He’s Got Your Wings

The Fly II could never live up to David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake. The Fly (1986) was simply too popular not to expect a sequel. Even though Cronenberg was replaced by the first film’s Oscar winning makeup artist Chris Walas. Which is why The Fly II is gross for the sake of being gross. Jeff Goldblum is only seen in archive video since John Getz is the only actor who returns. Geena Davis refused since Veronica Quaife is quickly killed in childbirth. Much like Return of the Fly, the sequel follows Seth Brundle’s son Martin.

Eric Stoltz tries, but Goldblum is a tough act to follow. The only interesting thing about Martin’s character is his rapid aging that makes him grow into a young man at 5 years old. Businessman Anton Bartok adopts and studies Martin only to recreate Brundle’s Telepods. The right set up is there, but The Fly II isn’t clever enough to do anything with it. There’s still a disgusting animal test, Martin still ends up with a girlfriend, and there’s still a jerk getting in the way.

Daphne Zuniga is fine as Beth Logan, but her relationship to Martin doesn’t feel as tragic. Stathis Borans is only around to recap the first movie and recommend a cure. Martin experiences the same fly transformation, except that he enters a cocoon. The final act turns into a slasher movie too reliant on overly gory effects. The Martinfly barely resembles a fly and isn’t nearly as iconic. I’m not sure how intentional it was, but the confusing ending is exactly the same as Return of the Fly. The Fly II inherited everything except for the cleverness of the remake.

5. The Fly II

Martinfly

Preceded by: The Fly (1986)

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The Fly (1986) is one of the greatest remakes of all time. Director David Cronenberg took a simple monster movie and gave it a body horror twist. Similar to the 1958 original, I only ever watched the latter half of the remake. My mother actually recommended it since she remembers seeing in in theaters. Audiences were horrified, but The Fly (1986) became a surprisingly huge hit despite being a gory Cronenberg flick. The Fly (1986) follows American scientist Seth Brundle. The always eccentric Jeff Goldblum delivers a performance so good that it’s a wonder he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor.

The tragic romance of the original is increased with Brundle meeting journalist Veronica Quaife. It helps that Geena Davis was dating Goldblum at the time. Brundle introduces her to his Telepods. Teleportation is greatly improved with more modular pods that successfully transport matter. Flesh is a bit more tricky with disgusting tests performed on a baboon. The R rating is more than earned with Academy Award winning makeup. There’s also an emphasis on sex since the remake can be seen as a metaphor for aging. Veronica chronicles Seth’s work, but can’t shake her ex-boyfriend/co-worker Stathis Borans played by John Getz.

The primary difference between the original is a slower transformation. Brundle is fused with a fly and experiences a truly disgusting mutation. Goldblum is captivating as he first feels energetic, craves sugar, and has a high sexdrive. That’s where the iconic (and often out of context) line “Be afraid, be very afraid” comes in. It gets worse when he graphically breaks a man’s arm, develops thick hairs, walks on the walls, and his fingernails & teeth start falling out. More disgusting is the fly-like vomit he uses to eat. The most disturbing scene by far is a pregnant Veronica having a nightmare where she gives birth to a maggot. Brundlefly never produces wings, but he does become more hostile when attacking Stathis and finally becomes a monstrous fly. The Fly (1986) takes an icky concept and turns it into something poignant.

4. The Fly 1986

Brundlefly

Remake of: The Fly (1958) & Followed by: The Fly II

Buzz Off

Curse of the Fly has practically nothing to do with The Fly. Despite a 1965 release, its black & white picture is even more primitive. No one returns, so the entire cast are mostly British unknown B movie actors. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to find. Curse of the Fly wasn’t available anywhere until it was part of a Fly box set. I was only able to watch it on YouTube. Not that this supposed third installment was worth watching.

Return of the Fly at least felt like a sequel with another half-human half-fly hybrid. Curse of the Fly has no flies whatsoever. It opens with an attractive woman running around in her underwear. I would’ve thought I was watching the wrong movie if not for the title card. The Delambre name is used, but there’s serious confusion as to the relation. Martin is the grandson of the original fly, but it’s unclear if they mean André or Philippe.

