emotional ending of Wrath, pull a switcheroo in which they transplant Kirk’s character into Spock, and Spock’s into Kirk, make the death scene in and of itself meaningless, having nothing to do with plot or theme (of which there is none in the movie), and then render it still more meaningless by resurrecting Kirk within about five minutes of screen time.

"Death to Star Trek!" - J.J. Abrams

“Death to Star Trek!” – J.J. Abrams

This is what I call insulting. To me it actually feels hateful. It feels like Abrams is saying, “Hey you fucking morons who like this garbage, here’s your callback to that dumb movie you like, only way more explodey and violent, ya know, like Star Wars, i.e. movies I understand. I know you’re going to eat this shit up. Open wide!”

When Spock dies in Wrath, Kirk doesn’t scream with rage and seek revenge. It’s not about revenge (not on Kirk’s part, anyway). It’s about self-sacrifice. It’s about a real understanding of the no-win situation. Kirk’s change is internal. Only through Spock’s sacrifice can Kirk become a complete person. Only then may Kirk embrace the youthful part of himself. “I feel young,” he says at the end of the movie. At the start he feels old and tired and useless.

death as a catalyst for growth

death as a catalyst for growth

This kind of thinking is totally alien to Abrams. He makes a joke of it. The movie is so tone-deaf there is no tone. What’s the point of having Kirk and Spock as characters if they have zero relation to their namesakes? If their every motivation is based solely on what’s convenient for the filmmakers, with no regard for consistency or emotional logic? I’ve never seen a director do something like this, where he goes overboard in pandering to his core audience, but in a way that shows his violent disgust with them.

good luck with that, J.J.

good luck with that, J.J.

I watched this entire movie dumbstruck. It’s so flat, so stupid, so empty, and so insulting. It’s a wonder that Abrams is where he is. He was hired to direct Mission Impossible III owing to his having created a couple of hit TV shows, and completely embarassed himself. It’s one of the most poorly directed major movies I’ve ever seen. Next came Star Trek, a huge step up, it seemed. Then came Super 8, a half-enjoyable, half awful imitation of Spielberg, an imitation so exacting there wasn’t a shred of individual style in it. And now this Into Darkness abomination, which aside from its budget is shot like a TV show. Abrams doesn’t seem to have a grasp on film directing at all. So, yeah, a natural for Star Wars.

allow me to give you a long, confusing speech before the next incomprehensible action set piece

allow me to give you a long, confusing speech before the next incomprehensible action set piece

This wasn’t much of a fight between movies. Wrath of Khan, despite its being a touch silly, cheaply made, and possibly only of import to Trek fans, is a genuinely good movie with a real theme and real emotion driving it. Into Darkness is awful in every way, and in the strangest move I’ve ever seen, actually endeavors to tear down Wrath of Khan, to mock it, to erase any real feeling it engendered. What a bizarre thing to do.

And to think, I haven’t even touched on the demented notion of turning Star Trek into some kind of hyper-militarized war movie, or of the total lack of human relations between the characters. Oh well. Life is short. Is there anything good in the movie? Most of the performances are fine. I like Simon Pegg, and Karl Urban does a great McCoy. Oh, and that oyster-headed dude who hangs out with Scotty. I like him. He has all the best lines.

this dude nails his part

this dude nails his part

The winner is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. If you’re in a Star Trek kind of mood, I suggest renting this over torturing yourself with Star Trek Into Darkness. For that matter, watch Star Trek V. At least it’s full of laughs.

65 responses on “Star Trek Into Darkness vs. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

  1. I just saw into darkness. I agree with your critique. JJ reimagined wrath of Kahn. Why? Does he not of any original ideas? Into Darkness is lazy. Star Trek is so old with so much history and yet JJ reuses and old story rather than create an original story. Very disappointing. On its own, into darkness is cold and dry.

    • Sorry no sorry. I disagree with you completely.

      You seem to forget that a MAJOR component of this story is time travel. The moment they went back in time and altered the events of Kirk’s birth and subsequent childhood (Loss of his father at a younger age, etc), EVERYTHING in the Star Trek Universe was affected. Vulcan is gone, etc…

      It’s safe to say then, that Khan’s timeline was altered as well. Events in his life didn’t transpire as they had in the original timeline, just like with everyone else in the film. What I liked were the parallels between the two universes, and the switch of Kirk and Spock was FANTASTICALLY done.

      In an alternate timeline, things would play out differently. We’ve seen what happened when Universe B’s DS9 lost it’s commander, the war in that timeline was lost and the Romulans took over with the help of the Dominion.

      So saying it sucked because it didn’t tickle the Timey-wimey stick stuffed up your backside is unfair to the material.

