Admiral Marcus as a Well-Intentioned Extremist. He figured that the exploration-focused Starfleet would not be able to win a war against the Klingons, a war he thought was inevitable (and may or may not actually be). He was only doing what he thought was necessary to ensure the Federation's survival. It's not even really that much of an Alternative Character Interpretation - the guy just ends up tapping the Moral Event Horizon when he opts to try and murder Kirk and the entire crew merely for having Khan in their custody, along with other acts.
Due to the disastrous handling of the extras for the Blu Ray release, Paramount is now offering a new box set, which includes the IMAX scenes in the film and loads of special features. It also includes the 2009 film with all of the goodies from the 3 disc set as well. They are also working on offering a discount for owners of original Into Darkness discs as well.
Though several fans complained about James Kirk's death scene being a blatant copy of Spock's death in The Wrath of Khan, many of the same fans also applauded the filmmakers since the scene was basically a public apology to the fandom for Kirk's infamously underwhelming death in Generations.
Base-Breaking Character: James T. Kirk. While most will agree he had good character development over the course of the two movies, many more will debate whether said development is enough to actually make him a credible Captain. By the conclusion, a lot were arguing that it would've made more sense for Spock to be Captain instead.
Best Known for the Fanservice: Often brought up by critics discussing the film's flaws. Carol Marcus is in her underwear for only one short clip which only lasts a few seconds: she changes clothes, Kirk peeks, we see. Blatant Fanservice that could have been left on the cutting room floor without affecting the plot at all? Yes, no doubt. But, based on what critics say, one would think she did nothing but run around in her underwear for the entire film.
Better on DVD: Kirk's Character Arc works best when watching the two films back-to-back. Into Darkness makes several Call Backs to Kirk's previous conflict with Spock, especially when it comes to his coming to terms with his own mortality during a "No-Win Scenario." A lot of this got missed, especially considering there was a 4-year gap between the release of both films.
Was Khan's casting worth it to see Benedict Cumberbatch's acting talent, or was it pointless whitewashing of a famous person of color role that wasted the opportunity for a Sikh actor to have gotten a really big break playing a classic villain?note Despite the original actor still not being the same race as Khan's entire name would suggest. Are the detractors justified in their accusations of racism, or misguided and counterproductive political correctness or are people just overreacting?
Is the film essentially a remake of previous Star Trek films or merely an homage?
Was Kirk's Disney Death believable (setting aside how unlikely it is they would kill off a main character in the first place) or wasn't it?
Science officer 0718, the completely bald cyborg crew member. He also has almost no lines, but with his deep robot voice, piercing blue eyes, and cybernetic implants in the back of his head, he certainly made quite an impression for a lot of people.
Ho Yay: Kirk and Spock. No surprise, since their friendship has been fueling shippers for years. But Spock looks genuinely distraught seeing Harrison hurt Kirk, and flat-out goes on a pre-Surak Vulcan style Roaring Rampage of Revenge when Kirk dies.
It Was His Sled: Though it also overlaps with I Knew It, it has quickly become common knowledge that John Harrison is Khan.
The damaged and fiery Enterprise falling to Earth in posters and trailers garnered responses along the lines of "Oh great, they're blowing up theEnterprise… again." However, the Enterprise is able to get back on its feet before it crash lands. The ship that does crash, however, was the USS Vengeance, piloted by Khan.
Khan being the main antagonist.
The role reversal of Kirk and Spock during the climax.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: There's a comic coming out in October regarding Harrison's past called Star Trek: KHAN. Pretty blatant example, eh?
Like You Would Really Do It: Spock dying at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was just plausible enough that the viewers might believe it would stick (partially because, at the time, it was believed WoK would be the last Trek film). When this film plays that scenario out with Kirk dying instead, no one believes it will stick. Especially not after introducing a convenient Healing Phlebotinum.
Magnificent Bastard: Harrison plays just about everyone with ease and style. And then it's revealed that he's Khan, one of the franchise's most magnificent villains.