Martin’s father is named Henri, yet the original Inspector has a picture of Philippe as a fly when discussing their cursed family. Teleportation has a lot more focus since the closest thing to animal mutations are people with distorted faces. Even that’s not given as much attention as a plot that feels just like Rebecca. Martin hastily marries the scantily clad Patricia, she becomes the new Mrs. Delambre, and a shady housekeeper doesn’t like it. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Fly movie? Curse of the Fly is lost for good reason.

3. Curse of the Fly

Martin is attacked

Preceded by: Return of the Fly

On the Fly

Return of the Fly is the cheap follow up to the 1958 classic The Fly. Despite being released only a year after the original, Return of the Fly is in black & white. It’s a little more atmospheric that way, but the B movie feel hasn’t gone away. Return of the Fly is essentially a copy and paste of the first movie with a more unknown cast. Horror legend Vincent Price is the only actor who gives the sequel any credibility.

The most obvious way to continue the story is to have André’s son Phillippe pick up where his scientist father left off. Philippe’s mother is dead, but his Uncle François is still around. Most of the movie is just Philippe rebuilding his father’s matter transporter and testing it out. Without the mystery angle, it takes about an hour to see the half-human half-fly again. So a criminal assistant trying to steal his work is added. There’s still a romance, but that’s not given much attention.

The only mildly disturbing addition is a police detective becoming a half-hamster hybrid. Other than that, Philippe becomes a fly exactly the same as the first movie. Except that his giant fly head looks just as goofy as the human head superimposed on a fly body. Another difference is having the human body run away, while the fly body is easy to capture. It’s also less clear whether the fly is a monster or not. Although there’s a much happier ending, Return of the Fly is too derivative to fly on its own.

2. Return of the Fly

Philippe strangles Alan

Preceded by: The Fly & Followed by: Curse of the Fly

Help Me!

The Fly is part monster movie, part tragic romance. Although initially written off as a cheesy B movie, the original 1958 The Fly is deeper than most. I was always curious about the movie, but I only ever saw the most iconic scene at the very end. The Fly refers to a scientist who turns himself into a half-human half-fly hybrid after inventing a way to transport matter. A particularly hilarious Simpsons parody was my only exposure to the concept. The idea came from a French short story, yet the movie takes place in Canada. Despite being released in the 50’s, The Fly is in color.

People may think Vincent Price is the fly, but he’s actually the brother. Even though I already knew the twist, The Fly is presented as an old fashioned murder mystery. Price is François, brother of scientist André who was killed in a hydraulic press. He investigates the case alongside an Inspector played by Robert Marshall. The true star of the picture is Patricia Owens as loving housewife Hélène. They think she’s mad, but her fly obsession is explained in an extended flashback.

Unknown actor David Hedison is the titular fly since his face is covered for most of the movie. The reveal is still pretty shocking with a convincing fly head and arm. Hélène, her housekeeper, and son Philippe desperately search for a fly with a white head that isn’t revealed until the very end. The most disturbing moment is the fly stuck in a spider’s web screaming “Help me!” Things end tragically for the fly, but it’s a happy ending for everyone else. The Fly is an inventive way to tell a monster story.

1. The Fly 1958

André caresses his wife Hélène

Followed by: Return of the Fly

The Bettermans

The Croods: A New Age continues the DreamWorks Animation tradition of surprisingly strong sequels. I really wasn’t expecting a continuation of The Croods after 7 years. The computer animation has advanced, but it’s not too noticeable. Although I enjoyed the cave adventure and understood its Best Animated Feature nomination, The Croods felt more like a one-off. The family could only be seen again in the traditionally animated Netflix series Dawn of the Croods. Despite the transition from 20th Century Fox to Universal Pictures, a sequel was made, then delayed months later during the pandemic. Unlike Trolls World Tour, A New Age was mainly released in theaters. My brother and I ended up seeing the sequel with our mother and we all found ourselves loving it. A New Age plays to the strengths of the original by doubling the family antics, bizzare prehistoric creatures, absurd humor, and characters.

