Based on the myriad trailers, TV spots, etc., I have unwittingly assembled a rough cut of the movie in my head. It's a damned curse. Even though I've avoided spoilers, I still, somehow, have managed to spoil the film for myself.
Might as well share the misery.
Again, this is all speculation based on what we've seen in trailers, basic media and that IMAX preview.
Seriously, if you don't want even the ideas planted in your head, turn back now.
Kirk and crew are on the planet Nibiru in an attempt to stop a massive volcanic eruption. Spock goes into the volcano to deploy a McGuffin and is stuck there. The Enterprise, hiding in the ocean, emerges to rescue him and reveals itself to the primitive natives of the planet.
"John Harrison" employs a former Doctor Who guy (Noel Clarke) to commit an act of terrorism in London in exchange for Harrison's help in curing his sick child. Exactly why Harrison does this, I don't know at this point.
Kirk gets called back home because he wiped his ass with the Prime Directive. While there, there's a big meeting with the admiralty about the London attack, too. This is when Harrison shows up in his fighter pod and blows the hell out of the room ...
... killing Admiral Pike.
That's my first big speculative leap. It makes sense, though, as it 1) would enrage Kirk, 2) explains the funeral imagery of the folding flag & the "missing man" formation of the planes and 3) explains why only Admiral Marcus (and not Pike) tries to talk Kirk down from going to get Harrison.
Now here's where things get fuzzy. I'm going to say the Enterprise finds the Vengeance, gets hammered quite a bit and limps away. Then they follow Harrison to Qo'nos because he wants to stir up biz with the Klingons. Harrison is captured and put in the brig. Now, at some point, Kirk needs his help and I'm going to guess it's about the USS Vengeance. Perhaps the Klingons captured it? Thus the "space dive" from the Enterprise to it (as revealed by the Kre-O toy set). Like I said, fuzzy.
Warp to Earth. Battle again. Both Enterprise and Vengeance fall into the atmosphere but Kirk and Scotty manage to save the Enterprise before all is lost. Vengeance falls into San Francisco. Harrison escapes the wreckage and is chased through the city by Spock, leading to fisticuffs on the top of what looks like a Raptor from BSG. And then Harrison is killed. I'm guessing.
You know, after typing it all out, I'm seeing there is still plenty I have no clue about. Good. I'm glad.
Now, the big stuff.
So, Chekov. I think he dies. Wha? Two reasons: 1) he's not included in the line of Kre-O figures and 2) he's wearing a red shirt in the last half of the film.
I'm only half kidding.
Who is "John Harrison?" Straight-up, I'm going to say Khan. Yes, I held out hope it might have been Captain Garth of Izar, but as soon as we saw that shot in the trailer last year of all those cryotubes, c'mon. We all knew. The clues have only piled up since then, especially with those lines (paraphrasing): "I'm better than you." / "At what?" / "Everything." There's a chance that he may be a different Augment from the Botany Bay, but the other seventy-one people don't have the same name recognition. I expect his non-Indian appearance to be explained away with a line, something like, "... So they gave me cosmetic surgery. Changed my skin ..."
Wait, so what's he mad about? Valid question. We know it's not at Kirk specifically, since he didn't find the Botany Bay and maroon him on a doomed planet. My guess is, in this universe, the Botany Bay was found much earlier and Starfleet saw a great advantage in having a bunch of Augments working for them, so they trained 'em up. For whatever reason, Harrison/Khan was mistreated by Starfleet so he seeks revenge on them (thus the attack on the admiralty and the desire to start a war with the Klingons, maybe).
What's in it for Kirk? I recommend reading the "Countdown to Darkness" comic series. No spoilers, but, suffice it to say, Kirk ends up with a distrust of Starfleet. If I had to guess, Kirk may end up with a healthier view of Starfleet after having weeded out some bad elements. I'm curious if perhaps Admiral Marcus and Carol Marcus are part of that. Mostly because "weapons specialist" Carol is introduced as "Carol Wallace" in one of the preview clips. Why hide her name if something shady isn't going on? Maybe I'm reading too much into it and she just didn't want to advance because her daddy is an admiral.
