Star Trek: Into Darkness (review)


I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness this past weekend, twice. My first reaction was, hmm, this is all very familiar, but different. Well, different until the villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch utters, “John Harrison was a fiction created the moment I was awoken by your Admiral Marcus to help him advance his cause. A smoke screen to conceal my true identity. My name is Khan.” in response to a question asked by Kirk (Chris Pine).

Khan? As in The Wrath of?

Well ok. So I spent much of the first viewing thinking, well that’s not how it happened in the original timeline. After lunch with friends, I went home and streamed the original.

And then returned to see Into Darkness again the next day able to consider what the movie actually had to say. I like movies (and TV shows) that have something to say. My friend Mattie had suggested that the film made a commentary about the modern world and terrorism.

Hmm. Yes, and no.

It does (deliberate or not) in that John Harrison/Khan commits an act of terrorism in the film. I suppose, the opening sequence in which Kirk and company save a primitive species on a remote planet from a volcano could be considered terrorism. The natives were terrified, and altered their behavior as a result of the actions of the Enterprise crew.

But, I don’t think it is a movie about terrorism, or even modern life, but rather the indomitable human spirit (or Vulcan, or Klingon, or…whatever that little guy who follows Scotty around is). It’s a movie about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps –as Star Trek always is – and carrying on.

It’s a movie about the big bad universe and how we navigate that. You broke the rules and lost something precious to you (for Kirk the Enterprise, for Spock Kirk’s trust and companionship, Scotty loses hope and a friend…I could go on, but you get the idea). But surrendering to you disappointment isn’t an option, there’s work to be done. Your mentor dies – you must carry on. Your superiors lie to you? Tough luck. Your lover doesn’t take your feelings into account? Well, buck up, you have a mission to accomplish.

Everything you have come to believe is challenged, grab those bootstraps, the sun is coming up tomorrow anyway. Your ship has lost its gravity function? Hold on, because you are not finished yet.

I think, if the film is to be considered as analogous and representing modern society, terrorism, while it impacts all of us, not as directly as the pain of losing a friend, feeling betrayed, overwhelmed, helpless…human. And just as our ancestors outran the dinosaurs, our descendants will run from space monsters and as we always have, monsters of our own creation.

Several reviews I read talked about shifting away from the original intellectualism of Star Trek to a more super hero, violence oriented franchise. And to them I say, go watch the movie again. Kirk is excited, near the beginning of the film because he believes that Enterprise will be chosen for a five year exploratory mission, and in the end he reminds us that humans move into space to explore, to learn… to be that old intellectual-like show.  I like that the bad guy isn’t killed – he is returned to his frozen state; leaving open the possibility that, perhaps he can be redeemed later, again, not the traditional super-hero ending.

Ian suggested that, perhaps, the producers (and script writers) were setting the stage for a return to the TV format. I don’t know that it is possible, with the current cast (all of whom do amazing jobs). To bring this timeline to television without the current cast, I think would be disastrous.  But it has been set up for several more “episodes” and I will gladly watch. Because space is

 …the final frontier. And we are all captivated by the voyages of the starship Enterprise and Her five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

It is my opinion that the story line will continue to go where no one has gone, to buck the system, have the smart, peaceful guys tempering the macho man because, at the end of the day, that’s the only way we will ever live long and prosper…

Go and see this movie, be reminded that part of who we are as a species drives us to go where no one has gone before.

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