If it wasn't for the fact that he was a Smug Snake, Admiral Marcus could count. His entire plan (get Kirk to kill Khan with his torpedoes while also getting rid of his crew, sabotage the Enterprise and then destroy it to make it look like the Klingons did it) to jump start a war with the Klingons is actually pretty intricate and risky. If Kirk had just done what he was told, Marcus could have gotten what he wanted.
Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: The producers of this film found themselves facing unexpected criticism from the Sikh community that was really looking forward to having the film's villain, Khan Noonien Singh, played by a Sikh actor. Of course, the producers wanted to avoid the Unfortunate Implication of non-white character being a villain, but the Sikh community noted that the character is such a classic Magnificent Bastard and Tragic Villain who physically and mentally outclasses any white man that it was a disappointment he was played by a British actor.
If his plot to start a war with the Klingons didn't do it, Admiral Marcus definitely crosses the line with the revelation that he never intended to spare the Enterprise or her crew, no matter what Kirk said or did.
John Harrison/Khan has several possible MEH's:
Manipulating Thomas Harewood into blowing up himself and a Starfleet institution by curing his daughter's condition.
Attacking a gathering of Starfleet officers, killing Admiral Pike in the process.
Attempting to murder the Enterprise crew after his people were returned to him (or so he thought), at a point where none of the crew posed any threat to him.
Setting the fatally damaged Vengeance on a collision course with San Francisco after believing that his crew had been killed.
Narm Charm: As is the tradition with Star Trek, there are scenes that failed for some people and worked for others.
Spock's exclamation of "KHAAAAAN!" during the finale.
Many found Kirk's dramatic failed attempt to beat an increasingly confused Harrison on Qo'noS hilarious.
The Klingons redesign look more like Psychlos wearing a trenchcoat.
Harrison's scream when Spock attempts the Vulcan nerve pinch on him during their fight.
The extremely clumsy set-up of a Chekhov's Gun, where McCoy working on a dead tribble is randomly shoved into the middle of a completely unrelated scene.
Kirk's death scene was cringeworthy for some, due to its blatantly plagiarized dialogue.
Never Live It Down: Poor J. J. Abrams gets misblamed for lying about Harrison being Khan when it was really Paramount that enforced. That he absolutely hated lying about the unnecessary plot twist was conveniently ignored in favor of labeling him as a constantly Lying Creator. It got so bad that people mistakenly used the debacle as an excuse to presume that Abrams was lying about anything and everything leading up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, leading to a whole lot of Fan Wank. A few years later, Damon Lindeloff admitted that they'd vastly underestimated how quickly fans could multisource theories in this day and age, and they should have just come clean when everyone figured it out.
"Everything he says is true: The Klingons are coming, they do need Khan, and that's that. It's just that he’s going to sacrifice the entire Enterprise to get the job done, because the Enterprise started to believe Khan. But if the Enterprise had not believed Khan and had done what Marcus said, then there'd be no movie, and everything would be cool. But the great writing in this is that the Enterprise wakes the dude up and listens to his game, and then everything goes to crap. But that's the Enterprise's hubris. That's them. They screwed up, not Marcus. Anyway, sorry to go off there. I just hate that."
On the flipside, John Harrison/Khan gets a lot of this due to his sympathetic motivations to save his crew from Marcus. Throw in Benedict Cumberbatch's charismatic performance, stylishthreads, booming voice and we've got a full blown example here.
Ship Tease: Between Carol and McCoy, when Kirk drafts Bones into helping her open one of the torpedoes.
Stoic Woobie: Dr. Carol Marcus discovers that her father is at the head of a conspiracy to start a galactic scale war, is transporter-kidnapped by him so she can't stand in the way of his attempt to murder the entire crew of a Federation ship (which she is forced to watch helplessly from his side), has her leg broken by Khan, and then watches him brutally murder her father. She holds up remarkably well given what she goes through.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: There were some fans who thought that John Harrison turning out to be Khan was waytoo obvious, and theorised that he was in fact the Klingon captain, Koloth – a human-looking Klingon from the original series that was meant to be Kirk's Evil Counterpart/Worthy Opponent. One can even take this a step further and watch the film with that in mind, and the story is essentially the same and it actually works in it's favor.