  2. I feel I have something interesting to add about (the lack of) character continuity, but it will have to wait until I have time to write up something about this film, Iron Man 3, Skyfall, and George Takei.

  3. you make some interesting points, but i agree with none of them lol. i think it’s simply a truly cynical, horrible way to look at it. i’m in my 30s, a lifelong trekkie, just re-watched wrath of khan, loved it, and loved every minute of into darkness, as well. sorry you didn’t like it

    • Well, no need to apologize. You didn’t make the cursed thing. I’m not being cynical, I’m just sitting there watching a movie. Abrams made me feel the way he did, and there we are.

  4. Even more dreadful than the movie, was the dedication to the 911 victims and servicemen. WTF?!? What does Star Trek have to do with that?

    • Unless they are making some sick reference to Peter Weller saying ( in a Dick Chaney-esque, condescending way) You’re only safe if I’m in charge…! Wink,wink to the IMC.

  5. Oh dear. I just watched the Wrath of Khan again.

    I haven’t seen it in ages and my opinion of it has not improved any.

    Honestly folks, it’s a pretty terrible film. If, like me, you aren’t invested in the characters and other elements which exist outside the scope of this movie (or Into Darkness, for that matter), you’re left with not much at all.

    I’m not even sure where to start. How about here. I enjoyed watching Into Darkness. There were some good performances and a few thrills and despite what you say, some emotional sense to it. I wouldn’t tell anyone else to see it, but I didn’t have a bad time watching it. In Khan… none of the performances are good. None. Kirstie Alley is eye-renderingly god-awful. All of the old crew members move about with the joi de vivre of fast food cleanup crew. Even Takei, who is the liveliest of the bunch, barely gets a smile in. There’s no emotion in it at all, just melodrama. And it makes no more sense really than Into Darkness, it’s just simpler about not making sense. Khan is so brilliant and deadly and yet can’t think in three dimensions? They should have challenged him to a game of Chutes and Ladders and called it a day.

    You can say Kirk and Spock have this well established relationship and that makes Spock’s death more meaningful, but I think that’s only true if you’ve watched something beyond Khan. Because in Khan? They don’t have anywhere near the chemistry Pine and Quinto do in Into Darkness. You can practically feel how indifferent Nimoy and Shatner are to each other. I watched Spock’s death in Khan looking at my watch. Am I cold? Maybe. But there’s little reason to care about Spock in Khan. At least in Into Darkness we’re reminded that Spock is half human and lost his whole planet and is struggling with controlling emotion. That may not be canon, and may be cheap and stupid, but it’s something. In Khan: nothing.

    As to the grand theme about cheating death and feeling young again; sure. I see that. But why is it that Kirk feels young at the end? Because he finally understands what it means to face death? That always perks me right up. Or because he has a son? Well, you tell me. Maybe it’s because somehow in the past 24 hours he found time to battle Khan and read all of A Tale of Two Cities.

    I empathize that this film has deep nostalgic meaning to some of you. But if you could see it with fresh eyes, and compare it objectively to Into Darkness, you’d see that they’re both pretty crappy.

    I think it’s a tie and everyone should be watching Buckaroo Banzai instead. [ducks and hides until it’s safe to come out]

    • I like “Wrath of Khan” because it’s about getting older and facing your regrets. It’s not a perfect film; far from it, but that theme is totally anomalous for Science Fiction films, even today. That theme is actually pretty anomalous in American filmmaking as a whole, isn’t it?

      That theme is a perfect fit for Star Trek, because the crew had aged, and squeezing them back into their original TV outfits would have been as painful to watch as Bill Shatner’s rumored girdle.

      The film was actually made for TV (and that shows in its tiny budget) and was designed as a possible bridge between the old TV show and a launch of a new series. When Paramount saw the quality of the film, they decided on a theatrical release instead.

      If I look at it as a glorified episode of a TV show, it’s great. If I look at it as “Cinema” (with a capital “C”), it’s a bit lacking in just about every dimension.

      • Interesting. I didn’t know that about it being filmed for TV. That makes sense and I agree: it’s a good episode of the show, but not much of a film. To appreciate it, you need to be in the world of the show already.

        I’m not sure getting older and facing regrets is such an anomalous theme. Off the top of my head, there’s Children of Men and others. But what regret is Kirk facing? His acceptance of promotion? It’s not that I don’t see any meaning there, it’s just not a very clear meaning. I don’t leave the film with any great idea or thought.

        But I’ve had my anti-Khan moment. I’m glad people love Star Trek and I understand why those people appreciate Khan.

        • A citation for it being made for TV? Never heard that before. The tiny budget stems from the first movie being a dud. Paramount wasn’t going to fall for that twice.

