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This is a comments thread about Blog Post: Aisle Seat 16th Anniversary Edition by Andy Dursin
 Posted:   Sep 9, 2013 - 6:20 AM   
 By:   Jeyl   (Member)

Star Trek Into Darkness fits in with the many Star Trek examples of the writers missing the point. Not the point of what makes good Star Trek (though I would argue that to some degree), but what made Khan KHAN! When rumors started circling around of Khan being used for the villain in the second JJ movie, I was not openly against it. I thought that if they used Khan in this instance, he wouldn't be the vengeful driven madman that we know him from in The Wrath of Khan, but the charismatic yet ultimately dangerous individual with a dream of creating an empire for himself and his people. I thought it would be a cool take on an iconic adversary by portraying him in such a way that the general movie goers wouldn't expect. Well, leave it to Bob and Alex to show me otherwise because this film starts out with a vengeful driven madman Khan RIGHT OFF THE BAT. And not only a vengeful driven madman, but an inherently evil man who wants to destroy all those he deems inferior. What?

This is not Khan, no matter how the writers try to spin it. When classic Spock chimes in saying how the original Khan would not hesitate to kill every single member of the crew, I called him a bloody liar. "TWOK" Khan? Maybe. He was open to sparing Kirk's crew and didn't kill the Reliant's crew. "Space Seed" Khan? NO FREAKING WAY. While Khan certainly bragged about his superiority to those around him, it was not in the manner that dictated who should live and who should die. Remember the scene from Space Seed where the crew were going over Khan's history on Earth? A history mind you that was written by those who defeated him?

McCoy: The last of the tyrants to be overthrown.
Scotty: I must confess, gentlemen. I've always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
Kirk: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
Spock: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is--
Kirk: Mr. Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
Scotty: There were no massacres under his rule.
Spock: And as very little freedom.
McCoy: No wars until he was attacked.

Now you might bring up the fact that he was about to kill Captain Kirk and was threatening to kill everyone else in the room, but does his attitude in any way reflect a "kill the entire crew without hesitation" the way Spock describes him? No. Khan literally goes from wanting Spock to join him in order to spare Kirk's life, to literally anyone joining him to spare Kirk.

Khan is not an inherently evil character and it's insulting that they think they're doing the character justice by portraying him this way.

 Posted:   Sep 10, 2013 - 11:52 AM   
 By:   Joe E.   (Member)

For once, I have to agree with Andy, save for two caveats.

First, I actually liked Star Trek Into Darkness a fair bit more than Star Trek ('09), although that's not saying much (STID is still my second least-favorite Star Trek movie out of the twelve - obviously I don't care much for the first J. J. Trek at all).

Second, and more importantly...

"(though it does — much like “Iron Man 3? — show that the studio’s concerns for “global sensitivity” over an “ethnic villain” have completely run amok). "

That's just... bizarre, considering the casting of Cumberbatch as Khan is widely seen as an incredibly insensitive stroke, ranking right up there alongside Johnny Depp's casting as Tonto. Cumberbatch / Khan and Kingsley / Mandarin are totally different - polar opposites, even. The issues with casting either character don't have to do with their villainy; they have to do with the characters (and the histories thereof). The Mandarin wasn't changed for Iron Man 3 merely because of fears over having an "ethnic" ("ethnic" to who?) villain, but because the original comics character was / is a problematic, offensive stereotype; his status as a good guy or bad guy wasn't the issue. The makers of Iron Man 3 found a clever way to both acknowledge the character's legacy while negating the problematic aspects of him, while also introducing a story element that adds surprise and revelation. It made for a better narrative than it would have been if the Mandarin had been exactly what he at first appeared to be, while also avoiding cringe-inducing racism. I don't see how anything is "running amok" about that.

Star Trek Into Darkness, on the other hand, had no good reason to make Khan a white guy (and plenty of reason not to, in fact). Yes, he's a villain, but unlike the original comics version of the Mandarin his villainy and his characterization in general had nothing to do with his ethnicity; his ethnicity was merely another aspect of his character, and he wasn't drawn as an offensive stereotype like the comics Mandarin. Retaining his ethnic identity wouldn't have been offensive (unless his new movie characterization fell back upon some stereotype the old Khan didn't). Moreover, this movie isn't just an adaptation, but a further adventure with connections to the old, and this Khan is actually supposed to be the same Khan we've seen before (at least up until the point at which he was revived, at which point their histories diverge). The old Khan wasn't portrayed by a truly ethnically appropriate actor either, true, but at least they did get someone nonwhite, and for 1960s American television that was probably about as much as we could expect. With this one, they actually had an opportunity to finally get someone more appropriate than before, and they went in exactly the opposite direction.

That said, however, I doubt the new casting had anything to do with desires to avoid causing offense with an "'ethnic villain'" roll eyes (that would actually have the exact opposite effect of the one intended anyway, if that were really the reason). It was widely reported the role was first offered to Benicio del Toro, and after that didn't work out it went to Cumberbatch. The consideration of del Toro suggests that to Hollywood, apparently "brown is brown," but at least it would have 'kinda, sorta' maintained a sort of consistency with the original casting, and at any rate would still have been better than a random white dude. I think the final casting was more a result of general insensitive cluelessness, coupled with a desire to use a "hot property" actor, which Cumberbatch undoubtedly is (and he can also act, at least), than any sort of reluctance to offend people by casting a nonwhite player as a villain - and if it did, it had exactly the opposite effect, since numerous fans complained and still complain quite vocally about the whitewashing.

 Posted:   Sep 10, 2013 - 2:39 PM   
 By:   Zoragoth   (Member)

Andy, on STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (what a silly title!) I think you really nailed the film's many weaknesses. I just saw the film second run (your review of the film upon release certainly didn't make me want to rushout and see it). The movie is such a mess, it almost made me pine for the NEXT GENERATION cast. I enjoyed the first Abrams outing, though I was a bit leery of the hip, cool factor and the endless, overamped action. I didn't consider it true STAR TREK, but taken as a generic space opera the movie was entertaining and funny and well-mounted. But this new one, oh my. It makes me glad Abrams is moving on, no doubt to render another famous cosmic property even worse than it is....

 Posted:   Sep 14, 2013 - 10:43 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

Thanks, Andy. I almost pre-ordered the "Into Darkness" Blu-ray, but decided to wait until I had seen it first, so tired of buying movies I watch once and never again. I didn't read every single word you wrote as you went into details of the story, not wanting to know too much, but you certainly gave me enough to be glad I DIDN'T buy the Blu-ray!!!!

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