The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Tony Lazlo and Lance Carmichael Discuss Star Trek Into Darkness

Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer

CC2K’s Tony Lazlo and Lance Carmichael discuss the new Star Trek at great length. Needless to say: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Fans, it’s Tony Lazlo, coming to you from CC2K central command here on an abandoned oil platform in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I took a pond-jumper into Los Angeles to see Star Trek Into Darkness when it dropped last month. I had the good fortune to bump into CC2K editor-emeritus Lance Carmichael, who joined me for J.J. Abrams’ rousing — but muddled — follow-up to his stellar 2009 reboot.

I came out of the theater with a pretty negative reaction, while Lance found it to be a largely entertaining ride. That’s where we’ll start:

Lance Carmichael:

Tony, I was initially surprised and curious by your very strong negative reaction to the movie. I was sucked along by the fast-moving plot, pleasing visuals, and appealing cast. I didn’t have it spoiled that Benedict Cumberbatch was Khan, so that turn at the hour mark worked for me as it was intended to. Plus I definitely don’t have as deep of feelings for “Wrath of Khan” as you do.

But I have to say, though, your main criticism (as I remember it) is really hitting home. The more I thought about it…I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT KHAN’S PLAN WAS. Forget about what Robocop’s plan was–that’s WAY too complicated for me to figure out. I mean, I’m literally trying to describe it to myself, and i can’t. Even if I could, that doesn’t mean it’s plausaible, etc. But i literally can’t even figure out it out.

So…okay. The Admiral woke up Khan to help him arm Starfleet. One of the things Khan designed was…I guess some sort of new hunter-seeker torpedo (this is new technology 300 years from now? don’t we have those now?) Khan decided to…let me see. He somehow sneakily tore out the guts of these new torpedos and made them totally unscannable, and put his cryogenically frozen crew inside 72 of them. In order to get them out of the torpedos…he blew up a Starfleet building in London, which he knew would trigger a meeting of “all the captains and first officers (??)” at Star Fleet HQ. Which would allow him to kill them all (knowing that…starfleet has no defense or security??)…but knowing that in sloppily machine-gun spraying a room full of people, he could spare Kirk and Robocop (or maybe it wasn’t important to spare them? I don’t know…)

He did this because…he knew they’d send…Kirk (?)..after him when he fled to Kronos. He had to go there because…then Robocop would send the Enterprise loaded with all 72 special unscannable torpedos that could be retrofitted to hold a human in cryogenic stasis. The Admiral chose Kirk for the mission–a man who is manifestly too young and reckless for a command–because…? Khan knew (?) Kirk wouldn’t launch a torpedo, but would rather send a landing party that would capture him rather than kill him, as he was ordered to. From there, he knew he would be freed from prison by Kirk because he knew Robocop would want to destroy the Enterprise (?) and KIrk would definitely think his only chance would be to free the legendary terrorist–who to Kirk’s eyes would be like us freeing a regenerated Adolf HItler in order for him to help us. Because Khan helped design the ship, he knew he could easily single-handedly take over an entire warship (probably because there was apparently only about 5 people on board).



Is that correct? What am I missing? That is the worst, most complex, most unlikely plan I’ve ever heard of? So horrible, complex,and unlikely that it HAS to work???


Tony Lazlo:

Lance, I’ve been thinking a lot about Into Darkness, and I’ve been lingering on how the movie’s central twist worked for you because you hadn’t been repeatedly spoiled from every side in the months leading up to the movie. I realized that on a fundamental level, I didn’t give the filmmakers a fair chance to deliver the movie they wanted to make.

Part of that’s not my fault. A buddy of mine who’s fairly well connected to Trek sent me that scoop more than a year ago. Also, when the filmmakers courted Javier Bardem and Benicio Del Toro, they sent a pretty clear message about who they had in mind. But most of it is absolutely my fault. I went out of my way to spoil myself, and in the process, I got really annoyed with all of the shenanigans done to conceal the identity of Cumberbatch’s character. I brought some of that annoyance into the theater with me.

J.J. Abrams clearly loves twists. Such sleight of hand is a load-bearing member in how he makes and promotes movies. You could see it in how he helped shepherd Cloverfield to the screen, and for Into Darkness, he must’ve really, really wanted an Empire Strikes Back-caliber reveal.