          Wrath was, obviously, made for people who knew and loved Star Trek. Was this ever in dispute? And indeed, you would be hard pressed to find a Trek fan for whom Wrath wasn’t 1) awesome, and 2) the best Trek movie ever. Into Darkness is made for the widest possible audience. That it was insulting to Trek fans, the very people without whom it wouldn’t exist, is what so perplexed and angered me.

          • It is a mind-boggling stupid and callous thing to do. Mean spirited even.

            Luckily, I have also long ago given up on liking anything to do with Star Wars, so J.J. Abrams will cause me no great grief in this lifetime. Unless he remakes Buckaroo Banzai.

  6. I think Into Darkness was good Sci-Fi eye candy, great popcorn-munching movie fodder. I didn’t expect much…

    I was disappointed that an opportunity was missed to create an original and unique Star Trek film. In hindsight, this should not have surprised me in the slightest. That’s modern Hollywood. I’m hopeful that this trend dies as more unique stories are brought to the big screen.

    Part of me will also always wish that a little more science was evident in science fiction. No sound in space (yeah, we all get that by now, right?) If the ship is in freefall, the crew should be weightless, right? And Khan’s blood being a healing and resurrection elixir was just lazy… felt like a Walter Bishop moment, not a Dr. McCoy moment…

    • Yes, the idea of anything scientific or smart is out the window. And what happens in the sequel? Do we live in a world where no one ever dies?

      The one possible hope for the future is that a different writer and director are brought on for the next one, and use this cast to tell an interesting, non-moronic story based around some far-flung planet. You know, Star Trek.

  7. hmm…you’re a little too quick to judge in this articile, criticizing a lot of what is actually explained in the film.

    For instance,

    – Khan is angry at Marcus, and by extension Star Fleet, because he believes his crew are dead after Marcus discovered him trying to smuggle them out. This changes after Kirk arrives with 72 missiles.

    – Marcus’ original plan was for the stranded Enterprise to be stumbled upon by the Klingons, following the attack, and used as a catalyst for a war he was already prepared for. Things changed after Uhura notified Marcus of Khan having been caught and not killed, therefore Marcus changed the plan and arrived on the spot to fix the situation.

    – While Carol Marcus is merely introduced in this film, she does serve limited purpose in adding intrigue and helping to gain access to the content of each torpedo. She also operates as a useful source of exposition about the situation, without having any of the familiars suddenly in “the know”.

    – Khan provides the coordinates for section 31’s manufacturing facility near Jupiter, and we see how Scotty very fortunately manages to get inside. Scotty is a ship engineer and therefore would have the knowledge of how to interfere with the ship’s capabilities. There’s should be no confusion here as you actually shown how events unfold.

    – The volcano situation is shown also. The device of course freezes everything, however, someone or something need to place it in a spot where it could effectively detonate and not be immediately destroyed. Hence the event in the opening when the escape plan fails.

    – The resurrection issue. This isn’t as bad as one might think (and let’s not forget how Spock was resurrected in an even worse fashion). Kirk was killed by radiation poisoning. Radiation poisoning causes cells to break down, which thankfully, Khan’s blood has an incredible replication ability which would theoretically counteract the degradation of cells in Kirk. Thankfully they managed to keep in the fact that if not properly preserved, Kirk’s brain would very quickly be damaged (although, they miss the part where they show you how they kick start his heart and mind, even with physical body repaired. Black screen serves the purpose, I supposed, as well as weeks having passed).

    – Kirk does learn lessons. His lecture in the beginning is about acting so wildly that the greater implications are not taken into consideration. There are few other themes added on, but primarily for lesson’s sake, he learns about this later on with his predicament over following orders and taking the morally correct action, and taking responsibility for his actions in the no-win scenario he faces with Marcus’ threat which further links with a lesson he hadn’t learned in the first film regarding captaincy.

    – The transporters were not used as they would register a signature on Marcus’ ship. They wanted Kirk and Khan to quietly sneak on board in order to get to the bridge. The characters explain this thoroughly during the scene prior.

    – The other 72’s blood could not be used as they were frozen. Bones explains that he doesn’t understand the technology and therefore is unsure of how to successfully undo the process without killing them. The blood is also frozen, and therefore there would be no cell activity (which is what they needed). Given the circumstances, they needed an assured source that was ready and able to treat Kirk within enough time to save him.

    I understand the film has flaws, although, from a purely objective stand point, Wrath of Khan is an incredibly flawed film. Nostalgia does a lot of polish that story and execution.

    There are two ways to look at Into Darkness, and that is objectively and by comparison. Sure, I can understand frustrations with its relationship with Wrath of Khan (despite a few lines here and there, the presence of Khan, and the reversed scene in the third act directly referencing or mirroring the film).

