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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • 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.
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    • The Klingons themselves. The only time we see them in action is when they're defending their own homeworld; not once are they on the offensive despite the continual assertions that they're gearing up for war against the Federation. Marcus is actively goading them into a war, up to stranding the Enterprise on the wrong side of the Neutral Zone to set up a False Flag Operation.
    • It is not clear if Thomas sends Admiral Marcus the message saying that John Harrison is responsible for the archive bombing because it was part of Harrison's overall plan and he wanted to reveal himself or if this was Thomas's attempt to make some good out of the situation by telling Marcus who is responsible. This deleted scene suggests that it's the former.
    • A more minor one: Is Pike grilling Kirk for breaking the Prime Directive - or just the fact that Kirk didn't accept responsibility (and if he did, the punishment would not have been as harsh)?
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    • In the climax, would Khan have tried to wipe out the Enterprise whether or not Kirk ordered Scotty to incapacitate him once they dethroned Admiral Marcus? After all, he doesn't seem surprised when he recovers too fast for Scotty or Kirk to defend themselves, but there is a hint of disappointment. He also has Villain Respect by telling Kirk that he likes a man who has a conscience. Perhaps he would have kept his word, or maybe not. It's left up to the viewers.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The Villain Episode comic book tie in reveals that Khan had plastic surgery done so he appeared to be white, as opposed to Indian, his natural heritage.
    • Kirk getting reprimanded for his actions towards the beginning also qualifies. Turns out that when you're a cocky, inexperienced captain of a starship who keeps breaking the rules, you eventually get removed from command.
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    • Due to the disastrous handling of the extras for the BluRay 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.
  • 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, pointing out that he still lacks several of his Prime Universe counterpart's qualities. By the conclusion, a lot were arguing that it would've made more sense for Spock to be Captain instead.
    • Whether Benedict Cumberbatch version of Khan was an effective villain or whether he should have just been an original character.
  • 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 it is only one scene, albeit one that was prominent in the trailers.
  • 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.
  • Broken Base:
    • 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  Are the detractors justified in their accusations of racism, or misguided and counterproductive political correctness or are people just overreacting? After 9/11, would it be wise to cast an actor of color to play a terrorist who crashes a flying vehicle into a populated city? Though the later point adds to the discussion about whether Khan should have been used at all.
    • 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 was it not?
  • Contested Sequel: There's a lot of debate amongst the fandom over this film borrowing elements from the older Star Trek films, Khan being the main villain and now white, the Chekhov's Gun that is Khan's blood, and Kirk's 5-minute death.
  • Critical Dissonance: Into Darkness is currently sitting at an 87% on Rotten Tomatoesnote , with the consensus from the critics being that it is a very good, but not as good followup to the first film. It's also one of the highest rated on IMDb (7.7/10, tied with The Wrath of Khan for second place behind the 2009 movie). Fan reactions have been mixed: some agreed; some thought it was an Even Better Sequel; and one Star Trek convention voted it the worst Trek film of all time.
  • Cry for the Devil: Khan in this movie is a monster; he admits he is, and Admiral Marcus isn't wrong when calling him a war criminal. Then we find out that Marcus used Khan to create weaponry, threatening the lives of his people, who are in cryogenic tubes, to get him to cooperate. Khan actually has a Not So Different moment when he and Kirk says they would do anything to keep their crew alive, and you can see a hint of Death Seeker when he tells Marcus, "You should have let me sleep" before killing him. In the climax, he goes My God, What Have I Done? when his threatening the Enterprise leads to Spock bluffing by firing the missiles that have his family in them, and you can tell he's running from Spock in full Despair Event Horizon mode, not even bothering to wipe out any of the Innocent Bystanders or using them as a Human Shield. His fate — to be put back to cryogenic sleep— is both karmic and fitting, as he got exactly what he wanted.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: John Harrison, natch. Some people actually hoped that Harrison would pull a Heel–Face Turn. Oh and he even wears leather pants.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • The Random Cool Hair Redshirt Girl, whose name isn't even given. But she has cool hair. The ongoing IDW comic series has retconned her to be this universe's version of Yeoman Zahrasomehow.
    • 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.
  • Evil Is Cool:
  • Evil Is Sexy: With Benedict Cumberbatch playing the Big Bad, this was inevitable.
  • Foe Yay: We can also add this in with Harrison and Kirk or Spock as well.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Chekov being told to put on a Red Shirt doesn't feel the same after Anton Yelchin died following the filming of the next Star Trek film.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Both Peter Weller (Marcus) and Bruce Greenwood (Pike) have portrayed Batman in animation prior to this film, Weller having played the elderly Caped Crusader in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Greenwood having portrayed (alternate-universe, younger versions of) him in Batman: Under the Red Hood and coming back for Young Justice. This film may be the closest we can get to having Batman in a Star Trek film yet, with two actors who've played him before, no less!