The Croods leave their beachfront paradise in search of a new home. Nicholas Cage, Catherine Keener, and Clark Duke all return along with the far more popular Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds. This was sadly one of Cloris Leachman’s final performances before she passed away. The Croods meet their match in the form of the far more evolved Bettermans. Peter Dinklage is the patriarch Phil, Leslie Mann is the matriarch Hope, and Kelly Marie Tran is their daughter Dawn. Since the Croods are mostly confined to the enclosed Betterman complex, more time is spent on each family member. Guy is given a lot of attention with a flashback depicting the loss of his family. Eep & Guy’s teen romance is given just as much attention with Grug fearing they’ll leave the pack. Even Belt gets a romance with a another sloth named Sash.

The Bettermans knew Guy’s family and try to turn him into one of them while condescending the Croods. Grug develops a funny love/hate bromance with Phil. Ugga is mostly protective of her family when Hope looks down on them. Sandy is still a feral baby, but Thunk has a particularly hilarious running gag involving a chicken and staring out a window like a TV. Gran is mostly obsessed with becoming an amazonian Thunder Sister. Although Eep could’ve been jealous of Dawn, they develop a friendship in order to explore the rough outside world. The back in forth between the conflicting cave families is the best addition to the sequel, but the adventure they go on may have been the funniest thing I’d seen all 2020. The fan favorite Punch Monkeys get a lot of attention with a secret plot involving bananas. The crazy climax is so ridiculous that I had to enjoy every minute of it. The Croods: A New Age took a good concept and let it evolve into something much better.

37. The Croods A New Age

The Croods meet the Bettermans

Preceded by: The Croods

Dun Dun Dun

The Croods introduces the second best animated stone age family. Despite distancing themselves from satire, DreamWorks Animation continued to make original comedies in between franchises. I honestly thought The Croods was a step backwards for the computer animation studio. Apart from The Flintstones, I’ve never been a huge fan of caveman media. Since I was 17 at the time, I wasn’t sure if The Croods was worth seeing in theaters. It turned out to be surprisingly hilarious and even heartfelt in an appropriately crude way. The Croods is the first DreamWorks animated movie distributed by 20th Century Fox. Although originally pitched as a stop-motion Aardman movie, the story evolved with stylized computer animation.

The Croods are a crude family of cave people consisting of cave father Grug, cave mother Ugga, cave grandmother Gran, cave son Thunk, cave baby Sandy, and lead cave daughter Eep. Rising star Emma Stone is perfectly suited for the tough, wide-eyed, but rebellious teenager Eep. All she wants is to leave the cave, but her dad keeps the family safe by warning them against anything new. Nicholas Cage goes full caveman as the hilariously headstrong Grug. Catherine Keener is a little more open to change as the caring Ugga. Cloris Leachman is a frequent scene stealer as the oldest living cavewoman and overbearing mother-in-law Gran. Clark Duke is just as funny as Eep’s dimwitted brother Thunk. Sandy is a typical feral baby who gets plenty of fun moments too.

I was mostly on board with the Croods, but Guy really gets things going when he warns them of the end of the world. Ryan Reynolds lights the way with Guy’s scary new ideas and inventions humorously based on modern convenience. His Belt is actually a sloth who memorably says “Dun dun dun.” The animation really shines when Guy leads the Croods cross country to find “Tomorrow.” The path is full of colorfully bizzare sabertooth cats, cannibalistic birds, and my personal favorite Punch Monkeys. Grug is understandably protective of his family’s way of life, but everyone learns to open up throughout the course of the movie. Eep falls for Guy, Thunk gets a prehistoric pet “dog” named Douglas, Ugga lets her hair down, Gran softens up, and Sandy becomes less ferocious. Ending with a well earned new way of life. The Croods has more than enough new ideas to help its cave family standout.

24. The Croods

The Croods

Followed by: The Croods: A New Age

Silence is Not Enough

A Quiet Place Part II threw all the rules out the window. A Quiet Place is one of the best original horror movies of the last decade, yet I never needed a sequel. John Krasinski didn’t want a sequel either, but he was eventually convinced to return. Unlike the first movie, I knew I wanted to risk seeing Part II with a possibly noisy audience. Until it was postponed a literal week before its 2020 release. Ironic considering how similar the vacant world of A Quiet Place is to the pandemic. Part II was more than worth the wait. Everything I feared ended up being perfect for the continuation. I didn’t want to know where the Death Angels came from, but the Day 1 opening sets the tone with pure chaos.