    However, this article is incredibly unfair. Despite being a rant, it picks apart every possible thing within the film without doing the same with Wrath of Khan (remember to balance your criticism by reflecting on the pros and cons of both subjects). It also takes stabs at the plot which, as noted above, often came as a result of the viewer missing key points of information presented throughout the film.

    Why was Khan so angry? What was it exactly that Marcus was trying to achieve? Why did particular events unfold the way they did?

    These were delivered in the film.

    • Well argued, Dylan.

      IMHO it comes down to a few different things, but primarily suspension of disbelief. If you achieved that watching STID, then there is enough wiggle room to explain away what others would find to be problematic; and the same with Khan.

      The other piece is the odd disconnect between STID and what Star Trek was created to be. That cannot be explained away by suspension of disbelief. I do see why and how that inspires honest anger in fans of Star Trek. It is the homogenization of cinema. It is a gutting of meaning and substance in favor of visceral thrills. It sucks — not because thrills are bad but because producing thrills without substance is lazy and lame and not in any way they way things need to be. When you have a practically infinite budget, you can afford to produce something of quality, not just something explodey and stupid.

      While your explanations are all valid, they’re still (sorry) pretty pathetic. They make sense on a simplistic level, but not in terms of character, or in terms of how the world actually works, even in the future. They are convoluted solutions to simple problems that no one would implement. They are convenient coincidences that any screenwriter knows to avoid for good reasons.

      As just one example: Scotty ‘luckily’ manages to sneak into what must be the most heavily guarded military installation in Star Fleet control with no preparation after a night out drinking? Then, what? Just hides out on a newly designed warship until his friends have already been attacked and near-killed because he knows they’ll survive the initial volley and he can just hit reboot on the entire ship? That makes sense in the stupidest, laziest, cheapest, most Hollywood way.

      But, essentially, I agree with you. I just have a different conclusion: Both films aren’t very good.

      • Thanks for the response. I’ve never considered any of the classic Star Trek entries too be particularly good, although I understand that they offer social relevance to the 1960’s.

        I enjoyed this film on the level that it was intended, as a summer popcorn film. I don’t expect much from any entry around this time of the year, not that it hurts them to try.

        Alas, an entertaining entry that certainly dazzles, but as you covered, leaves no lasting appeal or much to take away.

        But that is also the case with Wrath of Khan for anyone not invested in the original series, outside of generating an interest in poetry.

        • I think you raise an interesting point, although perhaps not intentionally.

          You say you enjoyed this film on the level that it was intended. I think that’s precisely the cause for valid criticism here. Because it wasn’t intended to be stupid or just a popcorn film. It’s a film in a well-loved, well-respected franchise with a huge budget and what is considered A-list talent.

          You and I don’t care for Star Trek particularly, but that doesn’t make it a bad or meaningless franchise. This film is the equivalent of following Return of the Jedi with the Phantom Menace.

        • Thanks, Dylan, for the level headed posts – I just saw the movie last night and although I had a few issues with the sometimes willy nilly approach to the Trek universe I really liked the movie a lot and was thoroughly entertained. It is, after all, just a movie – it’s science fiction, not science fact – it’s sole existence is to entertain enough folks to turn a profit – nothing more, nothing less.

          I watched the original series as a kid in the 60’s, watched Wrath of Khan twice in the theater back in ’82 and have seen every Trek movie made. Guess what, they’re all pretty mediocre. In fact none of the Trek movies would even exist if it weren’t for the box office success of the original Star Wars film which ignited a sci-fi frenzy in the studios back in the late 70’s and early 80’s.. I’m a filmmaker here in L.A. and know how hard it is to actually get something made and released and I think JJ did a monumental job as Director of a summer blockbuster as did the rest of the cast and crew.

          Ironically, my favorite “trek” film still remains Galaxy Quest – which had better performances, better character arcs and more heart than any of the original films and TV shows it parodies.

          • Without a doubt, the sole reason for this Trek to exist is to entertain enough people to turn a profit. Which profit it is turning, though not nearly as large a one as the studio was banking on. I’m far from the only one who disliked it.

            Personally, I find it sad when filmmakers have the chance to work with this kind of money and opportunity, and make this kind of profit-generating dud. It’s easy to pick apart Wrath of Khan, but there was love in that movie, something completely absent from this one.

            Meanwhile, we’re Galaxy Quest fans too. Check out this double (triple, even!) bill sometime:


          • Wrath of Khan was not mediocre or bad. The only flaw was that the augments could control a spaceship. Othee than that it had much of the StarTrek philosophy and character development which Into Darkness was lacking.

      • Did you not hear Scotty say what happened he was oblivious of the attack and the enterprise crew is the best so yeah he did that after drinking in one night because that was his mission I believe your just angered over the amount of money and living up to your absurd delusions of movies just get over it

        [EG considered editing this one for clarity, but I’m honestly at a loss. Marcus appears to be upset. I am not sure of what his other points may be.]