That said:

I feel like the filmmakers constructed a movie that could theoretically house and sustain such a twist, and in the process, wound up with a backstory (and a movie) that was convoluted and contrived. Meaning, if you’re going to have a movie where Khan’s the twist, then you have to imagine an alternate Trek timeline where he’s not historical figure on the order of Hitler, and you’re going to need another villain (Peter Weller) to handle some of the dirty work. Neither of those ideas is bad, but I feel like the execution was botched.

That brings me to your confusion about Khan’s plan: Man, I felt the same way. When the big exposition dump happened — when they explained to us what Khan was up to — I leaned over to my special ladyfriend and said, “I have no idea what’s going on.”

You tried to explain Khan’s plan, and you did about as good a job as I did. Near as I can figure, Khan wanted:

• To rescue his captive comrades.

• To steal the USS Vengeance (Peter Weller’s huge battleship).

As for how or why they ended up in those torpedo tubes — good grief. Ya got me. I was completely baffled. (Add to my bafflement my confusion over the function of the tubes themselves. When they revealed they were cryotubes, I figured that’s ALL they were. It took me another 15 minutes before I figured out that they were ALSO working torpedoes.)

There were other points of confusion for me. Mainly: Was it really necessary to thaw out a platoon of dangerous, unstable supermen to help arm Starfleet? I … guess so? Like you said: Do they really not have long-range torpedoes by this time? And aren’t there other hawkish elements in Starfleet who could’ve helped out Weller’s character?

That said:

Man, there was a LOT about the movie I liked. One pervasive cultural meme going around now is: “Trekkies don’t like Into Darkness because it’s only an action movie and eschews the headier sci-fi that the franchise is known for.”

I think that’s bunk. Wrath of Khan is an action-packed movie, and it was made so largely in response to how boring The Motion Picture supposedly is. (Although I think part one has aged really well.)

Also, STID dealt with one of the most powerful themes in the Trek canon: The tension in Starfleet between its science/exploratory and military mandates. If you’re looking for a reason to make an action-packed Trek movie, exploring that theme is the excuse you need. I also loved the choice to make Section 31 the architects of the plan to militarize Starfleet. Part of the charm of the reboot movies is how they unearth little gems from Trek lore and repurpose them to great effect. The Bruce Greenwood character is a prime example; in the same spirit, pressing Section 31 into duty is also a great call.

But when they moved into outright plagiarism — echoing the ending to Wrath of Khan — I got more dubious. Although I’ve been pondering that one today. Were my feelings merely a product of nostalgic love for Wrath of Khan, or does the echoing of the imagery speak to a larger purpose — that there’s a conservation principle at work for these characters, and the Kirk of this universe had to learn to sacrifice himself for the good of his crew?

(And agreed — I really hope Plinkett reviews Into Darkness!)

Lance Carmichael:

Wow. “I feel like the filmmakers constructed a movie that could theoretically house and sustain such a twist, and in the process, wound up with a backstory (and a movie) that was convoluted and contrived.” You pretty much nailed it right there. Just a few things to add.

When you brought up the hypothetical mindset that JJ Abrams must’ve gone into when he and his team decided to make Khan the villain of INTO DARKNESS, and how he thought that keeping that as a reveal would add to people’s enjoyment of the picture, you definitely touched on something very interesting about how movies have changed in the last five years or so. Actually, it’s not so much movies as our relationship to movies as an audience. There’s just no way to arrange things so an audience goes into a movie cold any more. Particularly when you’re talking about movies made at the budget and publicity level at which JJ Abrams operates. But even if it’s not a $200 million movie, there’s still really no way to keep a story from being totally spoiled by the time it reaches an audience. Let’s say you made a beautiful, twisty indie for $10,000. If you’re going to reach any kind of audience, you’re movie is going to go through twin ringers: the “press” (not a very good word for what constitutes the blogosphere, movie news websites, and the internet portals of legacy media) and publicity. You’re going to need to be reviewed, interviewed, and profiled by all sorts of websites in order for people to hear about your movie, and in doing so, there’s enough competition in that sphere–and so many “amateur” journalists–that plenty of this publicity will basically involve just relaying all the details of your movie. And then let’s throw in the fact that most distributors now cut trailers that reveal EVERY twist of the story because apparently that’s what their test screenings tell them audiences like, and distributors want to sell as many tickets as possible.

So there’s basically no way to not spoil your movie. 

And I have to be honest here–that sucks.

