Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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In analyzing the most recent poster for Star Trek Into Darkness, of a structural-integrity-challenged Enterprise falling to Earth, I asked a question that oddly enough not many had considered: exactly what was doing battle with Kirk's ship? One really formidable starship enemy or a whole fleet of attackers? If it's just one ship, it's likely that Benedict Cumberbatch's baddie John Harrison is pulling a Khan and has merely commandeered it. Remember, he's called a Federation "agent," not a captain.
Well, now we know. Paramount has released a third trailer for the movie (out May 17) and it's the most revealing clip we've seen yet. We've got Klingons, we've got space battles, and we've got an answer to my question: Harrison has one, really big, really menacing, black-tinted starship that dwarfs the Enterprise. Which is odd because Star Trek Into Darkness takes place just six months after 2009's Star Trek, and I'm pretty sure at that point the Enterprise was considered to be the most advanced ship in the fleet. Could this be further fuel for my theory that Harrison is actually an "agent" for black-ops, deep-cover Federation intel agency Section 31? Maybe he really is trying to lead some kind of Seven Days in May-style mutiny within Starfleet to push the Federation toward a less exploratory-minded security state?
It would make sense for Section 31 to have a more advanced ship than even Kirk & Co. know about. Shame it wasn't around to fight Nero and the Nerada in the last movie, especially if its black-hull indicates some kind of stealth or cloaking technology that they developed on the sly using Romulan technology. I mean, just look at the size of that thing in the freeze-frame above! It blots out the sky in front of Kirk's ship.
Despite all the rumors about Harrison really being Khan, I'm still not convinced. For one, is J.J. Abrams really going to whitewash a Sikh Indian character to the point where he's played by pasty Englishman Benedict Cumberbatch? I'm sorry, the pastiest Englishman? For two, why would an alternate universe remake of The Wrath of Khan, one pop culture totem that's truly unassailable, be a desirable thing? Aren't you setting up impossibly high expectations? (Then again this is the guy who's directing Star Wars Episode VII.) Maybe Khan will appear. Maybe John Harrison will have undergone genetic resequencing just like Toby Stephens in Die Another Day — exactly what we want to see ! — but there's another explanation, also involving genetic resequencing that I think may explain all. Allow me to introduce the first exhibit in our photo essay below: Klingons!
Yes, if you couldn't already tell from the forehead ridges, those are Klingons. In a deleted scene from his 2009 film J.J. Abrams cast Victor Garber to play a Klingon interrogator who questions Eric Bana's Nero about his time-traveling intent. These are the exact same helmets that the Klingons in that deleted scene wore. Now, some have speculated that John Harrison is trying to provoke war between the Federation and the Klingons. Uh-uh, as far as I'm concerned.
What if Harrison and his Federation conspirators are working with the Klingons. That would explain that freaky black ship. The Klingons have cloaking technology! They could have given it to Harrison and his Section 31 colleagues. The Klingons also got a better look at that 24th century tech Nero brought back in time with him than anybody, since they captured the guy. They could have given that to Harrison as well. But why? Is it, like in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a plot hatched by the war hawks in both the Federation and the Klingon Empire to wage war against each other for their mutual profit? Or, wait for it, is Harrison a Klingon himself?
You may be thinking right now that I'm crazy. I'd say, yes...but like a targ! In the mid-23rd century, as seen in The Original Series, some Klingons looked really different from the forehead-ridged Klingons we all know and love. The former category of Klingons looked human.
Now we all know that the real reason for them looking little different from Kirk's crew on the '60s TV series is that Desilu Productions had no makeup budget. Most of the aliens on that show look human. But considering how different they've looked ever since Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where they were first given dark skin, forehead ridges, and pointy teeth, the makers of Trek had to come up with an in-universe explanation. It was first hinted at in one of the all-time great episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "Trials and Tribble-ations," in which the DS9 crew travel a hundred years back in time to Kirk's Enterprise during the events of the classic "Trouble with Tribbles" episode. Here's what Worf had to say about the Klingons' very different appearance at the time.
Both Dr. Bashir and Chief O'Brien are right. It was genetic engineering... that became a viral mutation. And it was only elaborated to us Trekkers in the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Some of Khan's fellow genetic supermen were awakened in the mid-22nd century on that show, but without Khan because that show had the good sense to not try to recast Ricardo Montalban. These genetically blessed individuals were the result of experiments in the late 20th century to create individuals who were smarter and stronger than normal humans. Only problem? They were psychotic. I mean, filled with the most insane delusions of grandeur. Khan was their leader, and in the 1990s they waged war against the genetically inferior from their home base in Central Asia. You were probably too busy listening to the Macarena to care, but in 1996, Khan and his Übermenschen followers were defeated, and he was exiled in space aboard the S.S. Botany Bay. Because apparently we exile people to outer space, despite the fact that, even then, with all that sweet Clinton Era funding, NASA was barely functional when it came to manned space flight.