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply. The thing is, I still hated the movie. That it takes this much explanation just to attempt to make sense of the movie doesn’t help. But it is interesting. As to your specific points:

      1. Fair enough.

      2. That explains Marcus’s dubious plan, but where are the Klingons? They’re advanced enough to zip around space taking over planets, but they don’t notice when a shipful of Klingons are massacred on their own planet? They don’t notice the Enterprise in orbit around their planet? This is lazy, lazy writing. It’s not convenient for the story for any more Klingons to show up, so they don’t.

      3. Carol ‘operates as a useful source of exposition’? That is the very definition of terrible, lazy writing. That solves a problem for the WRITERS, nothing more. She has nothing to do with anything. Her purpose is singular: to take her clothes off.

      4. Yes, Scotty is ‘very fortunate,’ isn’t he? He just flies a ship off to the secret government site of the giant warship, and then— right, I guess he just got on it. Sure. Why not?

      5. The ‘device of course freezes everything’? Why of course? Do you think cold fusion has something to do with ice? Why not just beam it down there? None of this makes any sense beyond the writers wanting a big action set piece here, which set piece is boring, because it makes no sense beyond the writers saying it does. That’s not enough.

      6. You’re just talking magic here. Khan’s super cells, radiation death? It makes sense only because we’re told it does. And as you point out, cut to black to explain away the other parts that aren’t so easily explained. Of course the real problem here is that the resurrection makes meaningless the death scene. They have their cake and eat it too. There’s no emotional weight to anything, however much you want to explain away the ‘logic’ of it being possible.

      7. I don’t see Kirk learning anything, sorry.

      8. The transporters are outrageous. Yes, every time they’re used, a character is forced to say something idiotic about why it can/can’t work at this point in the story. If you have no set rules in your fictional universe, yes, you have to make them up on the fly in every instance. It’s laughable, and fantastically lazy.

      9. I guess if it meant saving Kirk, and I were Bones, I’d go ahead and bust open a tube and see what I could do about frozen blood.

      If you like things that go boom, and pretty special effects, and non-stop running around shooting things, interspersed with the occasional long-winded explanation scene, then this is the movie for you. And it’s what we’ve come to expect summer movies to be. But Star Trek represents some of the laziest, ‘who-cares’ storytelling I’ve ever seen. There isn’t a shred of sense to this movie, neither logically nor emotionally.

      • While I appreciate the response, I don’t wish to be drawn into an argument.

        My statement argue for themselves. You raised issues with the film not explaining anything, and then after I provide you with the explanation provided in the film, you continue to disregard them.

        Your opinion is your own, I simply wanted to answer those first questions for you.

        • Let’s call it a discussion, then. You did indeed provide the explanations as provided by the film, yet my whole point is that what is provided by the film is exceptionally–even for a summer special effects juggernaut–senseless and lazy.

          Well, actually my main point is that the movie is insulting to the very fans it purports to please. But it being lazy and foolish doesn’t help.

          In any case, thanks for coming by and entangling yourself in our fevered ranting.

  8. Nice article. While I think Into Darkness is far inferior to Wrath of Khan, I did enjoy the film. I laughed at all the spots Abrams wanted me to. I also laughed at the parts he didn’t want me to: jumping from great heights (three times in the first movie, twice in this one), orbital skydiving (once in each), hanging by fingers (Kirk did it 3 time in the first movie, at least that many in this one–unfortunately the crew didn’t and a lot of them fell down the lengthy corridors), and the Enterprise rising from clouds/water (once in the last movie, twice in this one).

    It’s easy to write a script when you lift, as you noted, the opening scenes of Raiders and add it to the river escape scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Not mention lifting of dialogue from Spock’s death scene, and the “KHAAAAAAAN!” line.

    • It’s almost like we’d seen the whole movie before. And that those other times it didn’t suck.

  9. Well i like the new into darness more when the old Star trek II, ST II is not bad, but is to slow and whitout the nice modern special effects and grafics + the camera work is alot more dynamic.

    • Is that a joke? It is generally a good thing if a movie takes time to tell the story and saying modern special effects make a better movie shows a lack of knowledge about movies.

  10. Hmmmm… The glasses seem a bit rose-colored in this article.

    I, too, remember when The Wrath of Khan came out in ’82, followed shortly there after by The Wrath of ‘True Trek Fans’ who despised it, panned it and criticized it for ‘Not Being True Star Trek’.

    ‘It’s too militaristic!’ they said. ‘There was no more exploration!’ they claimed. ‘It was not the cool, collected Khan of Space Seed!’ they decried. ‘And they ruined the original point of the story in Space Seed!’ they added.

