So over the past couple weeks, I’ve been on a big Star Trek kick – like a really big one. I’ve been rewatching TNG and DS9, rereading some IDW comics (including a great one explaining how Khan became how he was in Into Darkness), and revisiting the film franchise…which leads us to today’s post. Over the next while, I’ll be going through the Trek films and ranking the franchise. This week we’re kicking off with the most recent entries in the series (and debatably the most divisive) – the three Kelvin Timeline films from directors (/producer) JJ Abrams and Justin Lin. The films will be ranked from worst to best – with that in mind, let’s get to it.
3) Star Trek Into Darkness:
Into Darkness is flawed, but I still really like it. The main problem is its reverence to Wrath of Khan – see Trek 09 had some good references to WoK (Kobayashi Maru, bugs put in your head that make you reveal information, a stronger villain who is obsessed with (wrath?) vengeance), but it fit the plot while not lifting exact plot points/dialogue/scenes. The creation of personal transports and use of ‘super blood’ is pretty dumb (why would Starfleet need ships now? With some exceptions, people can’t die now) – especially since neither are mentioned again. The film also repeats things from Trek 09 a little too much at points. And finally, on the faults front, there was that Carol Marcus scene served no purpose. All that being said though, this movie does have some great things. The action is top notch, the characters are a blast, the incorporation of Section 31 worked, and the score was really good. The two best parts though? Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan and the growth of Kirk. If you were to ignore this film (as some Trekkies suggest) there is a huge jump from cocky ‘I’m right you’re wrong’ Kirk in Trek 09 to loving (and weary) leader Kirk in Beyond – you’d feel like you’re missing a step of progression, and that’s this movie. The first half of the movie you find Kirk very much like he is in Trek 09 (with an added layer of caring about more people), but throughout this film you find Kirk being challenged with situations foes who can end him on a whim. He loses his new father figure, his command, his relationship with Spock is challenged, in anger he rushes into things/dismisses people – and you see him learning from these things, you see him grow to the point where he’s willing (and does) make a sacrifice for his crew – something Kirk in 09 wouldn’t necessarily do. Kirk grows in this movie and it shapes him into who he would be in beyond. As for Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan, to me, it’s a great villain. Cumberbatch didn’t try to impersonate Ricardo Montalbán’s great original performance – this was fully his take on the character, and I loved it. In terms of physicality, he showed he was superior – he was a one-man wrecking crew to Klingons and Starfleet alike. He showed intellect. His delivery was cold, arrogant, and chilling. I loved his performance, especially in the scene below. While I clearly really enjoy Into Darkness, I can definitely say it’s the weakest of the three.
2) Star Trek:
Trek 09 is really solid, and one I like a lot. In fact, there’s not much I don’t like about it (aside from needless almost nudity, which was something that’s been in Trek since the TOS/OG Roddenberry days). The cast is great, the score is great, the characters are interesting (and bullheaded) we finally get fist fights in Trek that aren’t…well, Trek fights (look up Kirk-fu to get the idea). We get fists, kicks, and swords (random, but it worked) – yes, this isn’t what Trek is about – but fighting’s been a part of it since The Original Series – it was nice that it finally looked good. The strength of this movie is its stories handling (and clear statement) that this is its own timeline. It’s not rewriting Trek, but it’s freeing itself from 53 years of continuity so the franchise can go in a different direction – which was debatably necessary (not saying I agree, but I can understand the viewpoint). This is a very different Trek, and I like it a lot.
1) Star Trek Beyond:
The Best of the Kelvin Timeline films was it’s (current) last entry, Star Trek Beyond (yep, the one where the use of the Beastie Boys song sabotage helps the crew win). Trek 09 for all its goodness had to be a setup movie. Into Darkness, while enjoyable, was too dialled into Wrath of Khan. Beyond though? Beyond got to be its own story. It was the characters at their best – where like the movie itself, it’s a great amalgamation of what came before and what’s currently happening. Kirk in this movie is at a crossroads and a great leader, the crew seems like a great family, it features a lot of Trek stuff (uniforms and ship designs from Star Trek: Enterprise, an actual log entry – right near the beginning). The use of the female characters is at its best in the three films. They got the balance of the Kirk-Spock-Mccoy relationship (with all three, but especially Karl Urban shining in ths movie) right. The destruction of the Enterprise is great and a gut punch – we’ve seen the ship take a beating before, but we haven’t seen it torn apart like this. Its comedy is organic, it’s new characters (especially Jaylah) work. Heck, even the often mocked use of Beastie Boys works – and is a great nod to the current franchise. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about this movie. For me, it’s one of the best Trek movies overall – which I wasn’t expecting. If this is the last film of the Kelvin Timeline, I think they went out on a high note.
Next time, we’ll be looking at the four films that feature my favourite crew of the Enterprise – The Next Generation chapter of the franchise.
Hope you enjoyed, and God bless my friends.