Despite being dead, Krasinski was able to appear as Lee thanks to the flashback. The Abbotts quickly figure out not to make noise and survive long enough to immediately follow the ending of the first movie. Emily Blunt is now even stronger as the widowed Evelyn. After learning the creature’s weakness, her family is able to leave their home to find civilization. Parenthood is still important, but now questions of saving humanity are just as important. Noah Jupe is mostly out of commision as Marcus after a horrific injury, their newborn baby requires an oxygen tank, and deaf actress Millicent Simmonds has a more substantial role as Regan.

The sequel is split in two sections with Regan using her cochlear implant in an attempt to locate a source of music. The cast is bigger with Cillian Murphy representing the cynicism of humanity as old family friend Emmett. Djimon Hounsou represents the hopefulness of humanity as a community leader who learned another of the creature’s weaknesses. Characters are able to talk a lot more with secure bunkers and isolated areas, but it’s no less terrifying to see the creatures attack. The ending is just as abrupt with another win for humanity that I’m now looking forward to seeing in action. A Quiet Place Part II gives more without losing its originality.

A Quiet Place Part II

Evelyn hides with her children

Preceded by: A Quiet Place

Beam Me Up Scotty

Star Trek Beyond is a strong way to end the possible final frontier of the USS Enterprise. Making the “Kelvin” timeline trilogy the only part of the Star Trek franchise that was ever consistently good. After Into Darkness, I assumed the series would continue to follow the pattern of each installment by rebooting every plot thread. It made sense for The Wrath of Khan, but it really would’ve been derivative to recreate everything. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin were all on board to return, but J. J. Abrams chose Star Wars over Star Trek. Many directors were considered until they ended up with the unlikely choice of Fast & Furious franchise director Justin Lin.

I grew nervous when the first trailer showed nothing but action set to the Beastie Boys with Kirk performing motorcycle stunts while being energized. It looked more like Fast & Furious in space, but Beyond ended up being one of the most genuine Star Trek movies in a long time. Being a Trekkie herself, the movie was enough for my brother and I to convince our mother to see it with us. Simon Pegg worked on the script in order to ensure a return to the lighthearted exploration that the franchise was built on. Paramount was still nervous when they requested a Star Trek movie that wasn’t too nerdy. Beyond will definitely please Trekkies, but it was still a financial disappoint that audiences unfairly ignored…

19. Star Trek Beyond

Captain Kirk and Scotty formulate a plan with Jaylah

Star Trek Beyond is notable for several reasons. Lack of J. J. Abrams meant an Enterprise bridge almost completely free of lens flares. Despite Lin breaking his Fast & Furious streak to direct a Star Trek film, his fresh direction ended up being exactly what the franchise needed. Though I’m not sure what his experience is with the original series. Beyond was sadly the first Star Trek voyage released after Leonard Nimoy’s passing. More tragic was Anton Yelchin dying only a month before the movie’s release at the young age of 27. Beyond is dedicated to both the old and the new actors who helped make Star Trek what it is today.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99129.5: Beyond refers to the historic 5 year mission from the original series. Making this the first reboot not set anywhere near Earth. The crew of the Enterprise finally voyage to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, and new civilizations. However, boldly going where no one has gone before is starting to get a little episodic for Captain James T. Kirk. Scotty even references the giant green hand from the episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Their latest mission sees Kirk attempt to gift a relic to the hilariously diminutive Teenaxi race. When transported off the planet, Kirk enters a Captain’s log that brings the audience up to warp speed. Jim & Bones drink over his upcoming birthday and the captain reflects on becoming older than his father. He considers leaving Starfleet to become vice admiral. Kirk discusses the position while on shore leave in the enormous starbase Yorktown. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays the high ranking officer Commodore Paris.