Now I’m not just talking about “spoilers,” a term thrown around so much that it brings to mind the specter of a hyper-sensitive geek shushing every conversation around him so he can savor the latest Star Trek like a fine wine. I’m talking about something very, very basic, in fact the thing that people go to movies for in the first place for: stories. Movies–at least feature films made on a certain kind of scale–are just stories. A series of events. Good storytelling involves unexpected but pleasing turns. So the guys making “Star Trek” have to make a great movie or they’ll get hammered by the fans…but they’re also operating in an environment where pretty much every turn of their story is going to be spoiled long before anyone ever sees it. The only way to make a great movie is to tell a great story (and to tell it in an interesting way). But if you’re story is totally spoiled beforehand…how do you tell a great story? It’s sort of an impossible bind. Pretty much every article ever written about JJ Abrams at least mentions his “obsession with secrecy” and trying to keep spoilers out of the media. I mean…why WOULDN’T he do this? I would imagine ALL storytellers want to preserve the twists and turns of their story until such time as they’re actually telling the story, lest the whole point of telling the story be ruined. Abrams just happens to be one of the few storytellers in Hollywood POWERFUL enough to try and make this actually happen. Most directors have no choice but to let the publicity department strip their story to the bone as they sell the movie.

Now…look. That’s not to say there’s not plenty to rag on when it comes to Into Darkness. Obviously, there is. But I definitely feel sympathy for the filmmakers when it comes to trying to protect a reveal on the level of John Harrison being Khan.

THAT BEING SAID… the fact that this is essentially not only a “reboot” of Star Trek but a remake of its most famous single movie doesn’t do a lot to wash away the feeling that JJ Abrams kind of sort of doesn’t really have a whole lot to say beyond recycling what he thought was cool in movies when he was growing up. From straight-outta-Raiders of the Lost Ark opening on, this is more Abrams repackaging. And I have to say…he makes a slick package. I was entertained the whole way through. But like every other Abrams movie, the spell of the movie evaporated once I left the theater, and there was nothing left behind to ponder. So far in his career, every JJ Abrams movie has been all sugar–tastes really good when you eat it, but there’s no nutritive substances in there that are digested into you and made part of who you are.

There’s plenty to pick apart about INTO DARKNESS, but whoever wrote this at i09 already did it much better than I could.

This will have to tide us over until Plinkett weights in with the inevitable, hilarious takedown.

This is a bit of a sidenote, but I think an interesting one: what is the one area of our cinema that does NOT suffer from having the story spoiled, where in fact people’s appetite for the product is in many ways driven by the very fact that they just want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Here’s a hint: this is also the area that people have pointed ad nauseum has undergone an artistic Renaissance in the last ten years.

That’s right: TV.

Now, granted, “spoilers” are a problem AFTER an episode is broadcast. And this is a problem, because many people don’t watch shows live any more. HOWEVER…it’s still not that difficult to escape spoilers. TV episodes aren’t advertised and marketed with the same level of multimillion-dollar blitzkriegs that movies are–it’s just not feasible. You just have to avoid bloggy “recaps” and certain people’s twitter feeds, and you’re good to go. Even a highly regarded show like “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men” just doesn’t undergo the same kind of full on, CIA-level fanboy scrutiny that, say, “Star Trek Into Darkness” did. People theoretically COULD be talking about every casting rumor for “Breaking Bad,” and how it might mean this sort of character is coming into the story and it might mean that for Walt…but they don’t. There’s just too many episodes and story told–it would be much more difficult to project where a season might be headed. Well, okay, you could still pore back on casting rumors from 6 months ago now that you’re, say, 7 episodes into the season…but still, “Breaking Bad” is not casting movie stars. They’re casting little-known character actors. If you haven’t heard of them, and you don’t know the baggage they bring with them, it’s difficult to project who the character might be and what that might mean for the story.

And anyway, if people knew that, say, Linda Cardellini had been cast for a major arc in this season of Mad Men, what would that have told them? She’s either having an affair with Don, or she’s a new employee…so what? Nothing is spoiled.

All this is to say: TV has really gained by operating in an area outside the kind of 10,000 watt scrutiny than something JJ Abrams produces. They can unravel their story at their own pace, and impart the joy of learning a story piece by piece, like humans have done since the campfire was invented.