    • With their white skin and dark Facial Markings, the aliens on Nibiru look remarkably similar to Jaylah from the following movie. Trekkies, do your thing.
    • After all the jokes about Cumberbatch's Slasher Smile making him look like the Grinch, he was actually cast in that role for the 2018 film.
    • After this movie, Cumberbatch also got to play another character named Khan. What makes it even funnier is that Mowgli yells "Khaaaan!" at him the same way Captain Kirk did in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
    • A franchise film swears there villain is an original character despite fan speculation that the villain will be a new version of an old favourite, then having a twist which reveals it was the old favourite villain all along. This is either Into Darkness or the Bond film Film/Spectre.
    • Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker is a sequel to another J. J. Abrams reboot which was criticised for rehashing earlier moments in their respective series', including the use of a past villain.
  • 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. Even the back of the home video release outright spoils it.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!:
    • The damaged and fiery Enterprise falling to Earth in posters and trailers garnered responses along the lines of "Oh great, they're blowing up the Enterprise… again." However, the Enterprise is able to get back on its feet before it crash lands. The ship that does crash, however, is 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: Khan Noonien Singh is a superhuman with incredibly high-intelligence. Though believed to be genocidal and seeking to dispose of any race not on the same superiority level as his own kind, the tie-in comic Star Trek: Khan reveals Khan to have been a beloved and benevolent leader over his people despite being a conqueror. Preserved along with his crew for hundreds of years in cryo-sleep, Khan is awoken by the warmongering Admiral Alexander Marcus and as Commander John Harrison is forced to design the fighter starship the USS Vengeance and torpedos to go with it. Khan rebels by inciting a bombing of the secret Defense division and then mowing down several Starfleet officers, including Admiral Christopher Pike, in an ambush where he specifically targets Marcus. Khan learns his crew still lives in their pods in the torpedos he hid them in and surrenders himself to Captain James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise. Khan then provides the info of the Vengeance and helps Kirk take it over, brutally kills Marcus and then attempts to escape and fights off Lieutenant Spock after nearly crashing the damaged ship into Starfleet Headquarters.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Comparing Khan crushing Marcus's skull with the scene in Game of Thrones where the Mountain crushes Oberyn's skull.
    • Pronouncing the title as written (no pause between "Star Trek" and "Into Darkness") shows up as a gag in nearly every online video about the movie.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Inverted. 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 Yellow Peril, but the Sikh community noted that the character is such a classic Bastard and Tragic Villain who physically and mentally outclasses any white man that it was a disappointment he was played by a British actor.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • 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/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. It's either a ridiculous moment that doesn't work or a loving Shout-Out.
    • Many found Kirk's dramatic failed attempt to beat an increasingly confused Harrison on Qo'noS hilarious. On the one hand, it looks ridiculous, but the scene as a whole is played for subdued laughs, so it can work.
    • 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 is... not 100% convincing.
    • Some of Cumberbatch's facial expressions can look comical, like his impression of the Grinch here. This actually becomes Hilarious in Hindsight when Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch five years later.
    • 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 and then not elaborated on.
    • 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 this. 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.
    • Into Darkness is often ridiculed for being the movie that tried to capitalize on a previous film by basing almost its entire final act on it.
    • This film will also never live down making death trivial due to the poorly implemented tribble plot-device.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Noel Clarke is onscreen for all of five minutes, has virtually no dialogue, and dies before the plot fully kicks off, but he makes quite an impression.
    • Leonard Nimoy's one scene is very short and a bit of a Plot Hole, but most audiences loved it so much they hardly even noticed. Sadly, it would turn out to be his last – ever.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Since the release of the film, Admiral Pike has become a go-to villain for many fanfics.
  • Rooting for the Empire:
    • Despite its writers' Anvilicious attempts to decry militarization and aggression, quite a few people who saw the movie ended up rooting for Alexander Marcus and his goal in militarizing Starfleet for a war against the Klingon Empire. Seemingly, Marcus' only detraction is that he went about it in the manner of a standard General Ripper, to the point that he brought Khan, an infamous genetically engineered warlord that nearly took over the Earth long ago, out of cold storage to utilize as a slave (thinking he could actually control Khan), as well as attempted to purposely start said war with the Klingons (using the oblivious crew of the Enterprise to do so no less) as opposed to letting it happen naturally. Even Marcus's actor Peter Weller roots for his character, saying he disliked how the public viewed him as a villain and has this to say about him.
      Weller: 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, stylish threads, and 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.
