Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Star Trek Into Darkness": the huge plot hole

While he's in the Enterprise's brig, Khan tells Kirk that he killed all those unarmed Starfleet flag officers because he "responded in kind" after mistakenly thinking that Admiral Marcus had killed Khan's 72 crew/family members. Later in the movie, Spock explodes the 72 torpedoes that Khan has beamed aboard the commandeered USS Vengeance. Once again, Khan believes his people dead, so his first thought is to ram the Vengeance into Starfleet Command. He instead misses, smashing Alcatraz, skimming across the Bay, and plowing the Vengeance into several very tall buildings, presumably killing thousands of innocent civilians. As before, Khan's mass murder is the product of a misapprehension.

So at this point, Admiral Marcus's words make sense: Khan was condemned to death long ago, and it's up to people in the 23rd century to carry out that sentence. By killing thousands in San Francisco, Khan has added significantly to the list of crimes he must answer for. Instead, he's given the most merciful sentence I can imagine: he's re-inserted into a cryo-tube and returned to slumber. Does this make sense?

There's also the question of what happened between the moment that Spock knocked Khan out with that upper cut and the moment that Khan was placed back in deep-freeze. Was Khan told, when he regained consciousness and became an unwilling blood donor for Captain Kirk, that his people were still alive? Did this news make him more docile, or did it infuriate him to learn that Spock—who can't lie—had nevertheless managed to outwit Khan's supposedly superior intellect?

I didn't miss the fact that, after Khan had taunted Spock by saying that a being unable to break rules can't be expected to break bone, Spock broke Khan's arm. That made for some satisfying dramatic symmetry. But was that satisfaction enough to make up for the above-mentioned plot holes? I'm not sure.



Charles said...

Two things that I never once thought about while watching the film. I guess I kind of just turned my analytical brain off for that. It's on so often that it needs a break every now and then.

Kevin Kim said...

My friend Mike voiced disappointment with the JJ Abrams brand of Star Trek, calling both movies "basically buddy films." Certainly, as many reviewers have pointed out, there's the whole "bromance" dimension of the Kirk/Spock relationship.

If we expand the "buddy" concept outward, I feel a bit sorry for McCoy, who's often kind of a fifth wheel in the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship triangle. Then there's Scotty, who in this universe seems to enjoy a less formal relationship with Kirk than he does in the "classic Trek" universe, although I'm not entirely sure he's Kirk's "buddy." (Scotty calls Kirk a "mad bastard" while he's hiding aboard the Vengeance, which says a lot about freely he feels he can speak to his captain, but there's a lingering sense, derived from the 2009 film, that Scotty's still something of an outsider to the Enterprise as opposed to having been an integral part of the ship's genesis.)

Adding a wrinkle to this is the Spock-Uhura romance-- an element I actually welcome, given how it livens up both Spock's and Uhura's characters, but I'm not sure I'd say that this relationship is part of any "buddy" dynamic.

In fact, now that I think about it, I'm not sure that I'd call the new Trek movies "buddy films" at all, since the "buddy" aspect reduces pretty much to Kirk and Spock. If the focus is only on them, then yeah, there's almost a "Lethal Weapon"-style interracial buddy-ness about the Abrams films. Otherwise, I'm not sure I agree with Mike's assessment.

Charles said...

Man, you guys have thought about this stuff a lot more than I have.

Kevin Kim said...

Whoops-- I wrote:

"Scotty calls Kirk a "mad bastard" while he's hiding aboard the Vengeance, which says a lot about freely he feels he can speak to his captain..."

I should have written:

"Scotty calls Kirk a "mad bastard" while he's hiding aboard the Vengeance, which says a lot about HOW freely he feels he can speak to his captain..."