Dark elements in Starfleet ... I don't care for that. I understand. However, remember Star Trek: Insurrection? There came a point in the Dominion War where Starfleet was willing to sacrifice its principles and the sovereignty of a neutral world in order to gain an advantage. For this alternate universe, that tipping point was the Narada. It's a kind of 9/11 moment. The bliss is shattered and shit gets real. People toughen up. So Starfleet sent the Constitution class back to the drawing board and made it much bigger, delaying its launch (2245 in original universe; 2258 in the new one). The Klingons had the Narada for twenty-five years before Nero escaped. Who knows what tech they took. The Romulans know it was part of their future ... maybe they got a piece, too. Starfleet knew the balance of power had been severely jacked up so they needed options. Thus the Botany Bay. They decided to use these seventy-two genetically enhanced people to their benefit instead of locking them up. They gave them new identities, new training, etc. It would be a severe nerdboy moment if we find that Harrison is working for Section 31. That's the shadow NSA-type group in Starfleet used in Deep Space Nine. The only reason I think it may show up in STID is because it's been featured in the current comic series, too (and the stories have been guided by the films' writers).
Well, I'm looking forward to it. I'm seeing it in 3D IMAX Wednesday night for the special fan screening. I'll update this post afterward to let you know how right or wrong I had it.
Saw it. Loved it.
Super-duper spoilers follow.
As for my speculation, yes, I was right on a few points and wrong on others. Most pleasant of all, however, is the fact that my knowledge of who Harrison was did not in any way diminish my enjoyment of the film. There was so much going on that it didn't even matter.
I can't believe I was right about Section 31. I was even right about Adm. Marcus (even if I was wrong about his daughter). Wasn't right about all the Augments being awakened (because that gave Khan his motivation). As soon as they said "Seventy-two torpedoes," I knew what they were. (Just watched "Space Seed" the other day.)
- That cameo. Wasn't expecting it.
- The models in Marcus' meeting room. Cochrane's Phoenix, Enterprise ringship, the NX-01 ...
- Scotty's screentime. So much. So good.
- The revamped Budgineering. The new warp core, both inside and out.
- The humor. Loads of great lines.
- They made Khan utterly badass. Very well done.
- Also badass, the Klingons. The bat'leth's were great, the makeup was scary, the uniforms were awesome, I liked their Bird-of-Prey fighters (D-4s, as they were called in the movie) ... just very cool, all around. Maybe they'll be in film three.
- All the talk about what Starfleet and the Federation should be. From Scotty's refusal to Kirk's mid-announcement realization to his speech at the end, they nailed it. (Now let's hope they follow through on it for film three.)
- Chris Pine's performance on the other side of the glass. Damn.
- The various tidbits of Trek trivia. References to Gorn, Mudd (from the comics, though), the aforementioned models, Section 31, Praxis split and crashed into Qo'nos ("But that's too soon," you say. Remember: 9/11 moments. The Klingons probably mined it even more heavily after the Narada and Vulcan.) ...
- They telegraphed the ending too much. The foreshadowing with the dead tribble was so on the nose, I ended up looking for the recipient of that knowledge. Even when it became obvious, thankfully, Chris Pine's performance saved it.
- The very end. The transition from Kirk's speech to "Space, the final frontier ..." felt rushed and clunky. I wish they had dwelt longer on the ceremony and maybe given Kirk more to say.
- McCoy. No, not the character or Karl Urban's performance. On the contrary, I want far more of him. I'm glad Scotty had so much to do, but I wish there was more McCoy. Another hope for film three.
- The need to capture Khan alive. I get that they needed more blood, but why couldn't they have taken some from the seventy-two other guys in the hold? They emptied one of the tubes to put Kirk inside, so why not check that guy out? (In-universe nerd explanation: McCoy had already extracted a serum from Khan's earlier sample so he knew what worked. He had no way to be certain the other Augments were the same. If they had included a line to that effect, no problem.)
- The fact that Cumberbatch is Khan. Now this is nitpicky because I got over it before I even entered the theater. Khan Noonien Singh was a Sikh warrior who ruled most of Asia. Now, I'm not saying there can't be a white guy named Khan Noonien Singh ... well, maybe I am. I had hoped that, when McCoy emptied the other tube, the sleeping guy inside would be Indian. Then that would mean Cumberbatch was a pretender. No need to get complex at the end, I guess. Again, didn't really matter.