  • Star Trek Movie Curse: Interestingly, the film is used as the prime example of the franchise's "curse" having been somehow been inverted by Nemesis, as it is a Contested Sequel coming off the rather well-received 2009 reboot and preceding the Surprisingly Improved Sequel, Star Trek Beyond.
  • 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.
  • Tainted by the Preview: Many fans called the first teaser too dark, edgy, and action-packed for a "proper" Star Trek film. This has generally been a criticism since the Abramsverse began.
  • They Copied It, So It Sucks!:
    • The film's first movie poster was accused of being a rip-off of posters for The Dark Knight Trilogy.
    • Many people are upset with how much this film borrows from previous Trek outings like "Homefront/Paradise Lost" and, infamously, Wrath of Khan.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • There were some fans who thought that John Harrison turning out to be Khan was way too 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 its 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.
    • While the revelation about Harrison being Khan was a clever twist, this version of the character loses much of what made him so fascinating in the original timeline, for two main reasons:
      • In his introduction, Khan's entire premise was that he was an infamous tyrant and mass murderer from the 21st century whose reign of terror had made him one of history's most famous monsters—on par with Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler. By confronting him, the Enterprise crew was also confronting the enduring specter of the brutal 21st century, and the reminder that human history had to take some really, really dark turns before humanity earned its place in the stars. But in this version, so much effort is put into ensuring that the characters don't recognize Khan that he loses that element entirely; he gets all of his Establishing Character Moments as the rogue Starfleet officer "John Harrison", with almost no time left to flesh him out as the fascistic cult leader Khan.
      • In The Wrath of Khan, a key element in Khan's story was that he met his downfall thanks to his pride: he assumed that his genetically augmented strength and intelligence meant that he could never be beaten in battle, so he was cocky enough to challenge Kirk to a one-on-one starship battle—even though he came from a time before starship combat, and had never been trained in space tactics. He forgot that his enhanced genes only amounted to potential, and couldn't compensate for his lack of experience, which the seasoned veteran Kirk had in spades. But in this version, Khan actually gets trained in starship combat by Admiral Marcus and he beats Kirk in a space battle because he has a better ship. Instead, he's defeated with Good Old Fisticuffs by Spock, his physical equal. His ultimate downfall has none of the thematic resonance that it originally had, and overall isn't nearly as interesting.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • 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.
    • 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. What he actually gets in trouble for isn't because of the Prime Directive violations. It's his incompetent attempt to cover up it up by falsifying his logs and his irresponsible attitude to the whole thing, which just makes him look like an entitled prick.
    • SF Debris criticizes the film as a high-budget ripoff of Wrath of Khan, where any number of relatively small changes to events or lines would have addressed many of the common criticisms of the film.
    • The film also arguably missed an opportunity to make a point about the way Star Trek scapegoats Augments for the Eugenics Wars and World War III even as late as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one that would have fit very well into The War on Terror allegories.[1]
    • In general, a fair number of viewers found the first half of the movie the more enjoyable part with Admiral Marcus as the main antagonist until Khan takes over.
    • Pike reveals that, after Kirk has been demoted, he's regained command of the Enterprise and wants Kirk with him on his ship, as his First Commander. Kirk is actually relieved about this, with Pike saying he's not giving up on the boy who failed to hold his own in a bar fight. Sadly, Pike gets killed a few minutes later. It would have been interesting to see the men work together again after they had good chemistry in the first film and Kirk stinging from the loss of his captaincy.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Having Benedict Cumberbatch play someone with a specifically non-white ethnicity (the originally dark-skinned Khan). This article goes into detail about the impact this decision has on Star Trek and in the context of whitewashing. Ironically, Orci wanted to avoid other unfortunate implications—see Values Dissonance below.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • 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. In particular, Khan's last act after believing that he's lost his crew is to fly his aircraft into several buildings; the 9/11 comparisons would be unavoidable.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Even if Section 31 of Starfleet Intelligence is a bunch of Well-Intentioned Extremist Secret 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. There actually is a deleted scene explaining it (Spock was present when he made the false log), but in the final cut there's no explanation.
    • 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.
  • Woolseyism: During the bar scene with Scotty and Keenser, a piece of music played that had different lyrics depending on where it was released. For example, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was chosen by J. J. Abrams himself to provide the song for the Japanese release, which is titled "Into Darkness".
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: The Race Lift. As mentioned, intentional on the part of the filmmakers. Having said that, Cumberbatch's performance was almost unanimously praised and/or anticipated, even from people (like George Takei) who criticized his casting.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?: This is literally the only entry in the franchise, movie or television, even in alternate universes, where Starfleet uniforms have included hats.

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