Finally got around to seeing Star Trek Into Darkness this weekend. I liked it quite a lot. Had a few problems, but on the balance, I recommend it. Since it’s been out for a few weeks now, I’m not sure if I’ll do a full review, but there is something I want to talk about.
In a lot of ways, I think JJ Abrams gave us a better Khan than Gene Roddenberry ever did. The original Khan was dangerously charismatic. This Khan plays mind games with Vulcans and has a Starfleet Admiral saying “Aw, shit, you talked to him.”
The original Khan was a brilliant strategist who cost Our Heroes dearly. This Khan is constantly three steps ahead of his unmodified opponents, luring a large portion of the Star Fleet High Command into a deathtrap. He also designs a warship with technology three hundred years beyond his time, keeping every bolt and rivet in his head as he does so.
The original Khan was tougher than Kirk. This Khan is a terrifying, unstoppable monster. On Qo’Nos, we see him using a gun that looks like it should be mounted on a vehicle with one hand, shooting down Klingon warbirds. He crushes skulls with his bare hands (indeed, it seems to be his favorite finishing move). He shrugs off the Vulcan nerve pinch. Has anyone, in the history of Trek, ever done that? Then, when he’s in the midst of beating Spock to death (let’s read that again: Khan, a human, albeit a genetically modified one, is killing a Vulcan with his bare hands), he takes multiple stuns to the vitals from about five feet away…and he keeps coming. My more Trek-savvy readers please advise me: isn’t hitting someone with a Stun at that range a viable murder tactic in the Trek universe? “Stunning” the organs or nervous system into non-functionality or something like that? And he keeps coming.
The fucker is Jason Voorhees with a genius IQ and the ability to run. He’s everything a genetically-modified evil overlord should be. If Abrams wants, he can use Khan to cast a shadow over the rest of the series, however long it may run. Everyone’s greatest fear will be Khan waking up again, especially if he can wake his crew.
I love me a good villain or monster, and Khan is both. As you can tell, he’s a big part of the reason I enjoyed the movie so much. There’s just one problem. Just one, but I’m afraid it was such a big one that it jolted my suspension of disbelief and kept nibbling at the edges of it for the rest of the movie:
Why on Earth is a man named Khan Noonien Singh played by someone as white as Benedict Cumberbatch?
The name “Singh” is Sikh or Hindu. The name Khan…shouldn’t really be a personal name. It’s a title or surname. Anyway, it was originally Mongol, but now it’s mostly Muslim. That bit of bad research makes the character’s ethnicity a bit difficult to track, but I understand that he’s confirmed as Sikh in the literature.
Come on, Abrams, are you seriously telling me that you couldn’t find a single Indian actor who could do Khan? Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor, he really is. He spends much of the movie being ice-cold, then when Khan finally breaks, he becomes a roaring beast. During the battle in the Vengeance‘s control room, when he’s in the process of killing Admiral Marcus, his cry of “You should have let me sleep” has such…texture. There’s rage, grief and loss at having his crew kidnapped, perhaps even a bit of genuine regret that the horror that is himself has been unleashed on the world again. But come on. You couldn’t find a single Indian actor of the same quality? At least in the Sixties, Roddenberry had the excuse that being allowed to have a brown man of any nationality to play a brown character was a difficult feat. What’s your excuse? I’m all for making quality the first criteria, but how many chances do Indian actors really get in Hollywood for a part this meaty?