According to several sources, insiders have confirmed that Benedict Cumberbatch's character in J.J. Abrams' next Star Trek movie will be who everyone expected (but hoped it wouldn't) be: Khan Noonien Singh.
So it looks like we'll be seeing a pretty by-the-numbers space action movie with a singular villain.
This is disappointing for several reasons.
There's two ways to reboot something:
- Retell same stories with modernized style, effects. i.e. Casino Royale.
- Completely throw everything prior out and start from scratch. i.e. Batman Begins.
Star Trek under Abrams is trying to walk a fine line between the two. They tried retaining the original history by setting the reboot in a time-travel-induced alternate timeline (which was actually alternate before the time travel happened anyway). But they also wanted to separate themselves from the original canon as much as possible, to the extent that they fundamentally altered the development of the primary characters. Kirk grew up as an angsty delinquent without a role model father, and Spock had his home planet blown up and his species put on the verge of extinction. So they're not really the same characters, but they are shoe-horned into becoming the same characters because apparently Abrams favors “nature” almost exclusively over “nurture”. Oh, and Spock Prime told them how things are supposed to happen. So much for the Temporal Prime Directive. Or is it the regular Prime Directive since it's a parallel universe that is already developing independently?
In any case, the Trek reboot is already on shaky ground, and the 2009 movie is lucky that it was actually a good movie. The writers wanted the name recognition of Star Trek, but then they say they don't want to be constrained by the original continuity.
“One of the reasons we wanted to break with the original Star Trek timeline was it felt restrictive”
- J.J. Abrams
Well, if you want to tell new and original stories with the same characters, then a.) why did you alter the characters' backgrounds? b.) Why are you rehashing the same characters that worked successfully before?
Garth of Izar would make for a much more compelling and interesting rehashed villain.
If you want to tell a new and original story, then why are you telling the story of Khan? We know that story! We've seen it before! Furthermore, it was done well to begin with and doesn't need to be redone or rebooted or reimagined or changed in any way. If you absolutely want to update an existing TOS villain, then why not try one of the ones that was broken to begin with and fix that?! Give us rebooted Sybok or Garth of Izar.
But I've already been over all this.
My biggest complaint with the direction of the new movie is that it just seems like a missed opportunity.
I was really hoping for a genuine “space exploration adventure”. Something a little more abstract and intellectual. Not quite in the territory of Star Trek: The Motion Picture or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but something at least a little intellectually stimulating. I'm sick of Star Trek movies being dumbed-down action flicks like they have been for the past decade and a half. What ever happened to the people who wrote all those great episodes about, you know, trekking through the stars?
As a film-maker, Abrams has the opportunity to do something special. He has movie audiences' attention with Star Trek. Now he can do whatever he wants with it. He could reintroduce an entire generation of movie-goers to genuine science fiction! He tried doing it with Super 8, but that movie wasn't that great.
He could have convinced the studio to let him give us a movie about exploring the galaxy and discovering the unknown. A movie about facing that unknown and the positive effects that it has, and how those positive effects can outweigh the risk and danger. A movie about solving problems and mysteries that go beyond just “he's the bad guy, and we need to stop him!”
He could have show modern movie-goers that science fiction isn't just about stupid robots from space blowing up stuff (i.e. Transformers).
But no. Instead we get megalomaniacal space super-villain.
It's like just another super hero movie. But in space.
If we're lucky, maybe the inclusion of Klingons will add some thoughtfulness to the script in the form of political intrigue à la Star Trek VI. But it'll probably just be an excuse to have large space battles.
If Abrams thinks that Star Trek is all about Vulcan nerve pinches and phaser fights, then quite frankly, I don't want him making any more Star Trek movies. I hate to cite Enterprise as a positive example, but at least the people who made that show tried to make it about peaceful exploration of the galaxy, but with a little more edginess.
The original Star Trek television series captured the hearts and imaginations of its viewers with its characters and situations. Not through space battles and alien fist fights. It spurred its fans towards doing positive things for the world around them like fighting for civil rights and tolerance. It got people excited about the future of space travel and the possibilities it offered. It inspired an entire generation of children to become scientists, engineers, and astronauts. NASA renamed its first re-useable space craft after the ship from the show. And all of this was before Star Trek had the cultural recognition and acceptance that it has today. It was all before “live long and prosper” and “beam me up, Scotty” were in the pop culture vernacular.
I wanted the next Star Trek movie to try to recapture the spirit of the original show. I wanted it to really get people excited about science and space exploration and show us the wonder and mystery of the universe. With NASA being defunded, the United States' manned space exploration program being grounded, and science education being attacked in the political arena, we need a positive example of what exploring the galaxy can do for us. With private companies starting up their own space-flight business and proposing asteroid mining, we need the public to get excited and support these ideas!
Star Trek can do that. It has before. I'd like for it to do it again.
It's why I'm a fan.