Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Wrath of Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch (L) to reboot Khan, originally played by Ricardo Montalban (R)
I know, I know, summer movie season 2012 hasn't even started yet, and here we are getting ahead of ourselves and jumping ahead to summer 2013. Still, this one seemed worthy of a post. Although production has been proceeding on director JJ Abrams' Star Trek sequel for awhile now, it's been pretty much radio silence the entire time, as the filmmakers have kept an iron claw clasped on all the movie's secrets, from the storyline to the various new characters populating. This being the Internet age though, and Trekkies being a resourceful bunch, we all knew it wouldn't be long before things started leaking out, and this one is a biggie.

Per TrekMovie (which has a fairly solid track record with these sorts of things), for their second cinematic voyage, the rebooted Captain Kirk & Co. will follow in the footsteps of their esteemed predecessors' sophomore movie entry and square off with the most iconic of all Trek baddies, genetically-engineered superman Khan Noonien Singh, played to the hilt by the late Ricardo Montalban in the original '60s Star Trek first season episode "Space Seed," and the movie series' Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and (apparently) Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the BBC's Sherlock, playing the 2.0 model.

In all honesty (assuming this turns out to be true), I'm of mixed opinion on this, as I have been since the rumors of Khan's return first gained traction when Latin actor Benicio Del Tor was offered -- and turned down -- the heretofore-unrevealed part. As you know, I've spent a few posts singing the praises of Wrath of Khan, which I (and most people) consider the quintessential movie Trek, so I recognize the reflexive urge to bring back the franchise's most memorable baddie for a return engagement. Where I start to question whether this is a good idea is in the obvious comparisons that will be elicited, not just between performers, but between scenarios, and, by extension, between films.

It's worth remembering that what made (and continues to make) Star Trek II practically hallowed ground for many fans, diehard and otherwise, isn't merely its memorably bombastic villain (though obviously that's a big factor). It's the woven-in reflections on death and aging via Captain Kirk's midlife crisis. It's the drama between Khan and Kirk, itself coming from an enmity that's had several decades to ferment. None of those factors can really be brought to bear in Abrams' new Star Trek universe, which makes me wonder why they don't just create a new antagonist to carry the story forward.

That said, Cumberbatch, for as completely different from Montalban as he is physically, is still a very, very good actor (evidenced by his continuing, exemplary work as the modernized version of Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective), and I don't have any worries that he won't be credible in the part. In fact, I'm sure he will. Also, if nothing else, after surpassing every expectation last time, Abrams and his fellow travelers have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt from me, so I'm happy to see where the pieces fall, especially if it's true that they're not just rehashing "Space Seed" with better effects.

But the big spoilers don't stop there if you're a longtime devotee, because this new film will also mark the return of another few MVP's to the halls of the Trek-dom -- including one particular individual who well assumed had said his last "Live long and prosper." As for who that is, well, if that last sentence didn't clue you in, then I wouldn't deign to spoil it here. However, if you're in a spoilers-be-damned state of mind, by all means feel free to jump on over to TrekMovie to get the full skinny. Consider yourselves duly forewarned!

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