Beyond is another Star Trek character study that brings added depth to its crew. Kirk avoids telling Spock that he wants to make him captain of the Enterprise, but his logical Vulcan friend has a secret of his own. He learns that Spock Prime has died and he also wants to leave the Enterprise to carry on his work. It’s a moral dilemma that leads Uhura to break up with Spock, but keep the necklace he gave her. Scotty spends most of his time working on the ship, Chekov can be seen flirting, and Sulu is revealed to have a daughter and husband. Gene Roddenberry always wanted gay characters in Star Trek, but George Takei himself wasn’t impressed by the decision. The Enterprise is of course called to an uncharted nebula where they rescue an alien named Kalara. She tells Kirk the story of her crew crashed landing on Altamid and that she’s the only one who escaped.

They’re suddenly attacked by the original villain Krall. He’s a lizard-like alien who leads a swarm of bee-like ships to attack the Enterprise. Krall plans to obtain the relic from earlier called the Abronath. The crew does their best in defending the Enterprise, but Kirk ultimately orders everyone to abandon ship. At this point I’ve lost count of how many times the Enterprise has been destroyed. The crew is separated with each of them ending up with someone who can ensure they’ll make it off the planet. Some of their uniforms have been slightly altered to include flight jackets. Uhura, Sulu, and other members of the crew are taken prisoner by Krall. Idris Elba is hidden under an impressive amount of Oscar nominated makeup that was somehow beaten by Suicide Squad. Elba had a lot of exposure in 2016, so he does well as the latest Star Trek antagonist.

Krall tells Uhura that he’s counting on Captain Kirk’s arrival, though I was a little confused about what his villainous plan was specifically. He wants the Abronath to develop a bioweapon and apparently drains a person’s lifeforce to stay alive. Kirk, Chekov, and Kalara are together when they search the Enterprise wreckage for the Abronath. They quickly realize Kalara is a spy and Kirk somehow manages to ignite the engine of the Enterprise in order to kill Krall’s men and Kalara with them. Spock & Dr. McCoy are the most meaningful pairing due to their tumultuous history. When Spock is injured, McCoy operates on his green blooded frenemy in the most humorous way possible. They discuss logic and emotion when Spock mentions leaving, and you know he’s delirious when he ends up laughing.

Scotty is alone, but he’s quickly joined by the best addition to the sequel. Since Dr. Carol Marcus was left out, supermodel Sofia Boutella steps in as witty scavenger Jaylah. Boutella was already making a name for herself, and playing the all white alien was her best call. Jaylah survives using reflector technology, learned English from her home in the USS Franklin, and resents Kroll’s second-in-command Manas for killing her father. Scotty manages to find Kirk & Chekov in one of Jaylah’s traps and uses the Franklin to energize Spock & Bones. Although Krall manages to retrieve the Abronath hidden with a crewmember, Uhura is located when Spock uses her necklace as a tracking device. Kirk riding an antique motorcycle is used to distract Krall’s men and free the crew. Jaylah gets her revenge and is transported at the last minute.

Krall manages to escape as he plans to use the bioweapon to kill the inhabitants of Yorktown. The Enterprise crew manage to get the Franklin off the ground with Sulu piloting it to safety. SPOILER ALERT! Uhura discovers Krall is surprisingly long lost USS Franklin Captain Balthazar Edison. He prefered war over peace and grew to resent the Federation when they failed to locate his crew on Altamid. His alien appearance was the result of exposure to technology left on the planet. Scotty realizes the best way to disable Krall’s swarm of ships is with music. “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys was heard in Star Trek (2009), but now the archaic song is used in a creative climax leading the ship to Yorktown. Scotty somehow manages to transport Spock & McCoy onto one of the ships while Kirk gives chase to the mostly human Krall. They end up in the ventilation system in danger of being sucked into space. Krall is consumed by his own bioweapon and Kirk is saved at the last minute by Spock.

The ending is bittersweet with Spock deciding to stay after seeing a photo of Spock Prime with his crew from The Wrath of Khan. Kirk stays as well when he celebrates his birthday with his loyal crew. Jaylah is also enlisted into Starfleet as they look upon the reconstruction of the USS Enterprise. Having Kirk, Spock, Scotty, McCoy, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura speak the famous monologue is the perfect way to end the trilogy. Despite talk of a 4th film with Chris Hemsworth or one directed by the hyper-violent Quentin Tarantino, Star Trek hasn’t had any theatrical follow ups in over 5 years. The only thing keeping Trekkies busy are all the hit or miss shows made for streaming. If you want the classic feel of the landmark science fiction franchise, then Star Trek Beyond truly is the final frontier of the series. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

