Star Trek Into Darkness redeemed a franchise. After 9/11 and the 2007 bank and mortgage crisis I naively thought searing reforms would put the United States and the world back on course. Trek was a certain important reason why I joined the Army, but I never did find my family. After a decade reconsidering that, I realize now I can have the fantasy, but also accept the world as it is. It took a space opera fairy tale to convince me I was misguided. What’s necessary, but unlikely, not even moral, and definitely not legal is to excise the cancer, as Spock does when he eliminates Admiral Marcus, played by Peter Weller. Yes, Weller plays the bad guy, not that John Harrison, a.k.a. Khan Noonien Singh, is a good guy. Marcus is the testosterone junkie, the disease within the organization who we trust but who violates the license we give him to avenge us against our enemy. He’s the least redeemable character in the story with the most unfavorable traits. Khan, he’s just a tool, and that’s makes his character pathetic, even if Benedict Cumberbatch out acts the entire cast. For once, William Shatner no longer in the chair, that really means something.
I wanted to hate this movie. I do hope that any future installment can pass on the whole alternative timelines addiction. Leonard Nimoy deserves a chance to have a career beyond Spock. I hoped J.J. Abrams fell on his ass, and crippled his directorial momentum going into the Star Wars sequels. I wanted the franchise to die respectfully, or for the chair to stay in the family. But, Star Trek has returned to the past and done what the original series couldn’t, that is, put the technical side, the acting, and the writing together, all in a politically relevant, entertaining package.
The new Star Trek explored the origins of Kirk and Spock in a way that had become a sure fire Hollywood formula for success with the emergence in the new millennium of several highly profitable superhero origins movies like Spiderman, Batman, the X-Men, and Iron Man. In keeping with the times, the emphasis in both the first Star Trek reboot and the new movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, has been on rogue terrorist groups rather than on nation states or empires thus reflecting the changing times in the international system. In the first movie Nero, a survivor of the explosion that destroys Romulus, wages a war with a small group of renegades against the Federation. In Into Darkness, J.J. Abrams resurrects Khan from classic Trek as a product of Eugenics and makes him into a first class terrorist. The twist in the tale being that once again the seamy side of the Federation is revealed because it is not an innocent victim of terror but instead at least partly responsible for making Khan into a terrorist. Internal factors drive foreign policy actions.