Tony Lazlo:

Lance, there are so many wonderful points in your last response, I don’t know where to start. But here goes:

Let’s talk first about spoilers and the changing landscape of popular moviemaking today. I don’t have much to add your comments except a voice raised high in accord. It’s a shame that every inch, every page of an upcoming screenplay is subjected to constant scrutiny until its release. I’ve been a part — a small part, but admittedly a part — of that scrutiny myself. I could go on, talking about how this has sanded the edges off of popular movies — can you imagine an oddball movie like a Tim Burton Batman getting made today? — but instead, I wanted to bring up two movies in the pre-Internet past that both had major twists — and major potential spoilers — yet handled them in very different ways. No surprise: The gold standard for a great twist in a popular movie is The Empire Strikes Back. It must’ve been nice to make a movie like that back in the late 70s. I imagine it was much, much easier to lock down sets. The notion of a script leaking into the general population must’ve seemed laughable. And thank goodness, because I can’t imagine that movie without the aura of legend that surrounds it. I’m sure that J.J. Abrams has lusty fantasies about delivering such twists. But here’s another one: Terminator 2. I think we’ve talked about this before, but the next time you watch T2, pretend like you’ve never seen it. You’ll see that the movie, in it current state, is cut in such a way that Schwarzenegger being the good guy is a twist. They show none of Robert Patrick’s liquid-metal powers until after the T-101 warns John Connor to “get down” in the back hallway of that SFV shopping mall.

And yet, I clearly remember that during the marketing run-up to T2’s release, the movie studio clearly and loudly promoted Schwarzenegger as the movie’s hero. No doubt it was done to satisfy Schwarzenegger the movie star. He plays heroes, dammit, and the one time in recent memory when he didn’t — Batman & Robin — he still got top billing. There’s a big part of me that regrets that. I wish I could’ve seen T2, one of the keystones of my youth, without knowing its central twist. To be sure, there were still a lot of nice turns in that movie. Pretty much, the entire second act is one satisfying turn of events as Sarah Connor hatches her plot to kill Miles Dyson. But still — it’s a shame. Will we ever get back to the days when a high-profile release could have a few un-spoiled plot points? I doubt it. Moving on: I wanted to address the idea that J.J. Abrams doesn’t have much to say.

I’m with you. In fact, I’d go a little further to say that I find many J.J. Abrams-directed projects to be curiously devoid of feeling and emotional engagement; this in spite of a lot of fireworks and gesticulating to the contrary. Abrams movies *act* like they’re emotionally engaged, but there’s something missing. Case in point: Super 8 Let’s set aside Abrams’ curious choice to spend the clout he earned on the Star Trek reboot making a pastiche/homage to early Spielberg, and instead let’s focus on the emotional core of the movie itself: There isn’t one. The *trappings* of early Spielberg are there, but the *heart* of early Spielberg is missing. In fact, let’s review a short, informal list of tropes to be found in early Spielberg:

• Suburban America (check)

• Some kind of family at the core of the story. Usually, this family is fractured in some way. (check)

• A largely middle-grade or young-adult perspective. (check)

• A high-concept hook. (check)

• A clear emotional arc and payoff. (crickets)

Abrams had all the pieces in place for a satisfactory payoff in Super 8. The main kid in Super 8 (Kyle Chandler’s son) needed to reconnect with his father. To be sure, Abrams brought them back together, but only *physically.* Kyle Chandler spends most of the movie’s back nine searching for his son, but there’s no larger emotional underpinning or connection there.

Ditto for Into Darkness. After the movie, I complained about the cheapness of echoing the ending to Wrath of Khan. I still feel that way, mainly because the very choice to re-use that imagery tells us the audience that the characters in Into Darkness are as devastated by the death as the characters in Wrath of Khan, when the problem is that the characters in the reboot movies simply haven’t known each other as long as they had in Wrath of Khan.

But more important: It suggests to me that Abrams and his team just didn’t have much to say with this franchise, so they cribbed from its existing body of work and trusted in the audience to react to the imagery like Pavlovian dogs.

