**** (4 stars out of 5)
2259: a terrorist bombing at the Doctor Who production offices in London is masterminded by rogue Starfleet operative "John Harrison Ford Not An Alias". Starfleet C-in-C Admiral Alexander "Buckaroo Banzai" Marcus, demands answers! While Marcus gathers all his eggheads in one basket, "Harrison" drops by in a hover chopper and kills (among others) Kirk's beloved mentor Admiral Pike. The suave, handsome mass murderer then beams to "safety"- a transwarp jaunt into the post-nuclear wasteland of the Klingon homeworld. You know, for safety!
With a K'normian ship acquired earlier during the comic book, Kirk and company disobey Admiral Marcus and extract "Harrison" themselves. "Harrison" allows himself to be arrested, since it is clear he can kill a dozen Klingons with his bear hands, cool coat, and giant gun, and also chew through handcuffs and cell walls if he so wished. He doesn't even need oxygen! Nice job on the genetic engineering, 1965!
For he is a super-soldier, and in my first disappointment of the Abrams tenure, he's Khan. Not Khan's trusted lieutenant, not some other Eugenics War Augment. Khan Singh. (The man's a versatile, PHENOMENAL actor. He's an amazing nemesis. He's an absolute snake in human skin! But does he look like a KHAN NOONIEN SINGH? Wesley Snipes, maybe! Nigel Chillingsbottom. Even John Harrison. THAT I'd believe!
Speaking of lying about your name for no real reason, Wallace the torpedo babysitter is the Admiral's good-hearted daughter- Carol Marcus. (Now that we're doing this, I half-expected Keenser to be DAVID Marcus under a Halloween mask!) Big Daddy Marcus is a war-mongering maverick with a big, black starship. He found Khan someplace and used him for wetwork (see deleted shower scene). But Marcus also held Khan's crew hostage to blackmail the centuries-frozen savage strategic genius into DESIGNING his big, black starship! You know, just as Donald Rumsfeld would logically have forced frozen Napolean Bonaparte to design his war planes...
Some visually entrancing but exceedingly questionable physics-defying airlock antics later, Kirk and Scotty tag gamely along as Khan defeats Marcus. And crushes his skull. Then Khan steals Marcus' Vengeance for himself. Vengeance and Enterprise shoot each other down, and Kirk dies of the radiation while re-starting the engine. Spock rages at the death of his BFF, and beats Khan into submission aboard a speeding hover garbage truck.
Everyone is very sad, so Dr. McCoy uses Khan's magic blood to resurrect Kirk, a tribble, and Admiral Archer's beagle. You had to be there. It was pretty exciting.
Speaking of exciting, for all the Cumberbitches, I offer this deleted scene of Khan in a hot shower. As The Internet has pointed out, it's a regular shower with Mr. Cumberbatch in it!
So, yeah. Amazing action. Visually stunning. Fantastic performances. Originality? Not so much. Dialogue, characters, emotional beats- too many are lifted directly from Wrath of Khan. Which was a big let down after the 2009 film was so fresh. This leaves a bad taste in the mouth, like two skanky Neko-Girls in bed with Kirk instead of one perfectly nice Orion.
"Star Trek Into Darkness" offers half the fun, but keeps the dream alive and, despite the poster, is probably a sophomore slump instead of the franchise finally crashing and burning. As Kirk's final speech hypocritically exclaims: "Exploration is the answer, not violence! Just ignore all that lovely, pulse-pounding violence we just spent two hours thrusting at you! Exploration! That's the ticket! Yeah! Violence? Icky." Until I tire of it (I've only seen it twice, after all), I still have to give it four stars. It's Star Trek, you guys! It may be grim, but it's all we've got for the next few years.
What's that you say? You say there's hundreds of comics and novels and fanzines and YouTubes? Well, then what the hell are we waiting for? The Human Adventure is Just Beginning!