FRIDAY NIGHT FIEND – KHAN (Yes, Again)

Benedict-Cumberbatch-khan-changedSo I actually wrote this last night but the combination of the family being out of town (at Disneyland, leaving me behind with the Damn Dog) and walking into the Labor Day weekend, I completely forgot what day I was on.

Now before I bring up a new villain, I figured it’d be best to do some updates. You may or may not recall but I started this little villain shit by participating the A to Z Blog Challenge in April 2012. Since then, a couple of our marvelous miscreants have been rebooted in major motion pictures and that means they deserve a second look.

Let’s start with Khan from Star Trek Into Darkness:

The last time we saw Khan Noonien Singh, he was the feathered-banged, vest-but-no-shirt Ricardo Montalban in all his fine Corinthian leathery goodness. He’d stolen a Federation starship, put worms in Chekov’s ear, and killed Spock. And then blew himself up. But he was awesome to the end. He even gave us poetry.

But that was 1982.

You know how Hollywood machine works: people run out of ideas, someone says “Hey, you know what we could do? We should remake shit! How about Star Trek!” and the magic happens. But can you blame them? It’s been 31 years, William Shatner refuses to lose any weight, and special effects have now progressed to ridiculous levels. So they find a couple writers and a popular director with a penchant for lens flares and writing the longest, most confusing, unresolved show in the history of television. Recipe for success, right?

But the reboot proves successful and that means sequel. Actually that means trilogy. You know they have to throw Khan into the mix now, right? There is a formula to these movies, these trilogies. Can you see it? Trilogies are just larger renditions of the three-act structure we all know. You introduce the hero in movie one, give them their greatest challenge in movie two, and then the third movie really pushes them into a longer, more resolved trajectory. You can see it very clearly in the Dark Knight movies, the original Spiderman trilogy, the Star Wars movies (the good trilogy), even the first three Alien movies (we shall not speak of Alien: Resurrection—that piece of cinematic garbage is dead to us).

In terms of the rebooted Star Trek movies, we’re in the middle of the trilogy and that means a great challenge. And that means Khan, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (say that three times fast). And don’t be fooled by that John Harrison bullshit—we all knew you were bringing Khan.

Anyway, this version of Khan is…okay. Kinda meh. He’s played well and there is a seething anger in his approach but he doesn’t do anything really fucked up and the things he does do, he’s wholly justified. The Khan in the original series and in Star Trek II is bent on revenge and Kirk’s death is his sole purpose. He’s horribly effective in this endeavor because he has no qualms about how he achieves his aims: there is no nobility or honor in his actions. This is revenge pure and simple.

Cumberbatch’s Khan is more the victim of blackmail. He’s doing what he has to do to protect the ones he loves. It’s a defensive posture to me, one fitting the unwilling accomplice than a major antagonist. He does, however, have this one fantastic exchange:

Khan: Because I am better.

Kirk: At what?

Khan: Everything.

And to his credit, he is. Whipping EVERYBODY’S ass! Spock, Kirk, about 47 Klingons, and he kicked the shit out of Carol Marcus’ leg. I’ll give him that. But in the end, this villain was just ok. He was, however, successful in breaking Kirk ALL THE WAY down, in a way the original could not, and I guess that makes him pretty impressive. An impressive Meh. I don’t know, maybe I should rewatch the movie.

As a side note, this movie cheats: the whole premise of the original reboot was that someone from the future came and changed historical events which meant an alternate reality for the folks who boldly go where no one has ever gone before. You’ve heard of those What If? stories, right? What if the Nazis won WWII? What if Kennedy hadn’t gotten shot? What if we decided against giving the Kardashians a tv show? This is a story like that. Fine, I can buy it. Opens up all new possibilities and a chance to tell old stories in new ways. Great! But then you can’t have new Spock calling up old Spock for info on new Khan. What the fuck is that? Since when did we get an interstellar time-travel cell phone? With FaceTime? Is that on the new iPhone 5S? Fucking Apple.

Next Friday, we will look at the all time Galactic Hide and Seek Champion: Zod!

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