    And the real WHOPPER that got ’em all riled?


    So bad was this last one, they had to make the entire next movie to bring him back for fear the fans would burn Paramount Studios to the ground.

    I’m not buying any of this outrage. I heard it when The Motion Picture was released. I heard after Wrath of Khan. I heard it after The Next Generation aired. I heard it when Deep Space Nine premiered, and again when Voyager and Enterprise came on the airwaves. The more things have changed, the more they are the same.

    In the future, these two Abrams movie BLOCKBUSTERS (Into Darkness has made more money worldwide than any other Trek film and is only behind Star Trek 2009 in domestic gross) will be remembered as ‘The Good Old Days’ by Trek fans…

    … much like how The Wrath of Khan is considered ‘The Greatest Trek Film’ by the fans today.

    • Greetings, Bill. First off, please tell me you didn’t just base the quality of Into Darkness on box office receipts. Can we leave that aside? I mean, take a look at the worldwide grosses of The Lone Ranger. It, too, is a profitable hit. Does that mean I have to love it?

      Meanwhile, sure, there is a grand tradition of hating everything new, and loving it years down the road. Fair enough.

      Also fair? To note that this DOESN’T ALWAYS HAPPEN. Not by a long shot. I dare you to find anyone who thinks Star Trek 5 isn’t laughably disasterous, exactly as laughable as we all thought it was when it opened. Or The Motion Picture, for that matter. I watched that recently just to see, and yeah, wow. That is not a good movie.

      So. There’s no way to definitively out-argue you on this point, not until we wait ten or fifteen years and see what’s what. And since that’s the only point you make, I guess there’s not much else to add.

      Other than to re-iterate the thrust of my article, to wit: Into Darkness is a fucking insulting disaster. Forget Trek mythology, forget Wrath of Khan. Judged purely on its own merits (of which there are none), Into Darkness is a massive turd, and I’m willing to bet that, years down the road, when we look back on those innocent days of the early teens, we’ll say, collectively, “Gosh, that Into Darkness movie sure is a giant fucking turd.”

      But I could be wrong.

    • They only made more money because movie tickets today cost like twice the amount of 1982. More viewers also would be no proof of a better movie. Into Darkness lacks the character and style of the originals.

  11. Amen,

    I tried to enjoy the movie because everyone said that it was good.
    It had great FX work but every fibre of my Trek loving body was screaming what a steaming pile of shit this film was.

    It has nothing to say… Star Trek has become stale with the villain of the movie formula. The only thing missing is moustache twirling and a deep booming voice with an accen… nevermind!

    Where’s the exploration?
    Where is the wonder of exploration?

    These characters see some amazing places and they never take a moment to observe in awe.
    They are too busy running for their lives, bickering about their romances or whatever the hell they do in space… or the ocean apparently. (fucking stupid that was)

    The 5 year mission is teased at the end of the movie… I was like Why?
    What are they going to explore in the next film?
    They characters pretty much know their own lore…
    Bones already knows what a Gorn is.
    They already met Mudd… and Khan pulled Michael Jackson and turned himself into a white-faced NAZI.

    Oh and seeing cities being destroyed lost its appeal after 2012 (the movie).

    I am glad that I didn’t see this turd in the theatres,

    I won’t be catching the next one either… STAR TREK is really dead.
    JJ and Paramount will continue to jerk the squirt from this dead puppy and spoon feed it to the JJ drones. Enjoy!

  12. Allot of your arguments and comparisons seem to skip over key parts of the new movie as simple banter, when in fact they are valid scenes and hold meaning that echoes throughout the movie. While I agree there are some stupid parts (volcano freezing and requiring khan’s blood), there are parts and key information you skipped over that would lead me to believe you only watched the movie once and without much attention (i only watched it once for the record). I’m not going to go over everything you missed or left out as it would take a while, but one that particular stood out was how you didn’t know why Khan was in a rage. It was clearly stated that the general was using his people as hostages in order to have Khan work for him. Additionally, it is also stated that Kirk was informed by Old-Kirk that Khan and his crew considered most species beneath them and took it upon themselves to wipe out said species.

    Not a huge trek fan and I felt there were a few potholes in this newer installment. That being said, your comparison is extremely bias and shows that you had made up your mind on Into Darkness before it even aired.

    • I’m sorry, Perry, but your blithe dismissal of what I wrote suggests you only read it once, and with little attention at that. My only bias is against badly made movies, and there was no way to know just how bad Star Trek Into Boneheadedness was until I’d seen it.

      Did I skip over key parts of the movie? If my article suggests as much, it was only in the service of highlighting just how stupid those parts were.

      I am glad to see that we agree on one thing, which is that the movie contained some number of “potholes.” It certainly did.

