There hasn’t been as much speculation flying around the many great kingdoms of Science Fiction since River Song’s reign of awesome on Doctor Who that (sadly) came to an end last year. No sooner had the Star Trek franchise been so incandescently reborn in 2009 that a veritable deluge of debate started about the sequel, all boiling down to one thing: is it Khan, or isn’t it? I’ll spare you all the various stages of this sometimes-tiresome saga, like Karl Urban’s maybe-maybe not faked slip of the tongue and the leaked fight scene in which Chris Pine appears to be clobbering the shit out of Benedict Cumberbatch and just talk about the new trailer, which admirably creates more questions and gets us praying more fervently that Sheldon Cooper might take inspiration from Admiral Kirk and find a way to transport all trekkies to May 17th so we don’t have to be subjected to this kind of torture.
In the announcement trailer, which came out a while back, all we got was a perfectly-constructed series of Doomsday images and intermittent shots of Kirk, Spock and Uhura looking shocked and battle-worn (I won’t mention the blonde with the bob, who looks rather sinister), together with Cumberbatch’s beautiful voice telling us to ‘enjoy these final moments of peace, for I have returned to have my vengeance.’ In the teaser, that reached us late last night in South Africa, we have a lot of the same thing, but with all kinds of interesting goodies to keep us occupied for the time being.
This time, we’re treated to a minimalist but moving monologue by McCoy (I think) promising that the hubris of the divine James Tiberius is going to get everyone on the Enterprise killed, after which Benedict takes over again, and we get our first good look at him as prospective baddy from his cell in the brig. He appears to be human. He’s wearing a Starfleet uniform (oh, the potential in that choice of wardrobe!). We get some new Doomsday-type scenes and a few old ones that he appears to be responsible for (all of which promise tons of destruction, fighting, spectacular landscapes and impeccable CG), before cutting back to the brig and him somewhat mournfully asking ‘Is there anything you would not do for your family?’ Cut to something that was allegedly featured in the extra-footage Japanese trailer: (someone’s) hand attempting to touch his from the other side of the glass, fingers doing ‘live long and prosper’. Cue hysteria.
I must confess that my heart sank at this point, possibly because I haven’t quite recovered from the absurd cloning mishap that formed the central plotline of that awful, disappointing mess of Star Trek: Nemesis. About two seconds later, I changed my mind: the producers of this film have learned from the experience of that one. Then there’s the unknown identity of the hand on the other side of the glass: yes, yes, I know it’s either Kirk or Spock (see image), culturally, it’s probably Spock. So is this guy Spock’s brother? (I hope not, he was dreadful enough the first time round, plus Spock got all the revenge stuff last time). Does all this ‘I will have my vengeance’ stuff have a family twist to it? Who says this is connected to Spock at all? It could be connected to Kirk, hence all this talk about getting his crew killed. Or maybe the guy just lost his family. But that’s too similar to the plotline of the previous film.
To tell the truth, I really hope it’s connected to Kirk. Here’s why I say so. One of the few failings of the previous film was one that could not really have been prevented: Spock overshadowed Kirk considerably, because Zachary Quinto’s Spock is a masterpiece. It draws on all the classic character traits of Nimoy’s achievement, but also does a sublime job on the young Spock’s struggle with how to cope with his humanity: what results is an exterior logic and serenity combined with a violent undercurrent of passion and pathos. The whole movie somehow became about him, when Kirk got almost as much screen time. That doesn’t mean I think Chris Pine is a bad actor, he just didn’t have a lot to work with. In this movie, it would be nice to see Kirk struggling with some demons and getting his teeth into some intense stuff. A Kirk-centric movie would definitely not be a bad idea.
(Of course, all of this could just be another fake Easter egg left along the way. I can’t decide if this is cruelty or kindness. Make us wait, keep us busy. Which is better?)
Then of course there are the infinite possibilities of a bad guy played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has already successfully demonstrated that he’s excellent at playing sociopathic (Sherlock) and skin-crawling (Atonement) individuals. One of the great things about this trailer is that we get conclusive proof that he can be both a maniacal, revenge-crazed villain and somebody who can make us feel with him all in the same role. Personally, I love those kind of villains simply because I’m bored stiff with the standard 1D Hollywood villain with a British accent (and I know a load of other people are too), so that’s probably top of my personal highlights list as far as this movie goes.
Naturally, the title has infinite potential, and I can’t help wondering if this film is consequently going to do for the Star Trek universe what Quantum of Solace did for James Bond: give us a nice dollop of grief and depression to explore the more emo side of the characters that we presume to know so well. The AU situation of these films makes this not just possible but very probable and I think it would be great to see it not just in Kirk (see above), but in characters who haven’t been permitted much development up till now, like Bones, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura and Scotty.
In the meantime, let us watch, wait and imagine.