Huge Spoilers follow!!! You have been warned.
As I’ve figured out, my personal deal with the movies I love is that I have to want to be one of the lead characters. Now, I grew up on the original Star Trek series. I love it. I’ve wanted to be Captain Kirk since I was in single-digits. I like the rest of the original crew and could relate to them. I would happily have served on the original Enterprise.
But I don’t want to be this Kirk. At. All. I actually like Chris Pine as an actor, but I can’t see anything of what I loved about the character of Kirk in this Kirk. I don’t want to be any of the other characters either, nor do I relate to any of them, but at least I can recognize them as ST characters. But I can't find a glimmer of Kirk in there. They really are in an alternate universe, I guess. Or I am.
When the characters fail to grab me, all I’m hoping for is an entertaining story. But, as with the first movie, this one’s plot hinges on plot holes and coincidences and, dude, I can forgive an awful lot of crap in a movie when I like the characters. But when I don’t like the characters, and there's nothing but story left...
I see this alternate universe is still messing with the physics of the universe. At least they are consistent in their BS. The Enterprise can now submerge beneath the ocean. Never mind the fact that the indigenous race on this planet has barely invented the wheel, so clearly has no telescopes. Never mind that the Enterprise is there to survey the planet. They can’t do that from orbit? Particularly when later in the film they can use their sensors from earth (!) to detect that Khan is alone in a deserted portion of the Klingon home world who knows how many solar systems away? Nothing makes any sense in this universe.
And then there’s this whole bizarre thing with the volcano. It’s going to blow and wipe out the locals, so the Enterprise decides to stop that by killing the volcano. Spock seems to have no problem with this, even though that would be messing with the prime directive too. Besides, volcanoes usually provide fertile soil and geothermal pools and various other things that the natives were probably using in their daily life. Turning off the volcano seems like it would be pretty traumatic for the natives. I mean, it’s spewing lava one moment, it’s dead the next? That’s not something that would change the course of their civilization? (Also, no invention of the wheel, but the natives have a complicated written language?)
But that whole ridiculous opener is just to 1) show off the starship Enterprise rising from the (very deep) coastal waters, 2) get Kirk and Spock arguing so that there is a moral of the story, and 3) get Kirk demoted so we can promptly promote him again, and 4) let me know that if the first ten minutes of the movie make no sense, it wasn't going uphill from there.
Once again, Starfleet appears to have no qualified personnel and no other ships or crews. And the Enterprise appears to have no other qualified engineers besides Scotty. And speaking of Scotty, not only is he a genius who invented transwarp transporter technology (which no one but Khan can use), he can just take a shuttle (maybe they have rent-a-shuttle agencies?).. and pilot it all the way to Jupiter to a super-secret space station... that has no radar or detection gear whatsoever and no security protocols... and Scotty can just... fly right in without being challenged, and just waltz onboard this secret ship and stowaway because somehow he knows he'll be needed to sabotage said ship half an hour later?
You know, I hope the Klingons come and wipe earth out in the next movie, cuz Starfleet in this alternate universe remains the biggest bunch of idiots. Not that the Klingons are much better. In this alternate universe, the Klingon home world is well less than a day away from earth. (The Enterprise gets there and back complete with damaged ship and an adventure planetside in under 24 hours.) I guess they're not patrolling the Neutral Zone yet, but at least, the Klingons are monitoring what lands on their own planet. That’s something. Better than Admiral Marcus’s secret unguarded space station.
And then there’s Khan. He’s at least somewhat interesting, but I found him unbelievably bland. We’re told to fear him, but other than the fact that he has immortal blood which allows him (and any other being who gets a transfusion, including tribbles, cuz you know tribbles and humans have compatible blood) to heal and not take much physical damage in a fight, and the fact that he moves very fast... what’s to fear? He was deliciously cold, but hardly intimidating. Maybe that’s just because this movie gallops along at breakneck speed and never gives us a chance to know him a little better? I think I liked him best when he was temporarily working with Kirk, just because the way they set him up, he made a far more interesting ambiguous ally than an enemy, and those were some of the better scenes in the movie. I could almost like some of those parts.
I still like Pike. And I did like Admiral Marcus. I sort of liked Carol Marcus, but again with Starfleet being a bunch of morons. She can change her name and just walk on the Enterprise? No orders? No security? And then turn out to be the only weapons specialist they have? She wasn’t supposed to be there, so who would Kirk have turned to if she wasn’t there? (I feel like being Happy in IM3 – “Where’s your badge??”)
And then, there’s the whole “let’s take the climax of Wrath of Khan and reverse characters!” portion. My sister and I lost it during that scene, we were laughing so hard. We can’t tell if the filmmakers meant it to be funny, or if that was a completely unintentional side effect. Was it actually supposed to be some kind of loving tribute to the original movie and not a parody? Because it sure felt like we had slipped into a bad Saturday Night Live skit.
I do find it very amusing that Kirk handles Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan far better than Spock handles Kirk’s death in this one. This Spock falls apart like a cheap suit.
Also, the entire end is a WTF moment. When Khan kills 42 people in the beginning, it’s enough to get a no-holds-barred “go get ‘em” order (granted there’s more to that order, but Admiral Marcus is not the only Admiral in Starfleet still left alive). When Khan kills possibly thousands at the end of the movie as he deliberately plows his huge ship into San Francisco, demolishing several high rises at least, no one says a blooming thing. No death toll. No injuries. Zero consequences for Khan. He’s not put on trial, not even for his previous terrorist act, he’s merely put back to sleep. I simply do not understand how this alternate universe works.
But, of course, I’m going to be foolishly optimistic about the next film. They at least appeared to be setting up a war with the Klingons. I like that. I can go with that. Until I find out in a couple years how badly they plot that out too.