  13. Couldn’t agree more with this article. This film was soulless, theme-less, heartless, deux ex machine filled, numbing spectacle. It was stupid. The writing was lazy and engineered piecemeal from fragments of Hollywood’s past. It is completely derivative in every way. The execution was horrible.

    Star Trek, at it’s core, is supposed to be about faith in humanity and the human condition. Into Darkness was aptly named for it’s ability to leave me feeling empty and distant from the apparent majority of humanity that continues eating horrible films like this up. All I wanted was something that had meaning or resonated in some way. Haven’t we seen enough pointless, non-stop violence in film lately?

    Did you notice the bafflingly idiotic reference to the thermal exhaust port in A New Hope?

      • We always appreciate attention to spelling here at Mind Control.

        Also: yes, yes, and yes. And we’re in for more of the same. The same three guys are pretty much writing every summer action flick now. It’s going to be a rough few years coming up…

  14. Blahblah.

    Into darkness wasn’t a mind blowing experience indeed, but I’ll take it any day over wrath of Khan. the latter was a cheap B movie. its disastrous special effects look really bad if we compare them to star Wars special effects, a movie shot 4 years before…

    the only thing great in Wrath of Khan was William shtner as usual and the amazing play of Ricardo Montalban.

    • You obviously didn’t grow up in the 80’s if you think the special effects from Wrath of Khan were sub-par. They were state of the art for the time, and still hold up well today.

      If you want to see ’80s special effects that were bad, watch Star Trek V.

    • Wrath of Khan had the best effects that were available at the time. It featured one of the first cgi sequences. And the budget wasn’ t cheao by any means.

    • I grew up in the 80’s. I grew up with Jaws and star wars and Blade Runner, Alien, Aliens, etc.
      Wrath of Khan had cheap special effects, even for its time if you compare it to its counterparts Blade Runner ( 1982) or Star Wars. Ep. IV (1977).
      I think that those who loved wrath of khan are die hard trekkies. And I am not. I am just a SciFi fan.

      • The Wrath of Khan was not about special effects, it was about the people. It was about so much more than revenge and special effects, If you missed that well then you missed a good movie

    • I for my part was upset with the prequels because of the horrible direction of Lucas, the diarrhea of CGI that made the prequels look like a video game, and the lack of the sense of adventure that made the original trilogy so compelling.

      • I agree with the cgi part. But it makes total sense that the had another style storywise. Because they are set in a very different time and society.

  15. When making Into the Darkness, they did not give a f*ck about moral aspects depth, simplicity or making sure there are no untied knots, no unanswered questions like they did over 30 yrs ago. Into the Darkness was designed to be another eyeblowing, mind less blob full of CG scenes just to make it look good in 3D, so it will at least make it even for the studio.
    I can’t say I liked Wrath of Khan either, although the story is great. Maybe because Shatner was always poor actor to me in first place. And Nemoy and Doc wwere always true acting magnets that made me watch me watch Star Trek motion pictures over and over again until today.

  16. In TWOK there was more to the story than revenge, but the old Khan and the new Khan have one thing in common and they were super intelligent with no life skills. The old Khan could quote Moby Dick but he did not understand the book, the younger Khan relied on his intelligence that meant nothing because he knew nothing about life and people. I do not think either were super intelligent, they just had knowledge and not the intelligence to use it. Old Kirk and young Kirk were full of arrogance and the belief that they were to important to die. Kirk only survives due to luck and mostly his friends. Young Spock arrogant, thinks he knows everything, Old Spock, matured well, learned the lessons in life and is no longer arrogant. The only one that changed. What did I get out of both the films? I can make a lot of memes thanks to the movies.

  17. You(‘)r(e) a fucking idiot maybe to(o) dense (to) understand something that isn’t spelled out for you. You must be the type of person that needs a map from the toilet to the sink. How about you actually watch it(,) listen(,) and pay attention and stop flapping your jaw just cause you want to be heard. If you pay attention to the whole story alternative time line and that(?) if YOU were a (T)rekkie you would see the appeal of already knowing the information from the original and how that is for REAL fans. Thank you for (yo)ur dumbass comments though(.)

    [Grammatical edits in parens by EG]

    • Yikes. Sounds like somebody got a Spock action figure wedged up his ass at a young age and still hasn’t pulled it out. Naturally, certain grammatical impurities have resulted.

      I’m not sure what you think my map from the toilet to the sink has to do with Star Trek, but I’d like to meet the man willing to enter my bathroom without it.

      Question: why would I engage in any amount of jaw-flapping if I DIDN’T want to be heard? Some kind of fanning action? Turning light switches off and on? Please clarify that I may more directly address your concerns.