Moving on, I wanted to talk about some of the bad plotting to be found in Abrams movies and projects. The FAQ over on IO9 tackled a lot of the big issues, but there’s a strangely lazy quality to the writing in Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Into Darkness and (obviously) much of Lost. Here are some examples:

• All of the action in Star Trek hinges on time-travel. Two ships travel back in time from the Next Generation era: The hulking Romulan war vessel, and Spock personal transport. The Romulan vessel arrives in the past when Captain Kirk is being born, while Spock’s ship doesn’t arrive until 25 years later. Which means that Eric Bana’s Romulan vessel was just out in space for 25 years, undetected, waiting for Mr. Spock. (A deleted scene offsets this weirdness a little by landing Bana and his Romulan retinue in Klingon Gitmo for all that time, but it’s still pretty weird.)

Listen, I get it. It’s science-fiction, and for the purposes of plot, the writers needed to perform some gymnastics to get everything to sync up. But the writing in Abrams’ last few projects have exhibited a similar soft center.

• In Super 8, the local high-school science teacher drives his truck in front of a speeding train to stop it. Somehow, he survives this crash to tell the kids some crucial information. If you recall, Lance, the movie clearly features a shot of the dying teacher sitting in half a pickup truck.

Again, I don’t want to be a wet blanket. After all, one of my favorite movies is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which shows Indy jumping out of a plummeting prop-jet on a water-raft. I’m capable of suspending my disbelief, but the writing in Abrams’ movies has a weird “first draft” quality to it — and Abrams wrote SUPER 8 himself. I mean, when he conjured the image of the truck stopping the train, did he even consider another way to deliver the teacher’s crucial information to the kids?

To be fair, the dying teacher/train moment is a nice little shock, but this squishiness can be found in Abrams’ two TREK movies, too, and what unifies them, I think, is a fixation on a desire to create a cool image at the cost of credibility. I find I keep saying this: I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but the guys at IO9 hit it on the head when they dismantled the opening sequence to INTO DARKNESS. Why on earth *wouldn’t* the Enterprise crew simply beam that Ice-Nine stuff into the volcano? And why on earth would the mission require them to deposit a crew member into an active volcano?

Anyway, I’m running way longer than I intended, so let’s address your last point: How TV is the last refuge of the spoiler. It’s a sublime truth that this is the case, and it’s funny: With a few notable exceptions (Game of Thrones and Lost among them), most of the great TV shows these days are relatively low-tech, low-concept affairs. (I’m pitting the term “low-concept” in opposition to the idea of “high-concept,” like the big action and sci-fi blowouts that geeks obsess over at the multiplex.) Maybe the lowest of low-concept shows is MAD MEN, which started out with a cast of largely unknown actors who appeared in a show where nothing happened for weeks at a time.

And yet — can you imagine how diminished our experience of Mad Men would be if any of its most memorable moments had been spoiled for us? (I’m looking at you, lawnmower episode.) Matthew Weiner is famously secretive about his show — with good reason — and his mania about concealing plot points is on full display in one of my favorite new artforms: the “next week on …” bumpers for MAD MEN.

For most shows, I skip ’em, but for Mad Men, Weiner has elevated the simple withholding of information to some kind of high art, a kabuki theater built from random lines of dialogue, slamming doors and significant glances.

To wit, here’s a supercut of the “next week on” bumpers from season five:

Compare that to this parody of the form:

I’d contend that Weiner has intersected with some version of Poe’s Law here. The parody is virtually identical to the original, and thank goodness for it.

I’m running long (again), but I’ll close with this question: Lance, what did you think of Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance, taken both on its own and specifically *as* Khan? I’m not asking you to compare his performance to Ricardo Montalban’s, but to consider Cumberbatch’s performance as the character Khan as if it were a role from classical theater. (Maybe even think about other notable examples where two actors tackled an iconic role, like Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins both playing Hannibal Lecter.) How do you think Cumberbatch did?

Lance Carmichael:

Wow, what a great response. I don’t have a whole lot more to add to that — all awesome.

Great point about how the “big twist” of T2 was spoiled without any of us even realizing it was a spoiler. I can just see James Cameron at his writing desk, rubbing his hands as he imagined people’s jaws hitting the floor when Arnie threw down the roses and shielded John Connor from the T1000’s bullets. It’s a testament to Cameron’s sturdy storytelling that the movie functions perfectly well without the twist, thank you very much.

We’re definitely beating up on Abrams for lacking a soul–probably justifiably. We’re obviously not suggesting that he as a human being lacks a soul with deep wells of emotion–I think what we’re saying is just that he doesn’t really leave his personal DNA on his movies. And a lot of that, obviously, has to do with his choice of almost exclusively rebooting television shows from the 60s. But SUPER 8 was nominally an “original idea,” so…

Steven Soderbergh gave a reallly great definition on the difference between Movies and Cinema. 