But anyway, fast-forward a couple centuries to the mid-2150s. One of the ships carrying a bunch of the genetic supermen in deep hibernation was discovered. The genetic supermen were reawakened. And a few of them ended up in Klingon hands. The Klingons thought the supermen were part of an Earth plot to weaponize humanity and endow ordinary folks with the sheer burliness required to be an equal opponent to any Klingon warrior. In short, the Empire was threatened. And this is part of why the Klingons and Earth got off to a bad start in their relationship. Scientists in the Empire felt that they needed to close the genetic superman gap and start doing some freaky manipulation to their own genome. The humans had maybe increased their strength. But the Klingons would go for stealth. They would alter their genetic structure by adding in some human DNA. They would then lose their forehead ridges and look exactly like humans... meaning that they could infiltrate Earth as spies and not be noticed. Maybe one or two could even make it into Starfleet and bring down their enemy from the inside.
Unfortunately, these genetic experiments quickly turned into a virus that ended up affecting much of Klingon society. Meaning that most Klingons ended up looking like ordinary human beings. The advantage of surprise would be lost if all Klingons looked like humans. A century later, in the mid-2260s during the events of The Original Series, we see that the Klingons still hadn't solved this problem. They still look like blokes. So what if John Harrison is a Klingon who, rather than just picking barfights with Scotty and letting Tribbles overtake his ship like so many in the Empire in those days, actually is living up to his original directive? What if he in fact has infiltrated the Federation and is leading a mutiny from within, supposedly to save it from its touchy-feely pro-exploration policies? But what if he really just wants to bring it down? Let's look at some more visual evidence from the new trailer.
This is basically a new angle on what we've already seen in previous clips, but its repeated presence goes to show that the Klingons really are going to be a major deal in this movie. A Bird of Prey keeps firing on a shuttlepod piloted by Kirk and Spock, through some kind of urban sprawl. I'm guessing this is Qo'nos, the Klingon homeworld itself.
Now here's the funny thing: Khan could still be in this movie. We know from Star Trek: Enterprise, the one series that was not affected by the timeline changes from the 2009 film because of it being a prequel show, that the Klingons were already interested in genetically engineered humans. What if, then, because of the timeline changes they decided to seek out Khan in the Botany Bay and actually found him? Even in The Wrath of Khan, he displays an affinity for Klingon culture by quoting their old proverb "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Khan could now be working for the Klingons and John Harrison could be his envoy. And we haven't even seen the supervillain yet!
From this photo, you can tell just how massive Harrison's ship is in comparison to the Enterprise. What if Klingon John Harrison infiltrated Section 31, where he fed the Federation organization schematics from Nero's ship, the Nerada, that the Klingons had discovered years earlier so that they could buid their own, comparable vessel? How else to explain what is obviously a ship of some Federation hybrid design that no one else in Starfleet seems to have seen before? It seems unlikely that Abrams would go to the time-travel well again and have this much larger ship be from the future. Some commenters online have already said that it looks like Jean-Luc Picard's Enterprise-E from a century later but those flared warp nacelles look way too much like Kirk's ship to have come from any other time. But I bet it has a cloaking device...
Quick break to feast your eyes on Zoe Saldana's Uhura in a catsuit.
An Aside: 2009's Star Trek featured Uhura in lingerie. An earlier trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness has also shown Alice Eve's Carol Marcus in lingerie. But here's the thing. Star Trek fans, and I'm taking it upon myself to speak for us collectively here, know that sexiness isn't contigent upon baring a lot of skin. In fact, we Trekkers prefer the skin-hugging catsuit look. Exhibit A: Nana Visitor's Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine. Exhibit B: Jolene Blalock's T'Pol on Enterprise. Exhibit C: Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine on Voyager. That's why one of the smartest things I've seen from any trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness is that Zoe Saldana's Uhura is in a peel-off, curve-hugging body suit. With a collar! Never underestimate the sexiness of collars. Or the sexiness of zippers! Seven of Nine never had a zipper. How did she ever get out of that skin-tight rig on Voyager? Something worth pondering. End Aside.
More evidence that some Klingon or Romulan technology is at work on Harrison's ship! Its torpedoes leave an exhaust trail, consistent with the plasma torpedoes found on Romulan Warbirds and Klingon Birds of Prey at this time. Federation photon torpedoes don't leave any kind of trail. And what is that weird spherical pod in the center of the frame? Please say it's not those pods from Oblivion.
If I wanted to, I could say that spherical ship looks to be of Suliban design, suggesting that John Harrison is really a Suliban shapeshifter who can assume any form he wants. But I have some sanity left, and I must guard that sanity carefully.
Mark my words: John Harrison is a Klingon, Khan may indeed be lurking on the sidelines, and catsuits are awesome.
What do you think?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
More: What is Attacking the Enterprise in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness.’ Is It a Goner? Could John Harrison Be a Member of Section 31? How ‘DS9’ Boldly Became the Best ‘Trek’
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