      Your last arguments are, I have to tell you, difficult to understand, though I think you like knowing what happens before it happens? In movies? Maybe? And I should also like that? Please advise on the best, quickest, and cheapest way I may become as real a Trekkie as you. I look forward to our weekly meetings!

      You are absolutely very welcome for these, my comments to a dumbass. Please visit the site regularly!

  18. I know im very very late to the conversation. But this article is typical of the “crazy fan”. Being so into something can really ruin it for future endeavours. You did at least recognize that the movie was made for all. (super fan, and casual) But its a complete disservice to yourself to know too much detail that the only thing that would please you would be hard to understand for others. Im a casual Star Trek fan who is highly enjoying the new films. I especially love the parralles. (ie. Death of Spock and Kirk on the other side of the glass and vice versa) Its an homage. Especially for the films they need to be direct while staying entertaining. Personally I think they can get down to the real nitty gritty in the new TV series. As a whole when you look back at the original films the performaces themselves are horrible.(We are talking about Willian Schatner for christ sakes.) Nonetheless his James T Kirk is classic, and I think Chris Pine is superb. Star Trek is bigger than its ever been and its down right silly for a so called fan to “hate” the new movies. Star Wars pureists do the same thing. Its a lot more enjoyable if you just let go and enjoy it for what it is. Just a movie.

    • We’re always happy to fire up three year old arguments ’round these parts.

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the new Star Trek movies. I also understand there are people on this earth who think pumpkin spice latte doesn’t taste like a christmas elf vomited candy canes down their throats. Truly, it takes all kinds.

      Am I really a superfan if I hate most Star Trek movies? Most of them are terrible. You know which one isn’t? The Wrath of Khan. You want to make a homage to it? Great. Have at it. You want to rip it off out of laziness and ignorance? You can do that too, but it’s not going to take a superfan to call you out on it.

      You like that now Kirk “dies” and Spock is on the other side of the glass? Why? Other than that it’s the reverse? You don’t care at all about character? About humans who act how they act not because a lazy, unimaginative writer made them act that way, but because they are who they are and could act no other way? That’s fine too.

      But it’s not why I go to the movies.

      Because after all, I am very much a superfan of one thing, and that thing is movies. This one failed to measure up.

  19. You really have no idea how movies work huh, a movie with a large budget is made to appeal to all audiences so they can make the most amount of money.
    However I can’t compare the Khan’s they’re 2 different types of Khan’s and they’re both great the fact that you don’t remember stuff from the movie is because you weren’t paying attention also in the old movie we never got the Khan Kirk rematch we deserved just Genesis bs. Now we had a plot twist so even me a star star fan was like damn is Khan gonna be a good guy? In the original he was upset because Kirk left him on Alpha Ceta 5 or something. Here he has no reason to hate Kirk so I was interested by that.
    Kirk coming back to life in the end was bad tho spocks death meant to much that they made another movie I understand Kirk cant mind meld so they had to use Khan’s blood so it really dampens his death, the death scene was great. I think it was weird that Spock only realized Khan’s treachery because nimoy told him that was stupid.

  20. Supreme Being, I couldn’t agree any more with your assessment of the dumpster fire that is Into Darkness than if I had written your own review myself (except to say you might have been a tad more complimentary towards Into Darkness than I). Every so often, those in control of the Star Trek empire feel this need to destroy or outdo Meyer’s film, to “tear down the legacy of TWOK,” as you correctly put it (you should, in fact, read Alexandra DuPont’s comparison of TWOK to the previous attempted failure, Star Trek: Nemesis – posted to Ain’t it Cool news 21 years ago today(!) – for further evidence of this phenomenon).

    People who weren’t around fandom in 1982 fail to understand this movie was done as cheaply as possible, with television-level actors and, with a few exceptions, reused sets from a previous film, and yet, over and over, this tiny little film, the lowest budgeted film in the franchise – $27 million – $10 million less than the next lowest in the series (Star Trek 3 – $37 million), and a whopping $164 million LOWER than Into Darkness – $191 million (!)* just cannot be dethroned. A clear, linear plot and mature themes about mortality vs… role reversals for fandom masturbation?

    And consider: Into Darkness required so little effort! Abrams had access to the blueprint for the film – it was a literal remake! It was as if he cherry picked everything that didn’t or couldn’t work to make a film from, and was given enough money – even adjusted to current rates – to remake the original five or six times in a row.

    Star Trek II, The (Only) Wrath of Khan: the winner and still champion, the greatest of all time.


    • Glad to see this movie is still outraging people the world over. The only thing I dislike about your missive, Sam, is that reading it I was forced to think about this godawful piece of garbage movie again. Oh well. On the plus side, at least since these long ago days J.J. Abrams went on to do good with…um…oh, right. Damn.

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

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