20. Star Trek Beyond

Spock and McCoy mount an attack with Jaylah

Preceded by: Star Trek Into Darkness

My Name is Khan

Star Trek Into Darkness may divide longtime Trekkies, but it’s just as spectacular as the 2009 reboot. Even if it is practically a remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. J. J. Abrams and the rest of his producers were all asked to return for a sequel. Along with the newly endearing cast of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin. The lens flare obsessed Abrams directed Super 8 in the meantime, since the story was so difficult to figure out. Klingons were discussed as always, but everyone was adamant about bringing Khan Noonien Singh back to the franchise. Although it could’ve led to a direct rip-off, Into Darkness has enough surprises to make it fresh.

The other difficulty was figuring out the right title. Since the previous movie was simply called Star Trek, it wouldn’t have made sense to call it Star Trek II when this was technically the twelfth installment. Star Trek Into Darkness is an unusual title with no colon that suggests dark tidings are on the horizon. Although the sequel is more intense, the humor and optimism of Star Trek is very much intact. After deciding to watch Star Trek not long after it came out, Into Darkness was finally enough to get my brother and I to see a movie in theaters. It was the right decision since Into Darkness was presented in 3D and became the highest grossing film in the franchise…

17. Star Trek Into Darkness

Captain Kirk and Spock speak with Khan

Star Trek Into Darkness takes place in what is now known as the “Kelvin” timeline. Although the timeline led to the formation of the USS Enterprise and her crew, changes can still occur that weren’t meant to happen as early as they were. Which is why Khan can appear despite meeting Captain James T. Kirk when he was discovered in “Space Seed.” Some Trekkies and even George Takei himself felt that using the character was just a marketing tactic. Although I can see where they’re coming from, the movie does attempt to make it a surprise. Even though you can see the twist coming from a mile away.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 99126.76: Into Darkness begins just like an episode of the original series. Captain Kirk & Dr. McCoy are humorously being chased by a primitive culture on the planet Nibiru. A red floral planet with native chalk white inhabitants. The Enterprise in concealed underwater and Spock is fitted with a containment suit that he uses to drop a cold fusion device into an active volcano. Every Trekkie knows that the Prime Directive of non-interference is the most serious law in all of Starfleet. Although Spock says the famous line, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” Kirk breaks the Prime Directive anyway to save his friend. Leading to the Nibirans worshiping the Enterprise.

It’s more of an unconnected cold opening, but it does serve the plot. It’s followed by a lengthy, almost silent sequence where a Starfleet officer and his wife look after their sick daughter. John Harrison shows up to save his daughter in exchange for the officer bombing Section 31 in London. An important Star Trek location I’m not familiar with since I haven’t seen Deep Space Nine or Enterprise yet. Although the terrorist calls himself John Harrison it was obvious from the start that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan. Despite making a name for himself on Sherlock, Into Darkness was really Cumberbatch’s big break in a Hollywood blockbuster. Although he isn’t Hispanic like Ricardo Montalban, his performance is menacing, calculating, and compelling in a more ambiguous way.

Jim and his crew return to Earth where he’s first seen sleeping with alien twins who have tails. Kirk is demoted by Admiral Christopher Pike for his reckless disregard of the Prime Directive and Spock is sent to another ship. It’s more clear now that Kirk & Spock are close friends by the way they discuss whether what they did was right. When Starfleet learns about the bombing, they hold an emergency meeting that Harrison attacks. Pike’s death was obvious since he had one final heart to heart with Jim. Another deviation from the original timeline considering Pike was given a new chance at life in “The Menagerie, Part II.” Harrison escapes using a transporter so powerful, it’s a wonder the Federation continues to use starships. Since Harrison transports from Earth, all the way to Kronos. Kirk’s primary struggle is his quest for vengeance at the expense of his leadership.

