The Matter/Anti-Matter Hero: nuKirk vs khanKirk
“Kirk is the most glaring problem with Star Trek Into Darkness. Regardless of how you feel about William Shatner, his Kirk was always centered and directed. That focus gave him the confidence and charisma to be a great starship captain, and inspired devotion and loyalty in his crew. Pine’s Kirk has absolutely no center and is completely directionless. His crew second-guesses him throughout the film, as well they should.” — DeFlip Side Film Review
Just a little rebuttal: When Kirk arrives in television screens in the 1960s, he’s a seasoned starship captain. When Kirk assumes the chair in 2009, he is not.
Is that a problem? Maybe emotionally for some, but I have no more need today for a 1960s William Shatner Kirk than I do a 1960s Sean Connery James Bond. Chris Pine, Daniel Craig–and let’s thrown in for good measure Christian Bale–will do just nicely for our new batch of superheroes. That is what they are, after all. In a dark world, a hero that is more palpable to the heart is one in whom we see our own struggles: flawed humans trying to make a go of doing the right thing. However…
“You might say that the writers did this deliberately to give nuKirk a more compelling story arc, allowing him to grow into the legendary icon we’re all familiar with. And I might even buy that—if Kirk did even the slightest thing to drive the story; but instead, the story completely drives him. His path is 100 percent reactionary and at no time in the film does he snatch the reins and turn the tables on his foes. Which is why his eventual grand sacrifice feels like such a hollow gesture. He goes from zero to martyr in the blink of an eye, telling Spock, “I don’t know what to do. I only know what I can do.” In effect, he hasn’t grown at all. He’s the same cavalier dope who’s completely out of his depth, once again grasping for the most obvious solution. This one just happens to be fatal.” — DeFlip Side Film Review
When we compare nuKirk to khanKirk, remember the seasoned veteran from the 1982 classic Wrath of Khan is a far cry from the macho TV starship captain of the 1960s, a time when men were men, women were women and a sip of your dad’s beer put hair on your chest. In 1982, KhanKirk is out of his element as an admiral. Once he is yet again facing down the formidable enemy of Khan from the original series, James Kirk directly engages his foe in a deadly cat & mouse battle, exchanging cat and mouse roles with the super-villain. The titan back and forth drives the plot and inflicts heavy casualties on both sides. When khanKirk escapes with his life and ship, he is uncharacteristically forced to embrace the finality of the no-win scenario in the death of his closest friend, Spock.
NuKirk in 2013 is out of his element as captain of a starship and Admiral Pike rightly judges him as so. Still, seeing potential within, the admiral takes on James T as his first officer. When John Harrison murders Pike and a whole host of others, an enraged nuKirk is thrown back into command by the conniving Admiral Marcus, who reunites nuKirk with the Enterprise and its crew. Warning bells go off in Spock and Scotty but nuKirk is blinded by his own rage to see the path he is being lead down.
Unlike khanKirk’s 1982 character trajectory, our 2013 nuKirk is in retrograde from the aspiring 2009 nuKirk. Remember that brassy lieutenant who set events in motion while the rest of his crew sits blind to the approaching danger? 2013 nuKirk’s actions are very much plot-driven and this has James T flailing like a leaf buffeted in the wind. These are not the actions of “Space Seed” Kirk when he first encounters Khan Noonien Singh and both characters procede to study each other like a finals week exam. Despite all the whiz-bang and central cast moments with Spock-Uhura and Scotty, the inherent weakness in nuKirk leaves the audience walking out story-starved. Sure JJ Abrams’s direction tells us nuKirk is the star but we just don’t see the seasoned brilliance of khanKirk, who twice turned the tables on Khan aboard Regula I and inside the Mutara Nebula. Our relief is in watching Scotty and Spock spin the odds against the villains while nuKirk flounders as Harrison’s personal punching bag.
This is NOT the plot any Star Trek audience needs when the expectation is for nuKirk to step up to Pike’s challenge and earn the right to stay in the captain’s chair. At the very least James Kirk has his rock solid crew to bail him out.
Sulu? You have the conn.