JJ Abrams has never been able to really develop a story or build a character as a director. These days he just inherits other peoples ideas and riffs off his hot take scripts without ever redrafting or earning a single shot. He also avoids ever explaining a thing. JJ simply DOES things, unearned. In his movies things just happen.
As Rise of Skywalker and The Force Awakens showed us JJ is terrible with legacy characters and averse to doing any research. He unceremoniously dismissed Star Trek canon with a cheap time travel story that wiped out all previous shows (with the possible exception of Enterprise).
In the 2009 movie we’re thrown into JJ’s awful Kelvin Timeline and told to expect these characters to be somewhat different. Instead of different though what we got was simply bad cut-outs of the original characters.
For example, this Spock is dumb, highly emotional and regularly has temper tantrums. Rather than know how to utilize tech and strike the perfect tone as the ships comms officer and voice of the Enterprise, this Uhura just speaks all languages and helps put the boys over the top in the fights they just can’t win alone. Khan’s ‘character’ gets butchered too, hes fundamentally changed. The only good thing about this bad “Kelvin Timeline” writing device is any decent writer can make it go away in about two hours of screen time.
When making horrible movie Star Trek Into Darkness creatively challenged JJ Abrams wanted his money, but his eyes were already on the door to go ruin Star Wars. So he was done trying, he simply throws us a character billed as Khan that just isn’t. What we get in Into Darkness is ‘Kelvin Khan’.
While Original Khan is a soldier, a politician, a philosopher and a genius his botched Kelvin Clone is just a mere MCU SuperSoldier. He’s nothing more than a really strong human whose been genetically engineered. An easily available Phazer will kill him. Also, for no reason, we’re shown that his blood is a serum that cures terminal diseases and even can overcome death. He’s more a freak than anything else.
This unrefined low ranking military-type skull smasher doesn’t quote Milton or Melville like his genius Roddenberry created counterpart might. This Khan just makes implied threats. He’s also sometimes game to kind of be friends and sometimes will team up with the crew.
He’s much more akin to The Winter Soldier or an evil, science-y Captain America. He’s just essentially an Unfrozen Tough Guy. His “genius” tech doesn’t seem more impressive than what they already have. Like JJ Abrams- he’s just made the same thing as before; but on a comically huge scale. He’s also a space serial killer.
Kelvin Khan is described as a military and tactical genius over and over, but we never see this. Kelvin Khan’s plan to kill every important Star Fleet Officer is more or less sound – but he chooses to attack with a very weak underpowered craft that uses 300 year old technology to fly. In todays terms this is like attacking the UN with a wooden sailing ship from the early 18th century.
For this harebrained scheme to work Star Fleets highest officers need to be really, really dumb and Star Fleet itself needs to be deeply incompetent.
Star Fleets level of security for their most important people at their known, designated Emergency Meeting spot, Fleet HeadQuarters, shows pure negligence. They merely have a manual fire suppression system. Even so, Khan failed to plan around this minimal precaution. It ends up being all they need.
The manual fire suppression system- sometimes called a “firehose” – is enough to wreck up Khan’s badly designed attack craft and drive him off. In fact the botched attack sets up a chain of pure coincidences that combine to screw up Khan’s plan. If Kirk or anyone else so much as had a phazer they could’ve killed Khan right there. One vigilant sniper could have killed Khan in this stupid scene that’s supposed to cement him as a formidable genius.
Kelvin Khan’s overall “Genius” plan is to save his frozen buddies. To do this he opts to go in a long, boring circle. He needs to be taken prisoner by StarFleet so he can steal a Mega-Sized Starship that’s more or less a Death Star. To this end Kelvin Khan escapes captivity by Star Fleet so that he can be recaptured by them. It’s baffling.
If Khan remains free or is captured by anyone but the crew of the Enterprise he can’t enact his plan at all.
He starts out by getting everyone’s attention when he attacks a couple of times and then allows himself to be followed so he can be caught. Thats his plan.
The lynchpin of his ‘plan’ is that the people who are sent after him need to be deeply incompetent and to follow some, but not all of their orders. The selection of Obey/ Disobey has to be perfect! If not Khan ends up stranded or dead. So if anyone but the Enterprise were sent after him he fails. For Khan to be a genius he needs a huge, quirky dose of luck and everyone else has to be dumb. The story does not show us any genius moves by Khan.
This version Khan is just a sort of gifted but brutal guy. Late in the movie JJ tries to tell us this Khan’s not even evil, just misunderstood. This comes after several killing sprees and betrayals.
Kelvin Khan might have had better luck if he had any kind of help. He’s nowhere near smart enough to use his best asset- his crew of fellow Genius SuperSoldiers. While Original Khan wakes up his people right away – partly because he cares about them – but mostly because they are so formidable – JJ’s Khan leaves them on ice. This after telling us he’s a tactical genius.
Also we have a curious line of dialogue about Khans time of origin where he says he’s from 300 years in the past This is a a third longer than the Khan we knew. Original Khan was from 1996 and was discovered by The Enterprise crew in 2267, about 200 years later.
Khan’s age a real problem. It shows so little regard for basic Star Trek. One possibility is JJ’s Khan is really bad at Math, another would be this Star Trek happens 100 years further in the Future- which really messes stuff up. The third is this Khan is from 1896 rather than 1996- because one thing that would need to be explained is these why these events aren’t as far from 1996 as they were in the original series, which was JUST UNDER TWO HUNDRED YEARS.
The fourth possibility is the script has a huge, lazy mistake in it. My money’s on this one.
JJ obviously made no effort to watch the source material- which what most people would call “an enjoyable 3 hours of great sci-fi.” Personally, I like the idea Khan is from 1896 the best. This would make him a genius for figuring out cryogenic freezing and space travel around the same time as the telephone was invented and 10 years before powered flight.
Underscoring this is simply not the same guy. The crew need to ask him just who the Hell he even is. When he says his name in menacing fashion there’s no reason to fear him. They just want him arrested or dead and don’t know care much who he is. Kirk looks at Khan with no apparent comprehension. He appears to have obtained no useful information from the statement. At least Chris Pine had watched Star Trek. The line was for the audience only. You can be sure of this because ONLY the audience knew who Khan actually was. This crew had not encountered him before.
The Original Series episode Space Seed is good enough to pump up into an interesting movie. Then Khan could have been left on a barren planet like Gene Roddenberry left him. Instead we re-freeze him for later after a bunch of lazy shortcuts. A Space Seed movie surely would’ve been better than what we got.
JJ Abrams Kelvin Khan should have never been called Khan at all. JJ just wanted his movie to make that much more money and was in no mood to put the work in on a good story or slowly build to anything.
This Khan is an everyday threat in this universe. He’s about as tough and formidable as a fairly smart Romulan. The character of Khan was used simply to enhance the box office. If marketed honestly a title like Star Trek vs The Winter Soldier would have made more sense. This character is no real problem when the crew need to overcome at the end. Khan’s plan is undone pretty quickly and he ends the movie fleeing for his life from our heroes. We’re also told one more time that he’s probably not that bad a guy. Then we put him back on ice. The Original Khan dies trying to kill Kirk. This Khan fails, flees and then fails to make good on fleeing. Very formidable indeed.
When you don’t have an impressive bad guy to kill and your movie has been dishonestly marketed (JJ was emphatic that Khan was NOT in this movie) don’t be surprised if – despite a high critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and a great box office take- you end up Last Jedi-ing a Franchise and no one trusts your stories anymore. In other words- there’s NOTHING left JJ could do to surprise us. He had used all his tricks and needed to move on. Like Star Wars he guts the movie side of the franchise.