To paraphrase, as opposed to Movies–which are more or less products being made on an assembly line of interchangeable parts–Cinema is something that comes from an individual artist, something that’s filtered through a specific, non-replicable human being’s very human being-ness. He or she leaves his or her fingerprints on the film. Without this specific human being, the film would not exist, or at least wouldn’t exist in any recognizable form.

By this definition, Abrams just doesn’t really pass the sniff test, in my humble opinion. Not that this is any great crime, but he’s making Movies, not Cinema–not in the sense that Soderbergh means it, anyway. Now, granted, he is making Star Trek and Mission:Impossible — duh, you say. These are popcorn movies. However, I don’t think Soderbergh’s definition of Cinema necessarily excludes all purveyors popcorn cinema. Certainly Abrams’ polestar, Steven Spielberg, has built an entire library of films that you feel like wouldn’t exist in any recognizable form if he didn’t make them, and yet makes huge-budgeted, massively popular movies. So do Christopher Nolan and James Cameron. And hell, when you think about it, this definition doesn’t necessarily exclude filmmakers cinema making BAD cinema. Part of what was so fascinating about the trainwreck that was the second and especially third Transformers movie was that, by god, this is crazy and kind of terrible, but crazy and terrible in a way that only Michael Bay could deliver.

But yet…again, there’s still a lot to defend about JJ Abrams (as if the born-on-third-base multimillionaire who’s been handed the keys to Star Wars needs defenders). Though I find his movies to be a bit soulless and definitely lightweight and certainly low on nutrition…they’re still really breezy and fun and pretty to look at when I’m watching them. They may be cupcakes, but they’re damn tasty cupcakes. There’s a lot of comic book and space opera and action movies made, and most of them are pretty unbearable. It’s not easy to make a movie at this scale serving all the demographics and corporate marketing machines that need to be served and still deliver made-to-order products filled with performances that delight and breathe and are filled with life, and all Abrams movies definitely have that trait in common.

The two Abrams Star Trek movies are MASTERFULLY casted and acted (with the possible exception of Eric Bana, a guy with a lot of talent who didn’t quite fit right or wasn’t given enough to do as Nemo in STAR TREK). Let’s not forget what an impossible task it seemed like JJ ABRAMS faced when we first heard they were making a “Star Trek Jr” reboot. Where in the galaxy do you possibly find a young (and affordable) William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy, two of the weirdest, most singular actors who’ve ever graced the silver screen with their bizarre respective resences? And yet it’s a testament to the skill with which this was done that NO ONE to my knowledge has ever had a bad thing to say about Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto’s performances in the STAR TREK reboots. And you can go on down the line of this recasting of the original crew. Even seemingly crazy choices like Karl Urban–a slab of man beef heretofore only seen scowling in sword and sandal epics–in the role made famous by the lanky, almost emaciated stick man Deforrest Kelley worked like gangbusters.

This brings us to your question about Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. I don’t have a whole to say except that I thought he was great. It’s hard to define what exactly makes an actor utterly watchable on-screen, but Cumberbatch radiated it. When the teasers for Into Darkness originally came out, I was convinced he was playing some sort of alternate reality version of an evil Jean Luc-Picard. His voice and timbre and intonation and accent were a dead ringer for Patrick Stewart, to my ears. Well–spoiler alert–he wasn’t playing a young Patrick Stewart. But damn if he doesn’t have his way with the English Language the way Stewart routinely does. His line readings so delicious–he consistently elevated Mustache-Twirling Villain fare to the point where we forgot how many times we’d seen it before. He could’ve been reading the Itunes “Terms of Agreement” and I would have been riveted. And damn–the look in his eye as Kirk exhausted himself attempting to beat the shit out of him and he just kept staring at him emotionlessly was so friggin’ eerie. That’s definitely one of the few images that’s stuck with me nearly a week after seeing the movie.

So in regards to your question about Cumberbatch bringing a new interpretation to a “classic role,” I think it’s right in line with Abrams recasting of the other classic roles in this Star Trek reboot. What seems to be most important to Abrams’ eye is finding an actor who jumps off the screen, who brings an energy and vitality to the role, rather than going for a dead impression.

That’s all I got. Cumberbatch is the big winner coming out of Into Darkness.