There was a lot to complain about with Star Trek: Into Darkness. I mean, there’s no getting around the gratuitous shot of Marcus in her underwear, or the lopsided male/female ratio of the walk-ons, or the unbelievable silliness involved in watching the whitest man on the planet stomp around snarling that his name is Khan.
Not that Brandenburg Cumberbibble did a bad job as “Genetically-engineered Ubermonster.” He didn’t. I completely bought his willingness to slaughter Robocop in front of his only child, and the casualness with which the murder of dozens of Klingons was accomplished. Dude’s a straight-up killing machine. But I mean, come on. When you make the guy’s identity a big reveal, and the guy’s identity is clearly (300 years in the future-past) ethnic, and the guy standing in front of you is white as hell…there’s an amount of ridiculousness to it. A large amount.
But I was actually pleasantly surprised by a lot of it?
I mean, Abrams’s Kirk is a pretty huge bro, right? There’s pretty much no arguing about that. He drinks too much, and when life slaps him around, he’s way too ready to crawl into a bottle to lick his wounds. He’s a huge womanizer, which isn’t necessarily treated as a problem trait until that scene with Marcus calling him on a) having no fucking clue who she’s talking about, when clearly Kirk and the woman in question were involved to a certain extent beyond just fucking and b) ogling her while she changed when she’d flatly asked him not to. He’s not just promiscuous; it takes some doing for women he wants to bang to qualify as “fully human” for him. He’s impulsive, he likes getting into fights, he’s self-centered, etc. He’s sporting a lot of huge douchebro red flags.
So it was nice to see him do stupid, impulsive, reckless things without being overwhelmingly stupid about it.
Like, Pike’s dead? Kirk: Fuck everything, I’m going to murder the hell out of Khan, rar! Spock: This is not what we do. He should be apprehended. Kirk: Fuck you, I hate your logic. *later* Okay, so we’re going to apprehend him, because actually Spock is right about this not being how the Federation rolls.
Oh, shit, Klingons?! Uhura: We’re fucked. Let me talk to them. Kirk: Noooooo, you’re going to die, we should shoot their faces. Uhura: *two seconds later, walking out to implement her plan*
Untested missile technology? Kirk: Load ‘em up. Scotty: I’m resigning. Kirk: Okay. *later* So, you were right, we’re fucked, I need you to save everybody.
Putting a ten-year-old in charge of engineering for the whole ship? Kirk: I just fired Scotty. You can handle this, right, Chekov? Chekov: Fuuuuuuuuuck yeah, I guess. *later* I take full responsibility for this clusterfuck. Kirk: Pretty sure that means it ain’t your fault, bro. Try your best.
I mean, his first instinct is exactly what you’d expect from the knee-jerk asshole side of him, and it’s 180 degrees from where it should be, but there’s a surprising lack of doubling down on the initial bad decision once the moment’s passed. Like, he recognizes pretty much immediately that he’s being a dick, or that he’s wrong, and he consistently doesn’t persist out of pride, or spite, or an unwillingness to consider the fact that someone else might have a better idea.
Like, he’s pissed at everyone over the opening incident. He can’t believe the Prime Directive doesn’t have exceptions, and he can’t believe the guy he’s trying to be bros with would pick the rules over him, and he can’t believe the guy he looks up to like a father is mad at him over it. But he’s not so mad at everybody that he can’t be okay with his failure-bro retaining his rank and be super-touched to the point of tearing up that the guy he looked up to like a father made sure he’s still got a chance to not fuck everything up.
Like, he is unbelievably furious with Khan for having killed Pike and everyone in the archive center and half the other people at the table with Pike. He’s mad enough that he takes on a mission with “PATSY” scribbled all over it in huge red letters without blinking. He’s mad enough that he accepts a surrender and then makes a valiant effort at committing a war crime. He’s not so mad that he doesn’t eat some crow and ask a dude to check out the bad guy’s story to see if maybe there are some mitigating circumstances that need to be looked into.
And the whole thing with Uhura? There’s not even an ounce of “You’re coming between me and the guy who doesn’t understand that he’s my bro!” there. There’s no jealousy, or pouting because Spock is paying attention to her instead of only paying attention to Kirk, or sulking because she can get through where he can’t, or fit-pitching because giiiiiiiiiiiiiiirls, m i rite?. He practically breaks the sound barrier, he’s so fast to accept her as a fellow traveler and co-sufferer of Spock’s infuriating Vulcan ways. Like, “You like him? Oh my god, I like him too! Isn’t liking him just the fucking worst?!”. By dint of the transitive property of broship, they’re now bros.
And then when it all goes sideways, and everybody’s going to die, and it comes down to everybody pays for his mistakes vs. he pays for his mistakes, there’s zero hesitation. It’s not even up for debate. He fucked up; it’s not fair for everyone else to help pay his bill. If it’s a question of everybody dies or he dies, the only pause is to make sure the guy he’s leaving behind is properly buckled in before he’s shoving himself into the reactor core. He rejects the idea that, say, the Prime Directive is so important that it means letting a whole species (or even one dude) die when it’s avoidable, but he absolutely doesn’t reject the idea of sacrifice in the name of the greater good. It’s not every man for themselves. The sacrifice just has to be worth it, which is open to interpretation either as “Kirk internalizes his friends’ values” or “Kirk’s values don’t differ from those of his friends, just his application criteria.”
Basically, it boils down to him being kind of a shitheel, but he picks good friends and then he listens to them without making a huge fucking fuss about it. Not bad for a douchebro.