RoboCop himself Peter Weller plays Admiral Alexander Marcus. He returns Kirk & Spock to their original positions aboard the Enterprise and orders them to take out Harrison using 72 specialized stealth torpedos. The entire crew has time to shine, but most of it is due to  Kirk’s impulsive decisions. Bones tries to give Jim medical tests, uses several southern metaphors, and continues to quarrel with Spock over his logical thinking. Scotty unexpectedly resigns along with his assistant Keenser when he questions the untested danger of the torpedos. Pegg had less time in the 2009 reboot to make an impression, but now Scotty is more crucial to the mission when he’s no longer on the ship. Kirk immediately names Chekov chief engineer despite his limited experience training under Scotty.

Sulu gets his moment when he sits in the captain’s chair. A reference to his future as captain of his own ship. Sulu threatens to fire on Harrison if he doesn’t willing come with their away team. Since Harrison is on Kronos, that meant the long awaited return of the Klingons. The fan favorite race was supposed to appear in the previous movie, but they were cut. Kirk, Spock, and Uhura are instead sent to their planet in disguise in order to avoid a war. Klingons have the same ridges they always do, but the only one we fully see is both bald and sporting rings in his forehead. Uhura shows off her important linguistic skills by speaking Klingon, but she also spends most of her time arguing with her boyfriend Spock over his disregard for his own life. Harrison takes out the ambushing Klingons and willingly surrenders to Kirk when he learns how many torpedos they have.

In order to discover more about their enemy, Spock suggests the ship’s secondary science officer. Alice Eve uses the name Carol Wallace, but she’s really playing other important The Wrath of Khan character Dr. Carol Marcus. Daughter of Alexander Marcus who snuck aboard the Enterprise to study the torpedos. Kirk didn’t second guess her presence since she was another pretty face. Something the movie takes advantage of in a gratuitous, but entirely welcomed scene of Alice Eve in her underwear. Dr. Marcus & Dr. McCoy perform a dangerous procedure where they attempt to open a torpedo. Only to discover a cryogenically frozen body on the inside. No Trekkie is shocked when Harrison finally says “My name is Khan.” Making this the only theatrical film to have Kirk face to face with his longtime rival.

Khan explains his history as a superhuman with a crew that was cryogenically frozen, but the main difference is Admiral Marcus being the one who woke them up. Marcus appears to be the real villain who used Khan to develop weapons that could ignite a war with the Klingon Empire, and used his crew as leverage against him. Khan gives Kirk coordinates in an attempt to maintain trust. Scotty becomes important again when Kirk contacts him to track down the coordinates. They end up leading to the enormous USS Vengeance captained by Marcus himself. He damaged their warp core and plans to destroy the Enterprise after ensuring the safety of his daughter. Scotty manages to depower the ship, giving Kirk & Khan enough time to perform a dangerous space jump with a small entry point.

Although Khan appears to be on their side, Spock contacts Spock Prime in order to learn whether or not he’s trustworthy. This was sadly Leonard Nimoy’s final on-screen performance, but at least it was playing the famous Vulcan beloved by generations. Khan shows his true colors when he turns on the crew and kills Admiral Marcus in cold blood. He demands the safe return of his crew, but they trick him by removing his crew and activating the torpedos. SPOILER ALERT! Both ships are damaged, but it’s actually Kirk who sacrifices himself to save the crew after reactivating the warp core in the radioactive reactor. The Enterprise is saved before it can fall to Earth, but Khan uses his ship to cause immeasurable destruction to San Francisco.

The roles are reversed with Kirk giving a heartfelt exchange and Vulcan salute to Spock before dying. It’s similar, but just as effective. Even Spock screaming the name “Khaaan!!!” isn’t too cheesy. Spock vengefully pursues Khan in San Francisco, but their fight is only successful when Uhura beams down to stun him. Probably the most controversial decision was having Kirk come back to life thanks to a Tribble that McCoy tested Khan’s super blood on. Tribbles are a cute callback, but Into Darkness really does open up several possibilities that are never addressed again. As is usually the case with J. J. Abrams. Captain Kirk delivers the famous monologue at the Enterprise re-dedication ceremony and finally embarks on their 5 year mission. Star Trek Into Darkness could never surpass The Wrath of Khan, but its reinvention of familiar ideas succeeds. “Live long and prosper.” 🖖

18. Star Trek Into Darkness

Carol Marcus undresses

Preceded by: Star Trek & Followed by: Star Trek Beyond