Even if you go into it knowing Harrison is Khan, he doesn't have the back history with Kirk that their prime counterparts had. Kirk was willing to work with Khan in this universe, and they both obviously had a beef with Admiral Marcus. Preserving this Enemy Mine through the whole plot and making Marcus the primary villain would have made an interesting twist on a classic Trek plot moving forward.
Enterprise vs. Vengeance. Yes the Vengeance totally outperformed the Enterprise in virtually every area, but that's no excuse not to have an actual starship battle between the two; in fact, it would have made for a great David vs. Goliath scenario, in which Kirk and company would have to come up with elaborate strategy (much like hiding in the Mutara Nebula) to overcome this monster. The fact Vengeance was meant to be a dark, militarized counterpart to the Enterprise would have made such a battle all the more fitting.
Given the character arcs of both Kirk and Spock, a surprising number of fans were actually shocked that Spock didn't up remaining Captain of the Enterprise. This ended up becoming a major criticism with those who felt that Kirk didn't necessarily deserve to be Captain.
Uhura negotiating with Klingons is one of very rare occasions where she can help in a way no other character can and can have a natural impact on the plot. Instead, she fails horribly.
SF Debris proposed what he believed would have been a better ending: Khan gets away with all the Augments, Spock mindmelds with Kirk, and Kirk is left in stasis. Then, the next film would be searching for Khan and his new army, Kirk will become a phantom in Spock's mind acting as both an adviser and a nuisance, while the entire Enterprise crew must combine their wits, skills, and generally everything they've got in order to defeat Khan's army and bring him back alive to save their captain.
The opening setup is about setting up Kirk's impulsiveness as a character flaw ("Damnit, Man, you just shot our ride!")... except Kirk is morally justified nearly every step of the way, and the fallout over his actions provides the perfect opportunity to take the Prime Directive apart over how incredibly flawed it is. We got a movie about how bad it is for Kirk to leap without looking when it starts with a much more impressive debate about whose lives are worthy to be saved by Federation personnel.
Long before the movie came out it was speculated that Khan was going to be the villain. When Harrison revealed his true identity as Khan a lot of people were not surprised.
Many Trek fans who had watched "Space Seed" knew exactly what was in those torpedoes the moment the number 72 was uttered. In addition, a large number of filmgoers who were aware of how much the film was borrowing from The Wrath of Khan caught on to the fairly evident foreshadowing with the Tribble and correctly assumed both that the engine scene would be repeated and that Khan's blood would be used to revive the victim. Between these three untwists, many Trek fans complained of the film being predictable.
Values Dissonance: Khan's Race Lift was because of this. Had Khan — whose name might suggest that he is Muslim to people who have little knowledge of Sikhs — been cast by an Indian or Middle-Eastern actor, "John Harrison's" overtly terrorist actions may have led to further Unfortunate Implications with the character.
Even if Section 31 of Starfleet Intelligence is a bunch of Well-Intentioned ExtremistSecret Police imperialists, how could they be so stupid as to threaten to kill the family of the amoral superman who at one point had conquered a quarter of Earth.
Kirk falsified his Captain's Log and failed to inform his by-the-book second officer that he had done so or what he said instead. Oddly enough he seems convinced Spock stabbed him in the back by not guessing this.
Great work on storming the bridge of the Vengeance, Kirk! I'm sure that one stun round will be more than enough to incapacitate the genetically enhanced, virtually unkillable super soldier whom you already know is capable of enduring a beatdown that would cripple a normal man. Sure, he didn't have a lot of other options, but he could at least have gone for a double tap.
Admiral Marcus for thinking he could control a man who was basically an emperor in his own time period.
The Woobie: Thomas Harewood. The man's daughter is dying, he's helpless to save her, and he winds up being manipulated by Harrison into killing himself and dozens of others in a suicide bombing in exchange for his daughter being cured.