Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Star Trek was Almost Awesome

[Obligatory Spoiler Warning, expires 7/1/2013]
So I finally got around to watching the new Star Trek film. I know I know, I'm losing nerd cred by not being at the midnight showing or even seeing it in the first month.

Before I launch into a nit picky rant, let me say I was entertained by the dialogue, enjoyed the action sequences, awed by the graphics, and moved by the score. In short, everything about this movie was well made.

So why didn't I leave feeling satisfied?

I thought for quite a while about what was missing. Good Acting? No, Benedict Cumberbatch was incredible. Poor villain or plot? Close but not quite. Finally I put my finger on the one word that tarnished the film for me: Khan.
The Star Trek reboot offered the franchise a fresh start, a fresh cast, and a fresh timeline to boot. They capitalized on it by introducing a brand new villian Nero. Abrams drew from the rich lore that is the Star Trek universe and gave us a look at a side of Romulus we had never explored. He even went so far as to implode Vulcan!

And what does he do for an encore? Bring back the exact same villain from the original series and timeline. By making Khan the villian, Abrams took the easy way out. To quote Douglas Adams, space is big-really big. With all the races and motivations in this mindbogglingly vast universe they chose the exact same one that has already been defeated by Kirk twice in the original series.

Don't get me wrong, Khan is a great villain, but bringing him back gave the movie a distinct been there done that feel. Scenes that could have been great homages and references to the original series suddenly became a carbon copy that fell flat despite all the 3D technology. Cumberbatch's performance created a chilling villain, but it shouldn't have been Khan.

The most frustrating thing about the whole film though is it would be such an easy thing to fix. If executive producer Harve Bennett had decided to just change the name of the antagonist all would be mended. A new genetically modified superhuman soldier from Earth's past that we hadn't encountered before that could potentially be even more ruthless or cunning than the great Khan himself would make just as compelling an enemy and require no plot changes. Well, you would have to change the whole gratuitous Nimoy cameo, but even then he just has to relate his story about Khan as a point of comparison to demonstrate how much more badass Cumberbatch is by comparison.

Maybe I'm stuck in the past, but that's just it: I don't want to be. Star Trek is about the future, about potential, exploring strange new worlds and civilizations, not taking us back to what we have already explored.

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