The folks in charge of Star Trek these days have said that it took them four years to produce a sequel to their 2009 hit because they didn’t want to rush things, they wanted to take their time and make sure they got it right. Judging from the finished product, they should’ve taken another four years.
For example, Captain James T. Kirk, once again played by Chris Pine, is demoted to Commander after a mission on an alien world goes awry. He’s now slated to be the first officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the ship that he had commanded, and will serve under returning Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood, also returning from the previous film and once again delivering a fine performance). This is an interesting turn of events, one we’ve never seen before, and one that promises some very interesting character dynamics. Too bad it goes absolutely nowhere and the status quo is restored within about five minutes.
It should be noted that at certain points in the film, Kirk also comes off like Indiana Jones and Han Solo. It seems like Abrams and company want him to be pretty much anybody but James T. Kirk. And that’s a real shame, because James T. Kirk is a great character in his own right. Too bad his current caretakers don’t seem to appreciate that fact.
(Uhura does have a great scene in this film in which she confronts a team of angry Klingons and addresses them boldly in their native language. It’s nice that she gets some time to shine, and that she gets to show off her impressive abilities as Chief Communications Officer—something Nichelle Nichols rarely got to do when she played the character. But I don’t think her function in the grand scheme of things should extend much further than that—call me old school.)
It’s no secret that Dr. Carol Marcus, a character introduced in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as Kirk’s old flame and the mother of his son David, appears in this film. Originally portrayed by Bibi Besch, Carol is now played by the stunningly beautiful British actress Alice Eve.
But like many of the other key characters in this movie, she’s Carol Marcus in name only. Eve, who has dropped her British accent convincingly for other roles, retains it here for some reason. (Needless to say, Besch’s Carol was not British.) And in this film, Dr. Marcus is shown to be a weapons specialist instead of a molecular biologist researching the possibility of reorganizing matter at the subatomic level. And there’s virtually no chemistry between her and Kirk.
So why call her Carol Marcus? Why not just make her an all-new character? The cynical part of me can’t help but think that this was just a way to pillage from The Wrath of Khan, still the most popular Star Trek movie of all.
I can’t comment much about him or his character without revealing a major plot twist. I’d never seen Cumberbatch’s work until this film, but I do know that he’s a very popular actor and that he currently plays Sherlock Holmes in a widely acclaimed BBC TV series. And if he were playing a different character in Star Trek Into Darkness, particularly one we’ve never seen before, I’d say that he did an adequate enough job. Without giving too much away, I will state that, considering the character Cumberbatch is actually playing, this was miscasting of the highest order. Which is appropriate, I guess, because the part is written and directed completely wrong too, to the point of distraction. I don’t think it’ll work for longtime Star Trek fans. And I don’t think newcomers will be particularly impressed either.
© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2013.